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Published Date: September 5, 2000

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The Head Of The Wife?

“For the husband is the head of the wife, is that not what the Bible says?” my friend asked in all earnestness.

“No,” I replied, “that is not what the Bible says. Paul says that the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. How is Christ the head of the church?”

“I guess,” he responded, “he is the Holy Spirit.”

On the way home from church, my preoccupation with our conversation puzzled me. Why is it, I thought, that someone like my friend had spent so much time serving as pastor and yet had not grasped this basic truth of which Paul spoke? A lifetime of sermons and I had rarely, if ever, heard about how Christ is the head of the church. The essential exposition is not the husband as head of the wife. The critical question is, “How is Christ the head of the church?”

Christ’s New Covenant upheld and deepened the principles of the Ten Commandments, including honoring father and mother. His teaching repudiates one human exercising coercive authority over another. One of Scripture’s eternal principles is that before God, we are all equal.

Christ’s new order, in Paul’s words, was that there “is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

The God of the New Testament is not in the hierarchical business (“render unto Caesar”). The King of Kings did not ask that heads of state be established. This is a tradition of man, recorded in Jewish history from the time of Saul, the first king of Israel. Words in Holy Scripture have various meanings, just as we find in the modern dictionary. How are we to view Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 11:3, “The head of every man is Christ”? If this is literal, why is there so much confusion and hatred in the world today?

Christians respect eternal Truth, not truth from a limited human interpolation. Some, as the Pharisees, demand a franchise on the truth, and even counterfeit the truth to fit their agenda. They crave to “have arrived.” They no longer yearn to grow in “wisdom and stature” even as God’s own Son did. Satan has planted for mankind a trap: a trap of pride. Those snared in this trap have the answer to every need. Their truth is guided by mortal assumptions, based on tradition, and lacking an eternal perspective. We pantomime God. This was the folly of Satan, the fallen angel, who tried to remake himself as God. If God had needed a hierarchy, he could have accommodated Satan, avoiding his fallen state. Hierarchies breed incompatibilities. Hierarchies are coercively political. Hierarchies have no place in Christ’s kingdom.

Political power structures are offensive to Christian ethics. The inflammatory wording of the Family Article added to the Faith and Message in 1998 has been used, and will be used, by Satan to cause dissension within families and churches. Just what Satan wants! In 1 Corinthians 11:11, Paul stated, “Nevertheless, neither is man independent of woman, nor woman independent of man, in the Lord.” Christians need to reconcile what Paul is seeking to teach, or discount Paul’s teaching altogether.

Control-seeking phrases of the 1998 resolution, such as “submit herself graciously,” “servant leadership of her husband,” “serve as his helper in managing the household,” and “as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ,” are man-made and detrimental to the cause of Christ. Such an attitude is not Christ-like.

This should explain why the gratuitous phrase, “serve as his helper in managing the household,” strikes at the heart of every home. How can two become one if she is only his helper? The husband becomes so deluded by his misplaced value that the wife is denied the affirmation needed for building the emotional and spiritual bonds God intended. Even among Christians, the husband’s “self-interest” is abominable and causes dysfunctional relationships.

Now to the phrase, “servant leadership of the husband.” Actually, the Bible says no more about the husband’s servant leadership than it does about the wife’s servant leadership. In the creation of the species, fellowship, not political power, was the objective. As such, there has to be interdependence and dialogue. The husband-and-wife relationship is not unilateral. In God’s plan, husband and wife are to be one. Unity.

“Submit herself graciously” is another foolish, naïve demand. No one submits unilaterally graciously. Actually the husband and wife are to be submissive to one another “in the Lord.” Submit, in most contexts today, means yielding authority to someone else. The wife cannot abdicate her personhood for her husband’s. To do so would nullify the freedom Christ came to provide. God’s steadfast love provides this special gift: freedom. Christ’s life and work was entirely about each person respecting the personhood of another. Would that menfolk historically had chosen to do the same!

Consider the wording in “as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ.” Do they? Throughout history, the church, because of its human component, has aligned itself to whatever was politically and culturally expedient. The term “headship” even denotes worldly position or power. In Scripture the word used is “head” and implies origin or source. There was no church until Christ. If we are going to define a marriage on the concept of physical “churches,” we had best prepare for the worst.

Did Christ get to be head of the church though political bickering and power plays? My friend’s response was unsatisfactory. Christ is the source, the origin, of a human’s perfected relationship with his maker. That is why the husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church and gave “himself” for it. God has promised the husbands the leadership qualities for bringing their families into a more perfect relationship. Husbands that “lord it over” their wives deny themselves the joy God intended. Satan struts with this deluded male puffery!

The Southern Baptist Convention’s attitude toward women in the adoption of this 1998 family resolution is evident and not Christ-like. Such wording brings no peace and comfort into troubled homes or churches. Disunity and unhappiness, under the guise of a religious document, increases strife and dissension. The four “flash phrases,” expounded above, activate divisive behaviors and do much to make Christ’s life pointless. Will our religious leaders humble themselves and redo their politically motivated words? Or will they, as did the religious leaders of another day, betray Jesus? In the great judgment day, Jesus said the king will say, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matthew 25:40). First Corinthians 5:7 tells believers to take out the false teaching (leaven) before these teachings spoil the whole lump. Such demagoguery prospers when lay-Christians remain silent. Perversion of Scripture keeps men in power in their homes, but such homes are a hazard because they are without The Power. Christian women had rather the men change their written attitudes. Asking Christian wives to acquiesce this God-given freedom is unthinkable.