Cowardly Men vs. those who Honor their Wives2
There is one thing for which I have very little tolerance and for which I have reserved the harshest language that God allows me to use. Continue reading . . .
Subsequent to my having given up golf as a serious pursuit, there aren’t many things that cause me to lose my temper. In case you didn’t understand that statement, let me put it bluntly: there are scattered throughout the state of Oklahoma several golf courses in which there are ponds or lakes, at the bottom of which no doubt still lie golf clubs that used to be mine. What you need to understand is that each of those clubs deserves to be there, having failed me at various crucial times during tournaments in which I participated. But, enough of that. As I said, there aren’t many things that cause me to lose my temper.
One thing, however, is guaranteed to set me off. There is one thing for which I have very little tolerance and for which I have reserved the harshest language that God allows me to use.
I’m talking about Christian men who either ignore or abuse their calling as the head of their homes. I’m talking about those men who, for lack of a better way of describing them, are either patsies or bullies. They are both cowards, but in different ways.
Patsies are cowards because they are terrified of stepping up to the plate and assuming the responsibilities that God has given to the husband. They are afraid of being exposed as inadequate to lead their wives and families into Christian maturity. So they hide behind a passive personality and bury their faces either in a newspaper or a television show or their jobs or a hobby or whatever excuse they can find to avoid facing the demands of being the sort of husband who leads and loves his family the way Christ does his church. In any case, they are cowards, and I don’t apologize for calling them that.
Bullies are also cowards, although they act in such a way to deliberately cover it up. They are just as scared as the patsy, but they hide their fear by intimidating their wife and children and controlling them and ruling them with a rod of iron. You’ll never see the feelings of insecurity or the incompetence of a bully because you can never get close enough. They keep you at arm’s length through their anger and domination, but they are just as frightened as the patsy and just as much a coward and just as much a failure in their responsibility to lead and love as Christ does.
In the case of both these kinds of men, they have no idea what the New Testament means when it uses the word “headship” to describe the husband’s responsibility in a marriage. In fact, that pretty much goes for most Christians today, and virtually all of the non-Christian world.
So what is headship? Perhaps we should begin by stating what it is not.
We should begin with the observation that husbands are never commanded to rule their wives, but to love them. The Bible never says, “Husbands, take steps to insure that your wives submit to you.” Nor does it say, “Husbands, exercise headship and authority over your wives.” Rather, the principle of male headship is either asserted or assumed and men are commanded to love their wives as Christ loves the church.
Headship is never portrayed in Scripture as a means for self-satisfaction or self-exaltation. Headship is always other-oriented. I can’t think of a more horrendous sin than exploiting the God-given responsibility to lovingly lead by perverting it into justification for using one’s wife and family to satisfy one’s lusts and thirst for power.
Headship is not the power of a superior over an inferior. Human nature is sinfully inclined to distort the submission of the wife into the superiority of the husband. That some, in the name of male headship, have done precisely this cannot be denied, but it must certainly be denounced. We must also remember that the abuse of headship is not sufficient justification for abandoning it. Rather, we must strive, in God’s grace, to redeem it and purify it in a way that honors both Christ and one’s spouse.
Headship does not mean that the husband must make every decision in the home. Unfortunately, some men have mistakenly assumed that it undermines their authority for their wives to take the initiative in certain domestic matters. They are threatened if their wives express their opinion or disagree with a decision the husband is prepared to make. This is more an expression of masculine insecurity and fear than it is godly leadership.
So what is headship? Headship is the divine calling upon a man to take primary responsibility to lead his wife and family into fullness of Christian maturity and to love them like Christ loves the Church.
Thus, headship is more a responsibility than a right. A “right” is something we tend to demand or insist upon as something we are owed. This can all too often make for an authoritarian and self-serving atmosphere in the home. When headship is viewed as a sacred trust in which the husband is “called” by God to lead and honor and sacrifice for his wife, the tone and mood of the home is radically improved.
John Stott has pointed out that headship is the authority to serve: "If headship means 'power' in any sense, then it is power to care, not to crush; power to serve, not to dominate; power to facilitate self-fulfillment, not to frustrate or destroy it. And in all this the standard of the husband's love is to be the cross of Christ, on which he surrendered himself even to death in his selfless love for his bride" (232). Consider the story of Jesus in John 13. Was he any less in authority over his disciples when he was on his knees washing their feet? No.
Headship is the opportunity to lead. If Jesus is our example of biblical leadership, it will help to take note of how he led his disciples.
First, Jesus led by teaching his disciples (cf. 1 Cor. 14:35). Men, are you equipped to teach and instruct your family? Do you study? Or do you squander your time with the brain-numbing effects of TV?
Second, Jesus led by setting an example for his disciples (John 13:15). What about your speech? The way you dress? The way you use your money and spend your leisure time? What example do you set for your children by the way you talk to your wife in front of them? By what you watch and listen to?
Jesus led by spending time with his disciples (Acts 4:13). Most men spend on average less than 10 minutes a day in face-to-face interaction with their kids. Do you devote time daily and weekly to sitting with your wife and listening to her and speaking encouragement into her life?
Finally, Jesus led by delegating authority to his disciples (Luke 10:1-20)
We must never forget that headship is Scripturally limited. Husbands have never been given the authority to lead their families in ways that are contrary to the Bible. On a related note, if a wife is ever asked or told by her husband to do something that violates Scripture, she is not only free to disobey him, she is obligated to do so.
Headship does entail the responsibility to make a final decision when agreement cannot be reached. This final decision, however, may on occasion be to let his wife decide. No. contrary to what you may think, this latter option does not undermine the husband’s authority.
Headship entails gentleness and sensitivity. See Col. 3:18-19 where Paul exhorts husbands not to be "embittered" against their wives. The idea is that of "friction caused by impatience and thoughtless nagging" (Moule).
Headship does not give men the right to be wrong. Simply because God has invested in the husband the authority to lead does not give him the freedom to lead in ways that are contrary to God’s Word.
Headship means loving and caring for one's wife as much as we love and care for ourselves (see Eph. 5:28-29). Consider the time you devote to your own physical health and mental enjoyment: hobbies, activities, golf, TV, etc. Do you pray for your wives, both with them and apart from them?
Headship means loving and caring for one's wife as much as Christ loves and cares for us (see Eph. 5:25-27). Christ's love for us has several characteristics. It is unconditional (Rom. 5:8). It is eternal (Rom. 8:39). It is unselfish (Phil. 2:6-7). It is purposeful (Eph. 5:26-27). It is sacrificial (Eph. 5:25). It is demonstrative (Rom. 5:6-8). Again, Stott writes:
"Christ 'loved' the church and 'gave himself' for her, in order to 'cleanse' her, 'sanctify' her, and ultimately 'present' her to himself in full splendour and without any defect. In other words, his love and self-sacrifice were not an idle display, but purposive. And his purpose was not to impose an alien identity upon the church, but to free her from the spots and wrinkles which mar her beauty and to display her in her true glory. The Christian husband is to have a similar concern. His headship will never be used to suppress his wife. He longs to see her liberated from everything which spoils her true feminine identity and growing towards that 'glory', that perfection of fulfilled personhood which will be the final destiny of all those whom Christ redeems. To this end Christ gave himself. To this end too the husband gives himself in love" (Stott).
Clearly, then, there is no place here for either patsies or bullies. There is no place here for cowards. There is only place here for courageous but humble men who “honor” their wives (1 Peter 3:7), who are quick to acknowledge their shortcomings and just as quick to take whatever steps are necessary to learn and grow and become equipped to do what is essential to lead and love as Christ does.