Pitying Henry VIII

April 5, 2006

As an historian, I think about people who are no longer living here on this earth.  I particularly enjoy, avoid and interact with historical movies.  One of my favorite and most irritating (that’s too slight a word, but it’s not quite enraging) is A Man for All Seasons.  I love the picture of Sir Thomas More’s conscience.  I love his line to his son-in-law-to-be about England being planted thick with laws.  His words to his daughter about having to mean what he says.  I could go on and on.  I disagreed with his understanding of the papacy, but admire his integrity.  I am irritated/grieved (I need a better word) about the lack of representation about how he hounded William Tyndale.  So all people know about him popularly now is through this movie.  But I am digressing from my point.

Once when watching the movie, I was struck by how pitiful the position of Henry VIII was.  It’s the scene when he visits More at Chelsea, and all the people accompanying him wait to see how he responds to something before they know how to respond.  And I realized how absolutely absent honesty can be from a person with such great power.

CONTEMPORARY APPLICATION TO US:  Avoid the Henry VIII syndrome.  Do not simply surround yourself with people who will never challenge or correct you.  People want to please pastors (I know not everyone does, but a lot do).  Therefore, unless we would be like Henry VIII, we must cultivate a humility, a correctability (corrigibility) that will encourage others to speak truly to us.  Creating an atmosphere of encouragement (where people feel loved), criticism and feedback (by yourself and others), and serious engagement with each other will help this.  Too many leaders end up in the pitiful position of having no one around them to give them honest feedback, advice, correction, instruction, because we in our self-protective pride don’t seek it out, and even punish it when it is given.  So much more I could say on this, but this is just a blog.  I’m sure you understand what I’m saying.

This came home to me yesterday in a lunch with Matt Schmucker, when he mentioned to me something that I had said I wasn’t going to do, and I said I wasn’t going to do it simply because it was boring.  There were at least a couple of problems with this.  1.  I should have done it.  2.  Others were listening.  I was modeling badness for them!  Thank God, I’m not quite Henry VIII-ized yet!  At least not as long as my good friend Matt is around!

Pity Henry VIII.  Don’t imitate him in your church.