Letters to the Family of God
by Joe Franzone | July 6, 2023 | Pastor's Blog
You may recall the news that my daughter is soon to be married. I have the privilege to officiate the ceremony and want you to enjoy some part of their wedding. Subsequently, I determined to let you listen in through bits and pieces of premarital counseling they are receiving. (If you are interested, here is a link to last week's letter.) This week, like last, won't be everything, but it will be something.
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
Husbands love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—for we are members of his body. “For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
Function not Status
Every title given to human beings in the New Testament has nothing to do with a person's status but rather a person's function or role. The title does not afford the person prominence or dominance. The same is true for husbands and wives.
Status for this lesson has to do with rank, prominence, or importance; function here has to do with purpose, meaning, or role, and function is paramount.
In other words, words like husband or head (of the wife) do not mean boss, tyrant, or dictator, and words like respect and submission do not mean the one receiving respect and submission is greater than the one giving it.
Therefore, the roles of husband and wife are not first and second place. It is not; I am better than you, so you must listen to me.
The Husband as Head
Perhaps to the modern mind, the idea of headship can be confusing, submission in marriage—a dirty word. I will try and help us understand the Biblical principle better.
Generally speaking, husbands can lead their marriage in three ways.
One way is to lord over their wife, there-in, playing the tyrant, dictator, or supreme leader. This way brings fear and control as a way to receive compliance. Sound thinking, careful persuasion, and earning respect are not in the toolbox of this kind of leadership. This way of leading invites tension and destroys freedom in the marriage.
Another way husbands might lead their marriage is passivity. Passivity is where he does next to nothing and decides even less. Whether having some form of fear of his wife, fear of leadership, laziness, or rebellion in his role, he doesn't lead. He does nothing. Passivity invites chaos into the marriage.
Finally, the way given in Ephesians 5 is servant leadership. Servant leadership is where the husband takes the responsibility to lead not as a tyrant but as a servant. He loves Jesus. Jesus has changed him. Jesus gave Himself up for others. Therefore, he loves his wife and gives himself up for her.
To be sure, his love is imperfect, but he still presses on. He takes on the headship initiative from the place of humility because he understands that leadership means bearing the heavier load. He understands that caring for her is caring for himself, as the two are now one.
Therefore, and this is key, he pours out his life so that he might bring life into the marriage. The husband loves his wife, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.
The Husband as a Good Head
We cannot speak about the goodness of a husband's headship as an authority while not mentioning those under their authority are in a vulnerable position. Consequently, a husband with good character brings life, growth, strength, joy, and vitality. While a husband with bad character abuses, breaks, crushes, destroys, exploits, and cons.
Bad character turns all forms of authority—husband, parents, governmental, pastoral, etc.—into something putrid, rotting, and wicked. In a marriage, it will turn a husband's headship into something God never designed it to be.
A husband's authority in marriage should be a source of joy, helping the marriage to flourish. Jesus would explain people of good character use their authority to place themselves in the position of greatest vulnerability, that is, the possibility of being attacked, and they put themselves at risk of the greatest pain (Mark 10:42-45). Therein both husband and wife are vulnerable in their roles. No one should feel powerful. Safe absolutely. Powerful, absolutely not.
It is here, wise husbands know they need God's grace and power. Any other way, you only need to be human. Therefore, confessional repentances, asking God for mercy, and asking for strength are indispensable.
The Husband is not the Highest Head
The highest authority is the authority that can fire, eject, or punish you. A husband (or wife) does not and is never meant to have this kind of authority. The Bible gives parents, governments, and congregations the power of discipline insofar as it gives all three an enforcement implementation making sure decisions are obeyed.
It gives parents “the right to discipline,” governments “carry the sword,” and congregations “the keys” for ex-communication. With that in mind, can you think of any passage that gives husbands such an enforcement implementation? There is none. What does that mean?
The fact that husbands have no enforcement implementation fundamentally changes the nature of how their authority is exercised. The husband is to be patient, long-suffering, tender, and consistent, requiring him to live with his wife in an understanding (ability to see past the surface of things considering the whole person and not just one moment) way.
The husband must think theologically. He must work hard and serve broadly and consistently. He must woo and be winsome.
He must work for growth over the long run, not forced outcomes and decisions in the short run. For what good is a forced decision or forced love? What good is a forced decision or forced love from a wife? A husband wants loving decisions growing naturally from loving hearts.
Feel overwhelmed? What honest person would not? However, a key to developing these mannerisms is not to directly try to have them. Instead, glory in your weakness so Christ's power may be made perfect in your weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).
This is the practice by which you constantly remind yourself of what you are under your own power. It leads to total dependence on God—but along with this dependence will come the joyful freedom of knowing nothing rests ultimately on you. Nothing ever has! Every success and blessing, and fruit you will have has been from Christ.
God bless you and keep you near the cross.