Jezebel, a feminist website, picked up on comments Tebow made in an interview with Vogue magazine, in which he said he wanted a wife who lived up to the high standards set for him by his mother and sisters. He wanted to find a woman he found beautiful, he said, but, beyond that, he wanted a wife with a “servant’s heart.”
Jezebel (their name for themselves; I’m not name-calling) summed this up as that Tebow’s perfect woman is “hot, kind and servile.”
I’ve been saying for years that I don’t think Christians ought to be “outraged” by what the outside world says about us. And I’m not outraged by this. But I think it’s a good opportunity to tell our non-Christian neighbors what Christians mean when they say “a servant’s heart.”
What we don’t mean is that this is something unique to women. I know, I know. You hear this language and you assume Tebow wants a Stepford wife in a French maid’s uniform, massaging his feet and refilling his glass of sweet tea. But this isn’t what evangelical Christians mean when they say “a servant’s heart.”
First of all, in Christianity, a “servant” isn’t a slur.
Now, I get why that’s hard to understand. Our apostolic fathers didn’t get it either. They debated who would be the “greatest” and the “leader” among them. Jesus pointed out that he was the one serving them broken bread and poured-out wine, and he is the king of the entire cosmos. “Who is greater,” Jesus asked, “The one who reclines at table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves” (Lk. 22:27).
Jesus serves his Bride, the church, by washing her feet in the upper room. This is what greatness is, Jesus tells Christians, to serve one another and to outdo one another in building one another up. That servant-heartedness isn’t unique to women; all Christians are called to it. And it isn’t antithetical to strong leadership. Serving is precisely how Jesus rules as king, and how he prepares his people, men and women, to rule with him in the reign to come.
Husbands serve wives. Wives serve husbands. Children serve parents. Parents serve children. Pastors serve churches. Churches serve pastors. That concept might be demeaning in the world of Vogue, but it’s not in a new creation where “the leader is the one who serves” (Lk. 22:26).
I’m not upset at our feminist friends for reading Tebow wrong on this. It’s easy to do, if you don’t know the back-story. But it’s a good reminder to all of us, because we Christians have a hard time differentiating between servanthood and servility too. I know I do, and Jesus has to keep breaking in here and reminding me.
When Tim Tebow says he wants a wife with “a servant’s heart,” he is, like any Christian man, hoping also for a woman who is seeking a husband with “a servant’s heart.” It doesn’t mean he wants a doormat. It just means he wants a Christian.