"For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body."
Biblical manhood and womanhood is an extremely contested and controversial subject in modern day Christendom. There is a lot of controversy over what this verse in particular really means. I for one do take scripture at its word. When the bible, in context mind you, goes out of its way to say something, it is our job to submit to it and apply it to our lives. Scripture teaches that the husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the church. However, there are many cases of men using this verse to rationalize being poor husbands and there are wives who use this verse to rationalize not being who they are in Christ. The following are six misconceptions about the husband being the head of the wife:
Misconception #1: Women are meant to submit to all men. This fallacy is something my pastor has often addressed from the pulpit. Men and women are equal in the sight of God (Galatians 3:28). Just because God made marriage to be an expression of Christ and the church does not give men some unique authority over women in general. Even if you, like me, believe the pastorate is for men only, it still doesn’t suggest women can't stand up to ungodly men. Certainly, there is biblical precedent for being sensitive to gender roles in specific cultures and traditions (1 Corinthians 11:16), but not as a general rule.
Misconception #2: The husband is not called to serve his wife even as he leads her. It doesn’t just say the husband is the head. He is the head as (or, just like) Christ is the head of the church. Jesus died for his church. He washed his disciple’s feet. Maybe that foot massage she needed late in the evening is the most worshipful thing you could have done all day. I just saw a husband and wife lead children's church the other day. The wife taught and the husband helped. She was a better children's teacher, so he supported her calling and helped her manage the classroom.
Misconception #3: The wife's calling can't inconvenience the husband. It’s a little different for pastors and paid staff, since that is actually where the family income comes from, but my heart for pastoral ministry is not a higher calling than my wife’s as a worship leader. When God calls my stay-at-home wife to go to Nashville to write worship music for eight days, it is my job to be Jesus and remove as many obstacles as I can. That means I willingly take on her responsibilities with the kids and the house as well as my normal responsibilities for that period of time. It is my job as the head of my wife to remove as many barriers from her obeying God as possible. How can I be the head of my home if I am not first Jesus to my wife? Ministry is a partnership, not a competition.
Misconception #4: The wife can’t influence the husband. If idolatrous wives in the Chronicles or the Kings could lead half of Israel’s monarchs into idolatry (looking at you, Solomon), wives can probably have a lot of influence for the Lord as well. To this day, I would say my wife is one of the biggest influencers in my life. She has her fingerprints on so many passions in my life I simply didn’t have before marrying her, from anything to fighting racial inequality to actually liking onions.
Misconception #5: The wife is not a huge part of the husband's sanctification process. It is a lot harder to hide character flaws from your spouse. If marriage has taught me anything, it is that I am the most selfish human being on the planet. Each spouse has a tremendous capacity to make the other more and more like Jesus. Maybe your wife complaining that your many anger outbursts scare her is an act of mercy from God, precluding an act of discipline I promise you would rather avoid.
Misconception #6: All of the most spiritual convictions and decisions originate with the husband. This probably sounds silly, like no one would actually believe this, but I have seen husbands act like this is true. I have heard young men, under pressure from older (wrong) men, ask me if it is biblical for them to pursue some ministry for God even if it was their wife’s idea. That wouldn’t be a problem in the business world and it shouldn’t be an issue in the marriage world. Sometimes the best way to lead someone is to listen to them. So much of the best ideas I have ever had weren’t actually mine. Love you, babe!
No, my wife didn’t put me up to this:). I am coming at this from the perspective of a pastor who sees a lot of marriages in the church struggling with this. No matter what label you put on yourself as far as gender roles go, I strongly encourage men and women to purge themselves of these misconceptions. We can’t apologize for the bible teaching male headship of the home, but we can apologize for our poor application of it. We can’t continue to use Ephesians 5:23 as an excuse to be poor husbands or for wives not to be who they are in Christ.
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