Some of the most gruesome events of the Iraq war involved the beheading of enemies by terrorist cells. Yet long ago,
David did it to the Philistine giant, Goliath (1Samuel 17). The Philistines later beheaded King Saul and hung his headless body on the city wall of Beth Shan (1Sam 31:9). John the Baptist suffered the same fate after challenging the marriage of Herod Antipas to Herod’s brother’s wife (pictured here in this 1607 Caravaggio painting).
Now let’s fast forward to the Biblical use of “head” and “body” to describe the (intended) relationship of husband and wife… and ultimately Christ and his Body on earth (Ephesians 5:23).
Regarding marriage, endless debate has swirled around the question of whether “head” in the head-body analogy of husband and wife implies authority, leadership, source, or something else.
There appears, however, to be a profound implication that we can miss if we’re not willing to stomach the gruesome image of a beheading. Imagine a table with a head sitting on a plate, and a headless body propped up in a chair. Then try to find pride in either the head or the body of this mental picture. Try to find a spark of life in the eyes of the head without the body, or some meaningful movement of the body without the head.
The conclusion seems apparent. If our idea of what the “head” in marriage means lends itself to pride, control, forced authority, neglect, or independence, then we are missing the Divinely intended interdependence of head and body– to work together, to care for and protect one another– for their shared good.
In this word picture: the head willingly and purposely exists for the body, just as the body exists for the head.
Here, however, is where this word picture of head and body seems, at first, dangerous… and then overwhelmingly loving. The Bible pictures Christ as the head of his body, the Church (Eph 5:31-32).
Many of us readily acknowledge the love that put Christ on the cross in our behalf. But how much have we thought about the love that voluntarily bound Christ to the Church as his Body?
Here’s where we have to be so careful. (I don’t have the wisdom or knowledge to even understand what I’m saying. But of this I’m sure:) By identifying himself with the Church (think of Church history as well), our Lord has been willing to associate himself with an enormous and inexpressible mix of good and evil in order to offer himself–and then to bind/unite himself to us.
Many of us don’t even like to admit a relationship to parts of the Church that we don’t agree with (or that have hurt us). Yet our risen Lord links his future and his present Name and reputation with all of us who take his name.
Try to imagine the risk of reputation that he has endured to come to our rescue. Can we even begin to weigh the implications of the way he has voluntarily made the expression of his love on earth– dependent on our willingness to be dependent on Him…living his life through us?
I’m not sure that I even begin to get the mystery and the wonder that the Apostle Paul alludes to when, after describing the word picture of head and body in marriage, he writes, “For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church.For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church” (Eph 5:29-32).