Husbands tend to fall into one of two errors. Some are too passive, others are too domineering or controlling. In Ephesians 5, Paul addresses both extremes. To the passive abdicator of responsibility, he says, “Lead your wife.” To the aggressive tyrant, he says, “Love your wife.”
Let’s focus on Mr Passive today and see if we can help him step up to the plate and start leading. Before we do so, though, let’s just deal with some objections that may already be rising about this idea of the husband being the leader.
First of all we state categorically that when it comes to salvation there is no distinction, no difference between men and women. All Christians are equally loved, forgiven, and adopted (Gal. 3:28).
Second, men and women are essentially equal. As we noted yesterday, God made us different, not to compete with one another but to complement one another. These differences do not make one gender better than the other. We must not allow a smidgeon of thought that differences mean any essential inferiority or superiority.
Even though women are weaker than men in some areas (like physical strength), women are stronger than men in other areas (like longevity and intuition). Each needs the other to perfect and complete them.
But even given soteriological and essential equality, in day-to-day living there has to be a leader, a captain of a team, a manager of a business, and a head of a home. And for that day-to-day family life, God has appointed the husband to be the head of the wife (Ephesians 5:23). What does that mean?
Lead as a Head
When many of us hear the language of headship, we immediately think of our worst experiences at the hands of authority figures: a bad-tempered boss, an aggressive coach, an abusive father, a despotic minister, an egomaniacal politician, and so on.
However, we’ve got to put these images out of our minds, and think only of the head-body imagery that Paul deliberately chooses here. That changes everything. There’s a huge difference between being a ruler and a head.
A head is attached to the body, cannot exist without the body, cares for the body, and provides for the body. A ruler has no such connection, dependence, or relationship to the ruled. This leadership, then, is a metaphor of protection not of power, of salvation not domination, as Paul’s very next words underline:
For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body.
Lead as a Servant
“He is the Savior of the body.” Just as Christ came not to be served but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many, so the husband is to demonstrate this kind of unselfish headship in his relationship to his wife.
Lead by Listening
One of the ways a husband leads and serves his wife is by listening to her. He doesn’t assume that he knows everything, that he has all the answers, that wisdom begins and ends with him. He sees His wife as wonderful resource, as his chief adviser, as a treasure trove of insight and knowledge. He therefore asks for and listens to her advice and counsel. He also listens to her concerns, fears, and worries.
Lead by Deciding
Yes, the husband puts his wife first, listens carefully to her, takes full account of her views, and weighs them seriously, But ultimately he has to take the final decision, and accept all the responsibility for that. He must not pass the buck (or drop it) the buck stops with him in both spiritual and temporal matters.
Lead by Delegating
A good manager doesn’t do everything himself. He knows how to delegate, and he does so in a way that brings out the best in people and helps them to flourish. As Jay Adams put it:
A good manager will look at his helper and say, “She has certain abilities. If I am going to manage my household well, I must see that every last one of those gifts is developed and put to use as fully as possible.” He will not want to quash her personality; rather, he will seek to bring it to the fullest flower.