I believe that husbands are called to do more than lead.
I believe a husband bears a greater burden than the weight of responsibility.
I believe my role as a husband is greater than authority: I’m called to do more than make decisions, lead from the front, and ensure spiritual growth.
I believe I am called to love my wife.
I also believe we’ve inadvertently placed the em-PHA-sis on the wrong syl-La-ble. I believe many of us emphasize LEADING over LOVING. The chief difference between the two? A focus on leading is easy to (inadvertently) twist into a focus on me, but it’s almost impossible to similarly twist self-sacrificial love. And so I’m writingthis post, not for those who agree with me, but for those who disagree. I’m writing to all my close friends, family members, and pastor buddies who’ve ever asked me the question, “So why don’t you think that being head of the household means we’re called to lead?”
Because, I always say with a smile and a wink (since I’m talking to my friends, not my enemies!)–because the Bible says so!
Did you know that the Bible never says that husbands are to lead their wives? Or that the Bible never says that husbands bear a greater responsibility for their family’s spiritual well-being than their wives? Or that the Bible never says that husbands and wives should make decisions together, but when they can’t reach consensus, it is the husband’s job to cast the deciding vote?
(Don’t forget the smile and the wink-we’re all on the same team here!)
If you grew up like me, you may have just said, “Yep, Bible never says ‘Trinity’ either.” And perhaps you’re right; I may have started off poorly. Fair enough–let’s start with what it does say.
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Eph 5:25
“Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.” Col 3:19
“Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.” 1 Peter 3:7
When I listen to Evangelicals talk and write about the role of the husband, the most prominent theme is leadership. When I listen to the New Testament talk about the role of the husband, the most prominent theme is love. There’s a reason that everyone has heard the expression, “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” There’s also a reason that no one has heard the expression, “Absolute love corrupts absolutely.”
But, you say, women are supposed to submit to their husbands–how can they submit if they’re not being led? Funny you should ask, I say with a smile. First of all, we shouldn’t define the role of the husband primarily by what is said to wives. It’s worth saying again–virtually all of our emphasis on leading comes from what Paul and others said to wives, not what he actually said to husbands.
We compound that error by confusing what Paul meant by “the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church,” (Eph 5:23). We tend to understand this in terms of leadership, responsibility, authority, stewardship, and often an undercurrent of hierarchy. But what was Paul thinking as he constructed his parallel? Let’s let him define his terms: “…just as Christ loved the church, and gave himself up for her.” If you pay attention, most evangelical teaching on the role of the husband derives from reading between the lines and infusing our definition of “head of the wife.” Ironically, we overlook what he said as we emphasize what he didn’t say. When we pay attention to what he said, it seems likely that Paul was instructing wives to submit to love rather than authority.
Paul could have chosen any number of Jesus’ roles to cast as the example for husbands to follow. He could have chosen the Lion of the tribe of Judah as his dominant motif. It is of inexhaustible significance that instead he chose the Lamb who was slain. The singular example of the life of Jesus was the display of strength through sacrifice rather than through exercising authority.
The same should be true of husbands.
If I’m loving my wife with the self-sacrificial love of Christ, then I value her needs over my own. Jesus devoted his entire life to a goal and objective that served us over himself. What would it look like for a husband to devote his life to a goal and objective that served his wife more than it served him? Perhaps he might choose her career over his own. Her hobbies and interest would certainly take precedence. He’d watch her movies before his, spend money on her bucket list before his, and pursue her dreams before his.
A biblical husband is not best exemplified by his leadership. A biblical husband is best exemplified by subordinating his dreams to those of his wife.
So why do I think being the head of the household means more than leading? In part, because the Bible says so (cheerful wink). But, even more, because I know that I can lead out of my own strength.
But loving is infinitely more difficult than leading. Loving is costlier, loving requires a much greater sacrifice. I may be able to lead by myself, but I will never be able to truly love my wife without Jesus.
Because loving is greater than leading.