Fr. Thomas OYODE
In a world of self-projection, exhibitionism, cheap popularity mired in a complex system of social injustice, corruption, poverty and violence, we have to step aside and ask certain questions: who dominates the leadership space today? Since some observers are of the opinion that women are increasingly asserting their leadership roles and men seem to be pushed to the background, how should Christian men exercise their God-given leadership roles?
Who is the Christian Man?
First, we need to note the binomial nomenclature or derivative of the concept ‘man’ which is homo sapiens. This term is generic; it applies to every human being. It is a Latin word which means wise man. The understanding is not in the sense of wisdom per se but in the sense of man’s innate knowledge for self-adaptability, ingenuity, and creativity in a uniquely different way from other creatures. As a matter of fact, Pope Francis tells us that St. Joseph is the Christian man per excellence for his “creative courage” in adapting to the difficulties of fatherhood and husband-hood (see Patris Corde, 5). The writer is working on another paper reflecting on the fatherly role of St. Joseph according to the Holy Father’s apostolic letter.
Specifically, in our context, the concept should be understood as a male as different from a female. Thus, we can here establish generically that as homo sapiens, men and women are equal in dignity as created beings yet, specifically, as male and females, they have certain different but complementary roles to play. A man is thus an adult male as different from a woman.
A Christian man is one who professes faith in Jesus Christ as Son of God who died on the Cross. This faith is not only professed by lips but it is believed deeply in the heart (Rom. 10:6-10). He not only professes and believes, he also enters into the mystery of Christ, living a life of self-denial, sacrifice and commitment to the common good. He becomes baptized, immersed in the very life of Christ so that he is incorporated into the Church, the community of God’s worshippers (see Rom. 6:4-11) albeit in his own concrete historical experience and circumstances of present day family life. In the Catholic Church, a Catholic man belongs to the group of Christian male members of the lay faithful. He acquires this identity through the divine means of Baptism like every other member of the Church with equally acquired status, rights, obligations and duties (See Canons 96, 204-205, 208-231 of the Code of Canon Law, 1983).
What is Leadership?
A leader is the head over a group of people; he assumes authority and power of control over others. In the New Testament Scriptures, the word for this description is kephale which means head. It is used 13 times as a symbol of leadership (1 Cor. 11:3,8,9; 1 Pt. 3:1). It means taking the lead and steering the ship. So a leader moves ahead of others in thought, in planning, in organizing, in attitude and in behaviour whether in the home, in the Church or in the workplace.
However, contemporary research in policy analysis, management and administration indicates a shift away from the traditional paradigm of leadership and similar theories of administration. Basically, one does not have to be head (CEO or Manager) before being able to lead; leadership is simply the capacity to influence decision-making and to pursue results for the objective good of the organization, the team or the community, including the Church. Thus, one can lead from anywhere or any position of the echelons.
Leadership Role of the Christian Man
Roles are not essentially different between men and women; they may be different physiologically but they are equal in dignity. Human history is at a threshold where the man’s leadership role, teaching role and authority in the home and in the workplace is being challenged especially by the feminist movement (this is beyond our scope). However, the leadership role of the man is inalienable and it neither overshadows the woman in any way nor denies her of her inalienable leadership roles.
Biblical instances assert the leadership role of the man as a Christian. In Ephesians 6:4 Fathers are told not to exasperate their children but to bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. This command has been the practice of the Israelites from as early as the Old Testament times. In fact the father is both father and priest in the home. This is because he is the elder so he presides over all Jewish religious practices. It should be mentioned here that the Christian man should be able to lead at family prayers. Moses gave the people of Israel a historical account of their deliverance and presented God’s command to them, telling them that the command must not only be in their hearts but must be DILIGENTLY taught to their children (Dt. 6:6-7). Now if a Christian fails in his responsibility as a father, St. Paul says he has failed in his faith and he is worse than an unbeliever (1 Tim. 5:8). Being a responsible father is like building a delightful future because you train up your children who will later stand for you in future (Prov. 28:24).
Men lead as members of various CHURCH councils and committees, pious societies and lay groups. Some also serve as Knights and Catechists in the Church. Some lead as members of the FAMILY. As members of their communities, age grades, traditional councils, political parties and civil service, they exercise leadership roles of different forms. Precisely for this reason, we are taught by the Second Vatican Council that men, as lay members of the Church with various apostolates, animate the Church and the world (Apostolicam Actuositatem, 9). The Council’s teaching is against the background of emerging ecclesiological models: the Church as “People of God” and the Church as “Universal Sacrament of Salvation” (Lumen Gentium, 9, 48). In other words, the Church is the People’s Church, the Church of all the baptised. The Catholic is expected to be at the vanguard of promoting the work of the Church as members of the laity.
Men’s LEADERSHIP in the Church should begin by seeing the Parish as the basic unit for their work. This is because the Parish is the primary cell of the diocese. Zeal for the parish, therefore would also lead to zeal for the diocese (see Apostolicam Actuositatem, 10). Men’s LEADERSHIP role should transform the temporal order, the world where men go about their daily tasks. So all the instances we have cited about the asserted role of the laity by Vatican II also extend to the temporal world. Particularly, Pope John Paul II exhorted the laity to see themselves as being chosen by Christ to be his partners in evangelization. It is to bring Christ into marriage and family life, trade, professions, commerce and business, politics and governance (John Paul II, Exhortation to the Catholic Laity of Nigeria, 1982, p. 7).
Consequent upon the two broad roles in the Church and in the world, men are not to allow themselves be used as agents of division in the Church. Conflict resolution is therefore important for peace and the Catholic man is to be at the forefront of peace and development advocacy. When there are collusions, attacks and wranglings due to opposing views and interests for any reason be it political, social or religious, Christian men are supposed to take a stand for the truth and not allow themselves to be used as puns in the hands of some selfish power mongers within a given community.