What Headship is Not

What Headship is not:  Nice Guy, Dictator, and Manipulator

A Men Only Monday post

 

As I explained last week, the biblical model for marriage Paul gives us in Ephesians 5 is that, as a husband, you have the role of head, “as Christ is head of the church.” Being head is not a role you earn. Regardless of whether you embrace it or not, it is your God-given responsibility. I don’t know why, but that’s how God set it up.

Remember, the clear implication of Ephesians 5 passage on headship is that being “head” means being like Jesus.  It does not mean being boss. Jesus’ kind of headship means displaying Christlike strength and goodness. Your headship as a husband is founded in being both a good leader and a generous lover.

I don’t normally like writing posts about what you should NOT do. But when either strength or goodness are missing from the way you walk out headship, it can do damage to your marriage.  This can be clearly seen in the top search terms that bring wives to my blog.  The first is something like “my husband refuses to lead.” The second, following closely behind in the number of hits, is “my husband acts like a dictator” or similar terms.

I shared a chart last week to illustrate what Christlike headship should look like. Below, I’ve updated the chart to label the three ways in which your headship can fall short.

weak and bad chart

The Nice Guy

There are many wives longing for their husbands to stand up and take their leadership role seriously. Like I said, wives come here for that reason more than any other.

I’m not making excuses, but the widespread pushback against biblical headship, even within the church, has many men reluctant to lead their marriages. Some of these genuinely kind men are afraid of being labeled misogynists or worse. Some have bought into the lie that there should be no distinction in the roles of men and women in marriage. Some have wives who contend for authority, even wives who claim to want their husbands to step up and lead! These men who are hesitant to take their leadership role seriously are what I call “Nice Guys.” They are good but weak.

Society and the church have given rise to the Nice Guy syndrome. These men are pleasers who tend to avoid conflict. These are the men who leave most or all the decisions to their wives, either because they are totally disengaged or because their wives argue and put them down for every idea and hold past decisions over them indefinitely. Nice Guys often just give up, rather than rocking the boat by trying to lead.

Whatever the reason for their refusal to lead, these men often don’t realize that their weakness makes them unattractive to their wives over time. Worse, their resulting disengagement leaves their wives feeling unloved and alone. It’s not a formula for a passionate, intimate or lasting marriage. Many Nice Guys also end up feeling unfullfilled, because I believe there is a God-given desire in most men to prove themselves strong and capable of leading their wives and families.

It’s Nice Guy husbands that pose the biggest threat to biblical marriage today because their error is much more subtle and socially acceptable than the next group.

The Dictator

In days gone by, maybe 50 years ago, this was the number one problem with husbands in marriage. This kind of brutish, self-serving husband led to feminism and the desire for egalitarian marriage. Dictators are the reason the pendulum has swung so far in the other direction, giving rise to so many Nice Guys.

Unloving husbands who use their authority to control or coerce their wives are very bad news. These are the men who are abusive and flaunt scriptures at their wives about being submissive, all the while ignoring the scriptural mandate for them to love their wives unconditionally and sacrificially.

Selfish, controlling husbands give biblical headship a bad rap.

The Manipulator

The husband who is both weak and unloving is double trouble.

This husband is self-centered but lacks the guts to act on it openly. He doesn’t care about what his wife needs or wants from him. He is only concerned for himself.  He will manipulate and deceive in order to get his way but is not willing to confront issues head on.

The manipulator refuses to take responsibility for his actions and shifts blame onto his wife. He plays games to get his way. He is often controlled by fear, and his buried frustrations may bubble up to the surface as angry outbursts.

The manipulator doesn’t refuse to lead because he is incapable, he refuses to lead because he doesn’t care.

Grace Abounds

I have described the Nice Guy, Dictator, and Manipulator in pretty strong terms. There are, of course, many less severe ways to screw up headship.  I know because I’ve done them all from time to time.

There is good news for us who mess up in our quest for biblical headship. It’s called grace!  God is for you and for your marriage. His desire is to see you and your marriage thrive. Pray for the skill to lead well and for a revelation of Jesus’s love and strength. Pray for your understanding of the love of Jesus to grow deeper, so you can love your wife in the same way. Note the prayer Paul prayed for the church in Ephesians 3, leading up to the chapter on marriage.

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,  so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,

 Ephesians 3:17-18

This is a prayer God is eager to answer! 

Be diligent. Vigorously pursue the kind of headship Jesus displays to us, his bride. When you slip into actions or words that are weak or unloving, admit your blunder and ask your wife to forgive you. She will admire you for it.

My point in stating what headship isn’t, is to get you to be watchful over your role as husband and to strive diligently to be both strong and good. Your wife deserves that from you, and God is calling you to it. Christ lives in you; you just need to learn to let him out!

 


A cautionary note to wives reading this post: it is not your job to browbeat, manipulate or judge your husband if he happens to fall into one of the non-Christlike quadrants, even occasionally. It is not your job to correct or coerce him. That is the job of the Holy Spirit. Don’t even think of forwarding this to your husband, and do not even think of using my labels for name-calling! Your job is to concentrate on your role in your marriage.

Husbands: Strong and Good

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

A Men Only Monday Post

Strong and Good

In the early days of my former blog, I wrote extensively about biblical instructions for husbands and wives. In the process of moving posts here to my new home, I came across a few I thought worth updating and re-posting for my newer readers. This week and next I’ll be updating and reposting four related posts on the important topic of biblical roles.

As many of you know, the clearest biblical instructions for husbands and wives are found in Ephesians 5:21-33. Today we are looking at instructions for you as a 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) 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 the chart at the top of this post.  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.

Be sure to stop back by for next week’s Men only Monday post: What Headship is Not

What Does Love Look Like?

 

Discover the love found within the Bridal Paradigm

 

Love Like ThatThe Bridal Paradigm, where Jesus and the church are our model for marriage, offers us a beautiful picture of God’s heart for marriage, and it holds the promise of power to transform your relationship with your spouse.

That’s a pretty big promise. But it’s a promise I believe God is eager to deliver on, if we will endeavor to take hold of it.

Love Lives In You

Paul begins his instructions on marriage in Ephesians 5 with this preface.

Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.

Ephesians 5:1-2 (MSG)

The amazing truth is, as I said in my recent post, Unstoppable Love , love “like that” is not some ideal – out there and yet to be attained. It’s a living love that actually indwells you, because Jesus indwells you.You just need to discover it for yourself and then let it out on your spouse.

A lot of people get all knotted up over what the Bible says about roles of husbands and wives in marriage. I believe that most of it would dissolve away if we would simply focus on the love that is the foundation of the Bridal Paradigm

His Role Looks Like Christ

What wife would not want to be loved by her husband like this?

  • He loves his wife unselfishly, not using his position to control her or to push her into conformance, but to bless her.
  • He may never be required to literally lay down my life for her, but he must be willing to sacrifice himself (physically, emotionally, financially, etc) for what is in her best.
  • He will pursue her relentlessly and fiercely with his love, understanding what pursuit means to her.
  • He cherishes her by surrounding her with care and concern for her well-being – clearly demonstrating that he is for her.
  • He is consistent in speaking the truth of the Word over her in a way that encourages and edifies her and reminds her who God says she is.
  • He provides for her faithfully – which means applying himself diligently, but not to the extent that he neglects her need for time and attention.
  • He will do all in his power to establish and maintain a deep connection with her and protect the intimacy of the relationship. Staying connected is more important than being right or asserting his rights.
  • He beautifies his bride, as Jesus does, seeing her the way God sees her, perfect and beautiful, through the eyes of grace.
  • Above all, he partners with Christ, encouraging her to walk in the fullness of her true identity, toward the goal of fulfilling the destiny God has for her life.

Her Role Looks Like the Church

Before giving you some practical implications for a wife looking like the church, let me preface it by saying that we are all being transformed into the image of Jesus. So in a very real sense, wives are to also emulate Christ.

In light of the Christ-like love bestowed upon her, a wife returns his love in this way:

  • She believes in and trusts him.
  • She offers her full surrender, to hold nothing back from him, bringing the fullness of her genuine self to the marriage.
  • She best honors and enables his leadership by willingly remaining under his covering and protection.
  • She honors and respects him by listening to him and knowing his heart, giving importance to things that are important to him.
  • She knows that his desire is for her and believes that his intentions toward her are always be good.
  • She can come to him with anything and trusts that he will respond with love and grace.
  • She puts him first, above all other relationships.
  • She comes to him, fully unashamed, taking him as her only intimate lover.

Clarifications and Limitations

Of course, in comparing Christ and the church to the marriage relationship, Paul was not implying that husbands are in any way superior nor wives in any way inferior. Husbands are certainly not diety and have imperfections we will never find in Christ.

However, the truth is that the closer a husband comes to emulating Christ, the easier it will be for his wife to emulate the church.