The complementarian position consistently teaches that men are the leaders of their wives and households. I’ve already established here that wives are actually the “heads” of the household. I’d like to look at what the Bible says husbands are supposed to do in marriage. (Emphasis is mine in all scripture references.)
~ “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.” ~Ephesians 5:25-28
~ “Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.” ~Colossians 3:19
~ “Husbands, in the same way [be considerate as you](1) live with your wives, and treat them with respect(2) as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.” ~1 Peter 3:7 (For more about this verse and a husband’s submission, see Margaret Mowczki’s blog, newlife.)
In a guest post on her blog, Rachel Held Evans’ husband Dan talks about leadership and “roles” in marriage:
He says of he and Rachel’s relationship ~ “Our life decisions are made in tandem. We’re the ones leading our lives. We aren’t battling over who’s leading who.”
~”Too many of us have succumbed to the idea that “leaders” are a specific type of people or that “leadership” is a character quality to be obtained like political capital – the more the better. But I view leadership differently. Leadership isn’t a goal. Leadership is a role that comes and goes. Wisdom and strength are what we should pursue. Not leadership…In the context of roles, wisdom is discerning when to lead, and strength comes from consistently practicing wisdom. Leadership is a role that changes hands depending on context. In that light, it’s important to learn how to lead, not because you want to be “a leader”, but because when wisdom and strength have placed you in a position of leadership, you don’t want to screw it up.”(author’s emphasis)
Dan has a good hold on how leadership works in a marriage. There are situations in marriage where one person takes the lead because they are better equipped to do so. I myself have taken the lead in teaching our children about the Bible, simply because I’m the one in our marriage who enjoys spending her spare time studying the Bible. This isn’t to say my husband doesn’t read the Bible, or that he never teaches the kids Biblical truths; he does these things on a regular basis. But I’m the one in the marriage who has more time, more interest, and more gifting in this area, so I take the lead and the greater responsibility.
The Bible never commands men to pursue “leadership” as a role or character quality. Yet complementarians continue to insist that men are the leaders of their wives.(3)
The Bible verses above make it clear that husbands are supposed to love their wives, care for them, and treat them with respect. There is nothing about the husband being the leader or head of the household. In a marriage, where there are only two people, there doesn’t need to be a leader, but there must be love. The kind of love that has the power to put the other person before yourself. The only way we can do this is through Jesus’ saving grace, by asking the Holy Spirit to change us and teach us, granting us wisdom and strength.
1. The words, “be considerate as you” do not appear in the original Greek, which indicates that the “same way” husbands are to live with their wives is an extension of wives’ submission spoken in the previous verses.
2. It is believed that men desire to be respected and women desire to be loved, but here we see Biblical evidence that husbands are to respect their wives. All human beings want to be treated with respect, not just men.
3*. In Ephesians 5:23, “head” is often interpreted as meaning “authority”, which would mean that husbands are the “authority” or “leaders” of their wives. However, to be consistent with that interpretation, we must interpret 1 Corinthians 11:3 the same way.
1 Corinthians 11:3 says, “Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.”
If “head” means authority, then the verse could read like this: “Now I want you to realize that the authority of every man is Christ, and the authority of the woman is man, and the authority of Christ is God.”
So not only is the husband the “authority” of his wife(as in Ephesians 5:23), but this interpretation means that EVERY man is the authority of EVERY woman, because this passage of scripture isn’t talking about marriage; it’s talking about men and women in relation to head coverings during church meetings. Yet some complementarians teach that women do not have to submit to the leadership/authority of anyone but their husbands. But, in order to be consistent, complementarians should be teaching that ALL women should be subject to ALL men’s authority. If “head” is translated as “authority” in Ephesians 5:23, then it should be translated as “authority” in 1 Corinthians 11:3. However, translating “head” as “source” rather than “authority” is more consistent with the meaning of 1 Corinthians 11:3, because “the Bible never states that all women are to be under the authority of all men or should submit to all men.” ~ Man and Woman, One in Christ, Philip B. Payne, 2009.
*I will be exploring this idea further in my next post.