50 Shades of Grey highlights a universal human desire to give ourselves wholly to another (see Part 1 of our 50 Shades series). God gave us this desire, but what is His plan to fulfill it?
To begin understanding His plan, we need to understand something about leadership because leadership is what establishes the culture and atmosphere of our relationships. So let’s take a look at Christian Grey’s leadership and see how it differs from God’s.
Simply put, Christian Grey’s leadership is domination. His plan is to possess Ana, often whether she gives herself willingly or not. She’s not always willing, certainly not for all his fantasies, yet he forces himself upon her through bondage.
This forcible domination reminds me of an awkward scenario two of Jesus’ disciples created. It all began when these two brothers—James and John—had their mother ask Jesus to place each of her sons beside Him in His kingdom, one on His right and one on His left. In other words, she was asking Jesus to give them more authority in His kingdom than anyone else, with only Jesus presiding over them.
Why does Christian Grey remind me of this story? It’s because the cultural backdrop for this biblical story reveals the dramatic intent behind James’ and John’s request. The Empire of Rome was in full power, enforcing its reign with such vigor that we still say today, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” You see, back then they wouldn’t have had any choice. If you were conquered by Rome, you were going to become Roman whether you liked it or not. Their rule was so overwhelmingly harsh that the prophet Daniel described it centuries before as “a fourth beast, terrifying and dreadful and exceedingly strong. It had great iron teeth; it devoured and broke in pieces and stamped what was left with its feet” (Daniel 7:7).
This is the environment that shaped James and John’s understanding of how authority behaved, so when they asked for authority we know what they wanted to do with it—dominate, even as they had been dominated.
Jesus quickly set right the thoughts behind their request by saying, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:25-28).
Listen, I understand that Jesus knew how to take charge when that was appropriate. I don’t need to be reminded of Him driving unjust marketers from the temple. I also don’t suggest Christianity is supposed to look like two people stuck at a doorway as each one insists, “No, you go first.” But what we all need to understand is how and why Jesus used His authority.
The ultimate expression of Jesus’ authority was when He said, “No one takes (my life) from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again” (John 10:18). Jesus understood His authority was not to dominate, but to lay His life down and then take it up again. This is how Jesus used His authority.
Now why did He do it that way? It’s because He understood His purpose was not to establish a kingdom in which all mankind would be subservient to Him, but rather to establish a kingdom in which all mankind could be His siblings and co-heirs through faith, ruling alongside Him. The former kingdom could be established through force, but the latter kingdom could only be established through redemption, and that redemption could only come through His death and resurrection.
Jesus didn’t have to do any of these things. He chose to do them. Why? Because He is love, and that’s how love behaves. Love doesn’t dominate and oppress, love serves and exalts.
So Christian Grey “loves” and leads through dominance, like the Gentiles. But Jesus loves and leads through service and calls all His Christians to do the same, especially husbands. This is what godly, biblical leadership looks like and the culture it builds is incredible. In Part 3 we’ll see how amazing this culture can be in marriage.