For centuries, the resilient Roman Empire withstood every attack from history’s most formidable foes. Through it all, the proud empire never wavered.
Then, out of the steppes of Central Asia, came an invasion of unorthodox, nomadic tribes throwing Rome into disarray and ultimately to its ruin. The Huns had arrived.
Growing up a Hun wasn’t your typical childhood. Their favorite toy was a noose; their favorite game was fisticuffs. The 3-Rs were rob, ransack and rebel. Their patron saint was Bluebeard. The Hun credo was:
• If I like it, it’s mine.
• If I think it’s mine, it’s mine.
• If I can take it from you, it’s mine.
Being king of the Huns was a specialty. Each rose to leadership via the survival-of-the-fittest mode. If you wanted the job badly enough and a rival didn’t assassinate you before you could assassinate him, you got the job.
Historians agree the most famous Hun king was Attila. Under his barbaric leadership, southern Europe became his stomping ground. His thrill for conquest wowed the half-million Hun troops. Together they ate raw meat, slept on horseback and destroyed city after city. Their post-conquest drinking parties are epic.
Attila was Europe’s public enemy No. 1. The Romans called him the “Scourge of God.”
In the end, he was given a burial for the ages. Legend says that he was laid to rest in a triple coffin made of gold, silver and iron, along with the finest spoils of his conquests. In an effort to keep his grave site a secret, his men diverted a section of a river, buried the coffin under the riverbed, then reengaged the river, retreated into the woods and committed suicide.
History is split on labeling this man. Some historians have lionized him as a great and noble king. After all, Attila was able to unite uneducated masses from primitive lands into one nation. He cast the vision. He led the charge. He set the standard. Furthermore, recognizing Rome was ready to collapse, Attila believed his time had arrived.
Now, switch gears. Leave the fifth century and return to the 21st.
From our cultured mindset, it’s difficult to see any redeeming value in this barbaric bully and his hordes of hoods. Whereas the Hun nation and our Bible-believing churches have nothing in common, the similarity between Attila’s leadership task and the role of a pastor is uncanny.
In his book The Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun, author Wess Roberts writes:
“The Huns were a nomadic, multiracial and multilingual conglomeration of people. Attila’s task as King of Huns was to instill a new sense of morale and discipline that would build unity within these barbaric tribes. The Hun’s greatest destiny could only be served when each individual or group would set aside their independent ways and undisciplined thinking. Attila believed that any peace in the Huns’ camp would result only when the nomads found a new spirit, something to rally around, a cause greater than themselves.”
Roberts concluded, “Attila’s job was not a simple chore!”
Not a simple chore indeed! Ask any pastor who’s been commissioned by God to mobilize a nomadic, multiracial, multilingual, multigenerational conglomeration of people and you’ll hear the same story. It’s NOT easy!
However, Attila’s plan was backwards: He thought peace was a by-product of unity.
The truth is, unity is a by-product of peace—peace with God. Jesus made that very clear:
• “Holy Father, keep them in Thy name…that they may be one, even as We are.”
• “Sanctify them in the truth…that they may all be one.”
• “I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be perfected in unity.”
Unity only comes when we’re united with the Prince of Peace and sanctified by His truth.
It’s no wonder the Huns didn’t last long after the death of their great king. As Attila’s sons fought for control, their father’s empire became divided. Soon, all those who hated the Huns used this opportunity to rebel against Hun rule. Finally, the empire fell and disappeared from history.
When Scripture says, “[Christ] is the head of the body, the church” it leaves no room for co-leadership. There will be no two-headed brides in His kingdom. Those who challenge His headship never will know peace or the unity it brings.
Maybe Attila the Hun had a lesson to teach us after all.