Being a husband is a high calling, and should be treated as such. It is a wonderful role with many benefits and joys that go along with it. But being a husband also comes with responsibilities. It takes character molded by God and in the process of continual improvement to juggle the responsibilities and expectations God has placed on husbands.
Many Christian husbands would summarize their biblical duty in one word – leadership. Scripture answers the question with a different word – love.
There is no doubt God’s design for the husband includes leadership, but it is leadership that flows from love and is always tempered by tender affection.
It is significant that before the apostle Paul instructs husbands and wives how to love each other, he calls for mutual submission in Ephesians 5:21, “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.” That’s a general command to all Christians in all contexts. Husbands are no exception to this rule. The Christian husband should submit to be the best husband he can be. It is colored and characterized by meekness, tenderness, and service. It is a humble, servant’s love, like that of Christ. Contrary to what some men think, this is not weakness!
Submission sets the stage for Paul’s instructions to husbands: “Love your wives” (v. 25). The whole idea of the husband’s headship is a comparison to Christ. The husband’s headship over the wife is likened to Christ’s headship over the church. “The husband is head of the wife, even as Christ is head of the church” (v. 23). Therefore your love for your wife is supposed to be like Christ’s love for the church: “Love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it” (v. 25).
Peter gives us some great advice, “Husbands, likewise, dwell with (your wives) according to knowledge (with understanding), giving honor to the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life” (I Peter 3:7).
The headship-submission relationship is not about superiority and inferiority. Let’s be honest, some wives are wiser, more knowledgeable, more articulate, and more discerning than their husbands. Yet God has ordered the family so the man is the head. That is not because the wife automatically owes the husband a servant’s deference as his inferior — for she is not to be treated as an inferior, but as a sister and joint heir. The reason for the divine order is that your wife is the weaker vessel and you therefore owe her sacrifice and protection.
I believe husbands who strive to make the following three actions a priority will see a world of difference in their relationships.
“Dwell with them according to knowledge…” I Peter 3:7. Peter is saying to live with your wife in an understanding way. Find out what she likes and what she doesn’t like. He’s simply speaking of being considerate. This is opposite the cave-man mentality some today would advocate. It’s incompatible with the kind of independent, proud, self-absorbed attitude many seem to think epitomizes true maleness. It calls for understanding, sensitivity, and meeting your wife’s needs. It involves a sincere effort to understand her feelings, fears, anxieties, concerns, goals, dreams, and desires. In short, you must be considerate.
Often it boils down to listening. You must understand your wife’s heart. You can’t meet her needs with sacrificial love when you have no idea what those needs are
Being considerate is not something that comes naturally to us. Like our children, we wrestle against our own sinful tendencies and selfish desires. But God calls us to be models of sacrificial love in our families, and that begins by being considerate of your wife’s needs.
When Peter refers to the wife as “the weaker vessel,” he is primarily referencing the physical realm. Now, it is undoubtedly true that some wives could take their husbands in an arm wrestling contest, but, as a class, women are physically weaker than men. Regardless of a wife’s physical strength, the principle still applies. You are to treat your wife with a gentle chivalry. A loving husband would not say to his wife, “After you mow the lawn, trim the trees and change the tire I’ll be glad to take you to the store.” We serve them with our strength. We show them a particular deference in matters where their physical weakness places them at a disadvantage. Lending them that strength is one of the main ways we show them a Christ-like, sacrificial love.
We’re to regard our wives “as being heirs together of the grace of life.” Men and women are equal spiritually and should be treated as such. While you’re legitimately concerned with spiritual leadership in your home, don’t forget the responsibility of communion before God with your wife as a joint heir of His grace. Your role as her leader does not mean you are her superior. Both of you are dependent on divine grace, and you are heirs together of that grace.
I love it when I read in the Song of Solomon, “This is my beloved, and this is my friend” (5:16). I love that expression! She rejoices in her love for him, but it is not just his romantic devotion that thrills her. It is not his machismo or his leadership that causes her heart to sing. What is it? She is glad that he is her friend. That’s the kind of relationship husbands should cultivate. It is a deep sense of intimate, equal sharing of spiritual things. It is a communion together like no other relationship on earth.
This brief article is in no way exhaustive nor comprehensive, but it’s a great start! I pray it will make a difference in your marriage and it will glorify the Lord Jesus.