The husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church.
Men and women attempt to conduct relationships in many different ways; but marriage remains God’s design. Society – even Christian society – may seek to simulate this relationship according to their own vain ideas, but this does not change or sway the divine purpose and plan of marriage in the slightest. In marriage husbands are the head. This is an inescapable headship. Whether one is a good head, or a bad one, they are nonetheless a head, and thus responsible for their headship to their Creator.
Modern, contemporary Christendom is quite embarrassed by this design. As a result it has embracemed the “advanced” worldly wisdom in its attempt to abandon the “out-of-date” headship role of the husband. This humanistic approach has attempted to reduce marriage to a mere human partnership. This is to no avail, however, because whether one honors God’s design or not, the design still remains.
Doug Wilson, in his foundational work, Reforming Marriage, addresses this paramount truth.
The Bible says the “husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church.” Paul most emphatically does not say that husbands ought to be the heads of their wives. He says that they are. In this verse, the apostle is not telling us how marriage ought to function (that comes in the verses following). Rather, he is telling us what the marriage relationship between husband and wife is. Marriage is defined in part as the headship of a husband over a wife. In other words, without this headship, there is no marriage.
This does not mean that God gives no imperatives to the husband. In the verses following we find a very basic imperative indeed – husbands are commanded to love their wives as Christ loved the church. But nowhere is the husband commanded to be a head to his wife. This is because he already is the head of his wife, by the very nature of marriage. If he does not love her, he is a poor head, but a head nonetheless.
Meditating on this is a very valuable thing for husbands to do. Because the husband is the head of the wife, he finds himself in a position of inescapable leadership. He cannot successfully refuse to lead. If he attempts to abdicate in some way, he may, through his rebellion, lead poorly, but no matter what he does, or where he goes, he does so as the head of his wife. This is how God designed marriage … If the husband is godly, then that dominance will not be harsh; it will be characterized by the same self-sacrificial love demonstrated by our Lord – Dominus – at the cross. If the husband tries to run away from his headship, that abdication will dominate the home. If he catches a plane to the other side of the country, and stays there, he will dominate in and by his absence. How many children have grown up in a home dominated by the empty chair at the table? If the marriage is one in which the wife “wears the pants,” the wimpiness of the husband is the most obvious thing about the marriage, creating a miserable marriage and home. His abdication dominates.1
The Husband’s Responsibility Illustrated
When a couple comes for marriage counseling, my operating assumption is always that the man is completely responsible for all the problems. Some may be inclined to react to this, but it is important to note that responsibility is not the same as guilt. If the woman has been unfaithful to her husband, of course she bears the guilt of her adultery. But, at the same time, he is responsible for it.
To illustrate, suppose a young sailor disobeys his orders and runs a ship aground in the middle of the night. The captain and the navigator were both asleep and had nothing to do with his irresponsible actions. Who is finally responsible? The captain and the navigator are responsible for the incident. They are career officers, and their careers are ruined. The young sailor was getting out of the Navy in six months anyway. It may strike many as being unfair, but it is indisputably the way God made the world. The sailor is guilty; the captain is responsible.”2
Clyde L. Pilkington, Jr.
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