This post is directed to husbands only. It is NOT to be used by wives to direct or correct their husbands.
Part 5 of What I Believe About Marriage
I believe that the biblical order God intends for marriage is best described as an ordered partnership. But what exactly does that mean?
In simplest terms, I believe your role as a husband is to love, lead and serve your wife.
Loving Your Wife
Scripture sets the bar pretty high for us husbands on this one.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.
Ephesians 5:24 (NIV)
The biggest reason husbands don’t do better at loving their wives as Christ loves the church is because they don’t really know how Christ loves the church.
If you want to learn to love your wife well, invest yourself deeply into knowing the love of Christ through whom the tremendous emotions of God toward you are revealed. If you want to be a great husband, learn first to be a much-loved bride.
Men, you do your wife a great disservice if you shy away from your bridal identity, because it is only in the intimate knowledge of the love of your heavenly Bridegroom, Jesus, that you can truly know how to love their wives. This is so hugely important! Get over your reticence and learn to be a bride of Christ. A few chapters before Paul tells husbands to love their wives as Christ loves the church, he explains that the love of Christ is so vast as to be unknowable, yet he goes on to say that getting to know it is the very key to a full life in God (Ephesians 3:17-20). It is the key to knowing what it means to love your wife with unconditional, passionate, pure, selfless love.
Loving your wife means loving her on her terms, not yours. It’s a fact that the top marital needs of men and women differ greatly. Loving your wife how she needs to be loved will require you to become a student of your wife, learning how to delight her beyond her wildest dreams. It also requires a daily, consistent demonstration of that love through things like showing tender care, maintaining emotional intimacy and making sure she feels protected and safe at all times. This is not a quick fix or a sliver bullet. It’s a lifestyle of loving like Jesus loves.
Check out this amazing description of Christ’s love from earlier in Ephesians 5, just before Paul tells you that this is what you are to emulate.
Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.
Ephesians 5:2 (MSG)
Leading Your Wife
I believe, based on my reading of Scripture, that God grants a certain authority to husbands in the ordered partnership of marriage. In Ephesians 5, Paul describes this as the husband being the “head” of his wife. I sometime refer to these as “leadership” or “headship.”
The reason so many people have a problem with the notion of husbands having authority in marriage is that they have the wrong paradigm. The authority they think of is the tyrannical corporate boss, the corrupt politician, or the heavy-handed drill sergeant. There are so many examples of authority and power being used incorrectly. So many, instead of framing headship in the correct scriptural light, toss out the notion altogether.
How are you to lead as a husband? Lead with love, like Jesus does. I believe that if the “love” part of your role is fully understood and acted upon (see above), the “lead” part of your role becomes a huge blessing to your wife. This is essential! Without a good grip on the love part, the lead part can easily turn oppressive and self-serving.
Not all husbands will take up their authority, and not all husbands will wield their authority wisely or well. Regardless, I believe that the authority is theirs nonetheless, because I believe it is authority delegated from God the Father in accordance with his design for marriage. It is not a question of earning your authority, it is really a question of what you do with the authority you have already been granted.
I’ve mentioned before that by far the most common search that lands people on my website is “husband refuses to lead” or variants on the same. This search is followed closely by some combination of the words “husband” and “dictator.” Your goal is to never give your own wife a reason to Google either one!
Believe me when I say your wife probably longs for you to walk in your God-given authority. Yes, she wants you to lead her, but lead her with Christ-like love.
Serving Your Wife
Jesus came to serve and save the church through the ultimate sacrifice of giving his own life for her. Most of us husbands will never be called upon to serve our wives in this way, but we are called to serve them in the way we love, lead and sacrifice for them on a daily basis.
How did Jesus serve those he loved? He washed their feet. He calmed their storms. He set them free from bondage. He led the way to the Father. He was full of grace and truth, light and life, peace and joy.
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
Philippians 2:5-7 (NIV)
Your authority in your marriage does not give you the right to simply make all the decisions or to tell your wife what to do. It comes with the right to lay down your life for her and to serve her. It comes with the right to do all in your power to see that your wife walks in her full God-given identity and fulfills the destiny God has on her life. It comes with the right to pursue her relentlessly and to do all in your power to walk in intimacy with her.
I hate the way some people portray the biblical notion of headship as a thoughtless, disheveled man issuing edicts and orders from his Lazy boy. But you know what? There’s probably a reason, a really bad reason, for that negative stereotype.
My heart’s desire is to see millions of good, loving, strong husbands walking out their authority like Jesus, in such an exemplary and powerful fashion as to wreck these negative stereotypes forever.