Abusing his role
A young woman called her pastor to tell him that she was leaving her husband. She had endured all she could take from him. The pastor began to quote a verse to remind her of her responsibilities: “Wives, submit yourselves unto … ” (Ephesians 5: 22). He got no further. She screamed into the telephone: ”I’ve been hearing that for months. I don’t want to hear it any more!” Her husband had used that verse as the basis for treating her as he pleased, without consideration for her. It is wrong for a husband to abuse his responsibility as head of the wife. This verse does not give him license to be inconsiderate, to be a tyrant or a selfish dictator.
Reminders from the Bible
Paul tells us, “But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man” (I Corinthians 11:3).
If we teach that the husband is the head of the wife, we must equally stress its counterpart, that Christ is the Head of the husband. If the husband follows after Christ, then his leadership of his wife must be like Christ’s leadership of man. Jesus said, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart …. ” (See Matthew 11:29; compare I Thessalonians 2:7-8.) The husband should likewise exercise his leadership in this spirit. Many husbands have been taught that they should take leadership of the wife, but do so with a haughty, superior attitude–the opposite of meekness. They parade their rights and say, “Submit, wife.” This is a perversion of Bible teaching. To be the head of the wife is to look out for her best interests. The husband’s purpose for his wife should be the same as Christ’s purpose for the Church, ” … that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5: 27). Such leadership surely is not domination, or inconsiderateness, or slave-driving.
This is not to say that a husband should not hold standards, live by them, and see that his wife lives by them. Again, Jesus is the Example. He said to His disciples, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15) and “his commandments are not grievous” (1 John 5:3). Even as the Lord Jesus gives commands that are in the best interests of His followers, so the husband must at times give commands and make decisions in the best interests of the family.
To illustrate, a young couple stopped to visit some friends while returning home from a distant state. They intended to visit briefly and go on. Their friends invited them to stay for supper. The wife wanted to stay. The husband, thinking of responsibilities facing both of them the next day, turned down the invitation. The wife was unhappy about the decision. Later, as they arrived home at a reasonable hour and had a good rest, both agreed that his decision was best. Thus the husband who is following after the Lord, and therefore is living and thinking according to His will, should take leadership as the head of his wife, even in the face of resistance.
True leadership is a labor of love, as defined in I Corinthians 13:4-7. The Bible has some specific commands to the husband. “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). Men ought to love their wives as their own bodies, because they are joined by God into “one flesh” (Ephesians 5:28a, 31). The husband should live considerately with his wife, bestowing honor on her as “someone weaker” (I Peter 3:7). Men, therefore, must not be harsh or bitter with their wives but gentle, tender, and kind in every circumstance. (See Colossians 3:19.) Whenever a man falls short of this ideal, he transgresses the law of God, and that is sin. (See I John 3:4.)
For a husband to love his wife as Christ loved the Church is to attain a high goal, for He came not to be served, but to serve. A Christian husband ought not to have the attitude that he deserves service, but rather that he enjoys the privilege of serving. Christ also gave His life for His Church. Husbands, this is the responsibility and this is the charge that God gives to you. You are to be the kind of man that is dedicated to his wife and family, even unto death. You are to give yourself faithfully to seek their well-being.
If wives are to submit to the leadership of their husbands, every husband has the responsibility of being the kind of man that warrants submission. This is an appeal to your conscience. May you seek God’s grace to meet His standard. Be done with mere lip service to the commands of the faith, and seek to experience the reality of what the Word of God teaches about your daily life together.
The Lord Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Paul said something very much like that, “So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself” (Ephesians 5:28).