Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. Ephesians 5:25-27

What is the role of the husband in marriage?  As more women seek equality and work to provide for their homes and families, we have seen a blurring in the role of the leadership of the family.  Who is the head of the family?  Is it the one who makes the money, the one who is home most of the time?  Honestly, until the last two years, I believed that both Andrew and I should lead our family together.  And many times I actively sought leadership in ways that demeaned his authority.  Recently, I have gained clarity on the issue of headship.

The key thing I want to clarify before going into the issue of headship is that both women and men are created equal and have equal standing before God (see Genesis 1:25, Galatians 3:26-28).  In scripture, God equally bestows spiritual gifts on men and women, and both are asked to use those gifts for the building up of the body.  But, while he created man and women equal, God did not intend them to play the same role in marriage.  Both men and women are called to play the "Jesus Role," men in sacrificial servanthood as the leader of the family and women in sacrificial submission.  Lets take a look at what it means for the husband to sacrificially serve in his role as the head of the family.

Headship (the role of the husband) is the divine calling of a husband to take primary responsibility for Christ-like servant leadership and protection and provision in the home. - John Piper

First, according to Piper's definition, men are called to take primary responsibility in the leadership of the home.  In the beginning, God started with Adam and gave him the primary responsibility to name Eve, to lead her by relaying God's commands and ultimately to answer to God after the fall.  God appointed Adam as the leader of the household and asked him to care for, protect, and serve his bride.  We don't see anywhere in the beginning that Adam is called greater than Eve, but he is given the head responsibility for leadership.

Later in the new testament, we see Jesus fulfill this role as the head of the church, loving, serving, leading and ultimately dying for his bride, the church.  God designed marriage to be a picture of the relationship between Jesus and his people.  God’s intended leadership role for man is that of a servant-leader.  We have all seen examples of authority and leadership used for selfish gain and promotion.  Being the leader in a marriage doesn’t mean that the husband uses his position for selfish gain, it’s exactly the opposite.  Headship is a God appointed role centered around self sacrifice rather than gain:

“You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant,  and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else.  For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:42-45

Husbands, you are called to serve your wives and children as Christ served the church.  A servant leader is one who sacrifices what he wants and needs in order to build up his partner.  When your wife looks at you, she should see Jesus.   Are you loving her, pursuing her, encouraging her, forgiving her, granting her mercy, lavishing grace on her as Jesus did for you?  Your job is to be that, and to be the one to initiate it as Christ did for you.  He didn’t wait for his church to become lovely, he initiated and loved her to make her lovely.

In addition to the servant leader role, husbands are to lead the family spiritually. In many families wives are gathering the kids for prayer and worship without the husband’s involvement.  Sometimes wives are attending church alone or praying without their husbands.  Many men abdicate leadership in the spiritual realm because their wives are stronger.

Piper says, “Some men react all wrong to a wife who is growing spiritually. He may say, "Well I'm not into that, so I'll let her be the spiritual leader in the family and I'll make sure we stay afloat financially and have food on the table. She can put her head in the clouds. I'll keep our feet on the ground." This response is neither biblical nor satisfying for husband or wife in the long run. To abdicate leadership at the most important, all-encompassing level of spirituality is to abdicate Christian headship. What is left of headship when spiritual leadership is surrendered is a hollow shell. Instead, a husband who sees his wife going hard after God should humble himself, admit his need, and press on in his own pursuit of spiritual depth.” 

Men, it is essential that you make time in your days for prayer, worship and devotion.  Your time in the word and prayer will determine how you spiritually lead your family.  God will hold you accountable for prioritizing him and for your family knowing him.  Let me ask what has priority in your house.  Does TV come first?  Are family meals prioritized?  Men, are your kids hearing about Jesus from you?  Is your wife weary?  How can you love her towards Jesus?

As you seek God in how to play the Jesus role as servant and spiritual leader, remember that Jesus lead the church by submitting first to his Father.  As you finish this devotion, ask God how you must submit to his leading.  Ask him to fill you with his spirit, to pour love into your heart, to grant you wisdom and discernment as you lead.  As you love him and see the beauty of the cross, you will serve your family well.  

“When a man senses a primary God-given responsibility for the spiritual life of the family, gathering the family for devotions, taking them to church, calling for prayer at meals—when he senses a primary God-given responsibility for the discipline and education of the children, the stewardship of money, the provision of food, the safety of the home, the healing of discord, that special sense of responsibility is not authoritarian or autocratic or domineering or bossy or oppressive or abusive. It is simply servant-leadership. And I have never met a wife who is sorry she is married to a man like that. Because when God designs a thing (like marriage), he designs it for his glory and our good.” John Piper