Over the years I’ve concluded that seeing “headship” in marriage as a basis for the authority of a husband to tell his wife what to do says more about the customs of fallen culture than it does about what the God of the Bible wants for us.
My last post is an attempt to explain why I suspect that many of us have misunderstand what the Bible says about marriage in the same way that earlier generations misunderstood what the Bible says about master-slave relationships.
Now, when I read the Bible I think I see God, in his wisdom, teaching us to work within the authority-based institutions of society (i.e. government, military, business, and marriage) while leading us to the higher ground of truth-and-love-based relationships.
The Father in heaven seems to follow the pattern we use in raising our own children. He starts with what we can understand and leads us slowly to maturity.
Let me try to give some specific examples that build on my last post, and illustrate why I now believe that the real issue in mature marriage is not, “Who has what authority?”- but rather “What has God given us that we can use for the good of one another, and for the honor of our God?” Let’s look at some of the what-ifs of marriage and see if they are best solved by pressing the logic of authority or of love.
As a rule, we don’t question a woman’s willingness to take the lead if her husband lacks or loses his ability to protect and provide for his family. Few will criticize a wife for stepping up to the challenge if her husband is:
Diagnosed with a debilitating mental or emotional condition, or
Morally entangled in a drug, alcohol or gambling addiction that causes him to be a danger to the well being of his family.
Some of us, though, might have missed the extent to which such lost capacity is a significant factor in what the Bible says about men and women.
What if the Lord wants a man to follow his wife’s lead on an issue? Abraham is widely regarded by people of monotheistic faith as “the father of us all” (Romans 4:16). As such he gives us an example of a husband who was respected and revered by his wife (1Peter 3:6). Yet, along the way, he also learned from the Lord that it is not beneath a man to submit to an imperfect woman. In a difficult family dispute, the Lord told Abraham to defer to Sarah’s demands (Genesis 21:9-12).
What if a man, who by his lack of character actually endangers his whole house? That’s the story of Abigail. She is an example of a woman married to a man whose stubborn pride blinded his judgment. Rather than submitting to her husband’s decision, she protected her family by providing care and assistance to David and his hungry soldiers (1 Samuel 25).
What if a woman has more wisdom and courage than the men of her house or community? That’s Judge Deborah. She rose above the prominence of her husband in ancient Israel, acted as a judge in matters of social dispute and, in a moment of national crisis, led the army into a successful battle (Judges 4-5).
In each of these instances we see an example– not of traditional marital roles– but of God’s grace acting in unpredictable ways for the protection of his people.
My point in citing these biblical examples is to show that God himself has not been as rigid in applying marital roles as some of us…
Here’s where I land. I think the real issue is– what has God given us as men and women that we can use to help the other grow to full spiritual, intellectual and emotional maturity?
Anyway, I’ll try that for starters :-)…