Summary: How the Biblical model of male headship should work, and what it is meant to show us about God.
This morning, my choice of topics presents me with a difficult task. No one compels me; I willingly undertake it. But it is difficult. Because I know that what I have to say concerning leadership in the home – or rather, what the Scriptures have to say – will likely encounter some resistance. That’s true for three reasons. The first is our culture. Today, God’s design for marriage and family life is under assault from every direction. Those who reject God’s plan are hailed as insightful and enlightened teachers, while those who seek to uphold God’s plan are dismissed as narrow-minded bigots. And so unless we are careful to derive our convictions from the Bible, instead of from Oprah, we can be intimidated into believing the falsehoods of the world instead of the wisdom of God.
The second reason for the difficulty of the task is that many of us have grown up in homes where the Biblical pattern for marriage was not understood or followed. The kind of relationship our parents modeled before us may not have been a godly one. And those early examples, good or bad, influence our idea of what a "normal" marriage should look like; we tend to follow their example. The third difficulty is the fact of our sin nature. We don’t like hearing that we need to change. And bringing our conduct in this area into conformity with the Scriptures will require change. Yet it’s worth it. Because only in following God’s plan can we enjoy the kind of strong, intimate, fulfilling marriages that He desires us to have. And only by following God’s design can we honor and glorify Him as the author of marriage. So with that in mind, let’s look at what God says about leadership in the home.
"Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God . . . For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man." – 1 Corinthians 11:3, 8-9 (NIV)
"Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything." – Ephesians 5:22-24 (NIV)
Simply put, the Bible says that the husband is the head of the home. More specifically, it says that the husband is the head of his wife. Now let’s understand clearly what the Scripture is saying. Because this is important. These are not commands, these are statements of fact. They don’t say that the husband "should be" the head of the wife. They say that the husband "is" the head of the wife. It is a declaration of the way things are, not how they ought to be. So whether the two people involved in the marriage accept this, or ignore it, or even actively rebel against it, it doesn’t matter. When God says something is true, it’s true. So husbands, you can be a bad head or a good head, but you can’t not be the head. You may be wise or foolish, strong or weak, diligent or lazy, harsh or compassionate, but it doesn’t change your status. You are the head. Your wife may look up to you, look down on you, or ignore you completely; it doesn’t matter. If you are married, God says that you are the head of your wife.
What does this mean? Fundamentally, it means that husbands are responsible for what goes on in their homes. Yes, God has given husbands authority. But with it he has also given them great responsibility. So men, if you ever invite me to do any marriage counseling, let me warn you in advance: I am biased. I assume that whatever problems exist in your marriage are your responsibility. They may not be your fault (at least, not entirely). And I’m not saying that you caused them. It’s not that your wife bears no guilt for her own sin. But you are the one who must take action to remedy the situation; you are the one who needs to exercise initiative to bring about healing and reconciliation. You are the one who has to own the problem and take responsibility for it. Why? Because you are the head; you are the leader, and the leader is responsible for what goes on under his authority. So men, if you tell me that your wife is unhappy, that the two of you can’t get along, that your home is filled with tension, I’m going to look at you and say, "what do you intend to do about it?"