Headship

confused couple
by guest author Scott Means

Paul and I have known Scott for a number of years and have always been impressed with his gracious handling of difficult subjects. Biblical headship is a rather heated topic and one we believe is often misunderstood. We are delighted to share Scott’s article as we think he’s done a great job explaining how men can be strong and good husbands, following Christ’s example.


strength and goodness are
both essential parts of a
husband’s biblical leadership

As many of you know, the clearest biblical instructions for husbands and wives are found in Ephesians 5:21-33. In this article we are looking at the instructions for the husband, so I’ll quote the relevant verses from the Amplified Bible.

{21 Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One).  22 Wives, be subject (be submissive and adapt yourselves) to your own husbands as [a service] to the Lord.  23 For the husband is head of the wife as Christ is the Head of the church, Himself the Savior of [His] body.}*

 25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her,

26 So that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the Word, 27 That He might present the church to Himself in glorious splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such things [that she might be holy and faultless]. 28 Even so, husbands should love their wives as [being in a sense] their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself. 29 For no man ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and carefully protects and cherishes it, as Christ does the church, 30 Because we are members (parts) of His body.

*{ } bracketed verses added for context. This is not specifically part of the husband’s instructions.

what is real headship?

In teaching husbands about these verses, I always emphasize two important points:

1. You should only read the instructions that pertain to you.
2. Your only reference model should be Christ and the church.

I’m not going to spend any time in this post revisiting the arguments over the Greek lexicon or whether kephale actually means head. I’ve read and researched this extensively and can only interpret Ephesians 5 to mean the husband is intended by God to have a kind of authority in marriage.  The reason I don’t want to trifle over the exact translation (authority, leadership, headship) is because whatever term you choose, the context makes it clear that Jesus should be your only definition of headship.

charting biblical headship

What does Jesus’s headship look like? In looking at how Jesus uses his authority, I choose the key attributes of strength and goodness in framing a husband’s role.

It’s important to understand that these two attributes are not mutually exclusive. In fact, you must realize that BOTH are necessary if you are to walk out your headship in a biblical, Christlike manner. To illustrate, I created this chart. It clearly depicts that there is only one quadrant that fits the biblical description of your God-given authority: both strength and goodness.

a strong husband

The strength axis is a measure of your degree of leadership and engagement in your marriage (and family). Rather than being measured by how many decisions you make or rules you set forth,  as it is popularly explained, it’s measured by your degree of emotional and physical presence. Yes, decisiveness is necessary and often helpful, but it’s not the primary measure of godly leadership.

Demonstrate your leadership strength through your engagement with and involvement in the day to day life of your home and family. Be vigilantly aware of what’s going on and how what’s going on affects your wife (and family). Be a proactive leader by stepping in and taking action when things start to go off track before crisis sets in. Be a rock of stability for your wife.

Remember, you are not the captain of the ship to your first mate wife or the pilot to your copilot wife. You are to be as Jesus is to his bride. It’s the only biblical model. Therefore, Christlike leadership also looks like:

reliable provision
consistent protection
clear direction
unwavering trustworthiness

a good husband

Goodness in a husband, to me, relates most directly to how he loves, nurtures, and selflessly serves his wife.

The tricky part of goodness is that “goodness” looks different for different women. Do you know what words and actions best say “I love you” to your wife? Do you do them on a consistent (daily) basis?

For many wives, love needs to be expressed in the form of feeling emotionally connected and knowing that her needs are important. She wants to feel fully known and understood by you and to be valued and cherished for who she is. It requires a significant degree of communication through conversation with your wife, not something all men are skilled at or comfortable with. Then it requires that you act in a manner consistent with your understanding of who she is and what she needs.

Goodness means expressing your leadership with the heart of a servant. Self-serving leadership is what gives biblical marriage a bad rap and it will cause your wife to resist your leadership and withhold her submission. Selfless leadership is what Jesus models for us. Learn from His example.

What do you think of the way I’ve charted biblical headship? Did I miss anything significant in the chart above? Share your thoughts in a comment.


Follow Up Articles:
   What Headship is Not by Scott Means
   The Problem with Roles in Marriage by Scott Means



As a champion for great marriages, Scott Means has been writing and teaching about the passion and intimacy that is found in God’s design for marriage for more than ten years. 

His goal is to challenge, provoke, inform and, most of all, equip and motivate you to attain the depth of intimacy, passion, and love you’ve always dreamed of in your marriage. 


Also available by Scott Means 
   The Path of Intimacy
   Pump Up the Passion

 
 
 
 

image credits in order
couple © Wayhome Studio / Adobe Stock
chart courtesy of © Scott Means / Heaven Made Marriage
book images courtesy of © Amazon.com

     

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