Saturday, November 9, 2013


Ephesians 5:23-33 “23 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. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing[a] her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”[b] 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”

After posting an article of the true meaning of the word head in the bible wanted to discuss wanted it’s meaning regarding the role of the husband.   There are two different branches in the Christian community who have opposing views on this subject.  On the complementarian side, they believe men and women are equal under god with different roles in the marriage in which there is a hierarchy with the husband being the spiritual leader who has the final authority.  The motto is equal under god but not equal in roles and function.  However, within this camp the majority are known as soft-complementarians who believe rather than hierarchy, the husband has responsibility to lead not rule the family spirituality and that doesn’t have to contradict gender equality in marriage.  Often in this type of marriage, couples are encourage to make major decisions together whenever possible and only when no agreement or compromise is reached than the husband has head makes the final decision.  This isn’t seen as a privilege for the husband to always get his own way, rather a duty to decide what best for everyone taking the wife’s feelings, wisdom and input into con-sideration.  On the other side is the egalitarian group, who basically believe in gender-neutral roles in marriage and in life in general where there is mutual submission.  Some may even argue the most gifted can take the lead in the marriage. 

 I myself am not 100% in either of these two camps and don’t entirely agree neither of these ideals.  After giving my own views of the true meaning of the word head,(go back and read my post on this subject) I reject the idea of any hierarchy where the husband has a superior position over his wife in which it contradicts equality in marriage.  Also, I don’t buy into the idea of a roleless marriage especially since the bible does say the he husband is the head of the wife.  One idea is often used to justify chauvinist attitudes, power and control in the marriage, the other is used to the justify another extreme that abandons certain duties of self-sacrifice on the husband’s part, and may cause some gender lines to blur too much in attempt for gender equality.  After analyzing the biblical word head and relating it to Jesus’s role to the church I want attempt to explore what it really means on the husband’s role in the marriage.  First, I want to point out despite what many have claimed the bible doesn’t say the husband is the head of the household.  If Paul had said husbands were the head of the household, he would have used the Greek word "oikodespotes" which means head or master of the household rather than the word kephale.  Instead he said the husband was the head of the wife as Jesus was the head of the church.  Paul was relating the husband/wife relationship with that of Jesus and the church.  Also note he said the husband was the head of not over the wife as others have claimed.  I say this to clarify that the husband isn’t over his wife as if he is above her or has a senior position over her.  So what does the husband being the wife’s head really mean?  

For a long while, I viewed the word head(kephale) used in the military fashion where the husband is like a point man who is out in front taking the greatest burden of spiritually guiding his wife in self-sacrificial, self-giving manner that resembles Christ as his wife follows on equal footing.  This to me made sense and rejected both the notions of hierarchy and of a roleless marriage.  However, I have kind of changed my views of this simply because I re-read the scripture really paid attention to the verse “as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.”   As I said before, several scriptures refer to the Church as Christ’s body and Christ as the head.  Even Ephesians 5:30 states: “For we are members of his body”.  I now view this as a head/body metaphor when referring to the husband’s relationship to his wife.  I also read the verse: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her”.  I also came to the conclusion that the husband is still to be the initiator in acting in a way that is Christ-like.  This doesn’t mean he has to be Jesus to his wife for which is not possible but strive to follow Christ’s example in regarding his relationship to his wife. The one thing the husband should actually take the lead in or initiate is a sacrificial love for his wife as Jesus sacrificially loved the church that he gave his life up to it.  In fact, the Greek word for love is "agape" which doesn’t just mean love alone but a self-sacrificial love.  

Another Christ-like manner is to initiate servant’s attitude as Jesus himself didn’t come to be served but to serve others.  He demonstrated this, by washing the Disciples feet(John 13:1-17) and also by cooking meat and bread for them in John 21:9-14.  A husband should have a self-giving, servant's heart based on humility.  Rather than just expect how his wife can serve his needs, he should focus on how to serve hers striving to ensure her needs are met. This will sometimes differ in many marriages as each wife needs will differ.  This may include a variety of ways, from conrtibuting to the household chores, supporting her an her choices outside the home, keeping romance alive etc. Bottom line the godly husband first priority is her well-being and he never neglects this duty.

As for the head/body metaphor, the husband should be a source of unity to his wife joined together with neither able to function without the other with mutual interdependence.  The husband and wife are now in oneness with each other as “one flesh” instead of a “me’ it’s now a “we” as the wife is his other half of one whole, in completion with him. The husband is also the head is also the source of life and growth of his wife, as the body.  In this way, he nourishes her spiritual growth as he encourages her to grow spirituality, be more holy and using her god-giving gifts and talents and to be what god intended her to be.  He is her sustainer where he strives to build her up, uplifting and empower her to help bring out her strengths or give his strengths to her such as being her rock when she is vulnerable.  The husband's sacrificial love shoulde  make her radiant in which he encoures her to glorious bringing out the best in her where her inner beauty shines.  He also gives her equal respect in the marriage.  Ephesians 5:28:  “So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.”  In this way, the husband is to care for his wife he would his own body, including providing for her, protecting and defending her and respecting her.  The husband is to love, respect, honor and cherish is wife in the same way he wishes to be respected, honored and cherished.  He doesn’t mistreat her in any way he wouldn’t like to be mistreated. 

Then there is the verse 1 Peter 3:7:  “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, giving honor unto the woman, as unto the weaker vessel, as being also joint-heirs of the grace of life; so that your prayers not be hindered.”  Many believe the term the weaker vessel implies inferiority be it intellectually, spiritually, mentally, morally or just having a lesser role in the marriage.  These words have used this word to justify male chauvinism.  However, others see the phrase a cultural term referring to the woman’s weaker legal status and that it doesn’t imply anymore.  I don’t agree with neither ideas.  Having studied the words in Greek, the word weaker translates to "asthenes" which means strengthless, more fragile, feeble, impotent, a limited capacity to do or be something and used literally in physical weakness. The Greek word for vessel is "skeuos" which means container, jar, household utensil, instrument, merchandise, object, property or sometimes when used as vessel it was meant as a metaphor for a human body.  In this way, the wife being the weaker vessel could refer to her being physically weaker since on average men are naturally stronger in physical strength and stature.  It can also mean that the wife is to be treated more delicately, more softly and gently like a delicate vase.  The Greek words for joint-heirs are translated to the word "sugkleronomos".  This word means fellow heir, joint participant, one who obtains something assigned to himself with others.  

In the past, men have used their superior strength to oppress and intimidate their wives and treat them as inferiors, as well as be insensitive to the woman’s more emotional and sensitive nature treating them so harshly.  Some of this still goes on today.  Of course, also in today’s society, the pendulum has swung too far the other way, as some men have used equality to ignore gender distinctions and justify ungallant behavior and not treat them with special care, the new attitudes is if women want to be equal treat them like men.  However, the godly husband will honor his wife as the weaker vessel meaning treating her more gently, be considerate in areas she’s more vulnerable like less physical strength, the fact the she expresses her emotions more than he does, and her body is more delicate in certain areas and built to bearing children etc.  Such examples could mean offering her traditional gestures like opening the door, including the car door for her, helping her with her coat or carrying the heavier stuff rather allow her to struggle, be protective when required, catering to her special needs when pregnant etc.  Yet, the husband should remember that she is still a fellow heir in god’s kingdom deserving of being held to equal regard in personhood and in the marriage including being a co-partner in parenting, property rights, and managing the home.  Many have mistaken Paul as chauvinist but in his day husbands regarded their wives as property.  Paul made a radical statement told husbands to love their wives in comparison to how Jesus loved the church that he gave himself up to it and placing women on more equal standing by insisting husbands love and care for their wives as their own bodies and be one flesh with them.  

In conclusion, the husband’s role as the head isn’t about being the leader who makes the final decisions.  Marriages work best when both couples make decisions mutually always striving to find common ground and compromise when needed.  His role is about being the initiator of a sacrificial self-giving love to his wife in which he is her  supporter, builder, uplifter, nourisher, completer and protector just as Christ is all these things to the church.

No comments:

Post a Comment