My parents were Christians and our home was fairly traditional, but I don’t remember ever hearing about the “head of the home” while growing up. I can’t remember a single instance of my dad asserting his position in the home, although he exemplified a good husband and father.
It wasn’t until after I married that I heard this in various teachings about marriage. At the time, I just accepted as fact that the husband was supposed to be the leader of the home. This seemed okay except in situations where it was extreme and wives were made to be doormats.
Headship was never an issue for us because my husband and I functioned in a relationship of mutual respect. Submission was never commanded. That would have seemed shallow when we already had a relationship that was based on love and trust rather than power.
Perhaps that is why it wasn’t difficult to challenge my beliefs about this topic. As I have examined when and how power is a part of relationships in the kingdom, I cannot see that it has a place in the marriage relationship. I do not believe now that there is hierarchy in the marriage relationship.
The main argument that I’ve heard for “the head of the home” is that one of the partners (the husband) must be appointed to make an executive decision in the case of an impasse.
A good example of that opinion was expressed in the comment section of the post Conversation at our House:
“There cannot be 2 leaders in a marriage, it just doesn’t work. When something comes up that wife and husband don’t agree on someone has to have that authority and power to make the decision. It can’t be both because if they don’t agree and both can’t have it their way, how will they resolve it? The Christian wife has to delegate that power to her husband.”
Over all the years that we believed the husband was the leader, this situation never came up. During the times when we were mutually selfish instead of submitted, we learned how to compromise. And we learned how to repent, to apologize, to forgive, and most of all to respect and trust.
I agree with Steve Sensenig’s reply to this comment – that Jesus should be the head in our marriage.
The scriptures concerning the husband as head to the wife as Christ is head to the church describes a relationship of union, not rulership. We are to be one flesh, in the same way that Christ is one with the body.
There is, however, a difference in the relationship in that Christ has Lordship, where that is not true of the husband/wife relationship. Back to the issue of governance, in that respect (Lordship or rulership), Christ is to be “Head” of the home and of both husband and wife.
In reality, this is so beautiful because then there is truly only one Head of the home. When a husband and wife submit themselves to the Lord and then to one another, we exemplify the unity and relationship that Paul said marriage was to reflect.
While a husband who truly loves his wife may not want to hinder her relationship with God, if he mistakenly believes his position is to rule over her, he does in fact put himself in a position that is between her and God.
That is the essence of a patriarchal or hierarchal understanding of the marriage roles. It puts both husband and wife in roles they weren’t intended to fulfill and distorts the mutuality of the relationship by imposing a power structure upon the relationship.
To be honest, I was afraid to admit this belief for awhile. It seemed too extreme, as if I was challenging the very balance of the universe. Questioning male headship seemed like the territory of bra-burning liberals, big-mouthed women, and stubborn insubordinates.
Believe of me what you will, but I have come to my current understanding in a sincere pursuit of knowing God, His way and His will. I don’t say that to claim infallible understanding, but rather to let you know that my thoughts about this are not borne out of a rebellious heart.