For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith.” Matthew 8:5-13
On Sunday morning (Feb. 27th), I proposed to the Body that the “headship” of the husband is best seen, not as having authority over his wife” but “being under authority” for a responsibility to his wife. The blueprint is not Adam and Eve (pre-fall) and it certainly is not the consequential paradigm of “her desire is against her husband and he will rule over you” (Gen. 3:16; 4:7). There are two important ideas that flow from this framework:
Being under authority means the only authority we have is defined by the parameters set by the one who has entrusted me with this particular responsibility. When Jesus announced to the disciples that He had all authority in heaven and earth, He could have literally told them to do anything. He could have told them to build governments according to a biblical blueprint that Christ Himself designed; He could have asked them to start businesses; He could have entrusted them with land conservation; He could have delegated to them the responsibility of animal husbandry or a hundred other things. But the one thing Jesus entrusted to them is to “make disciples”. We have no authority from Christ to do anything but that. If we get outside of those boundaries we are stepping outside of the authority of Christ and getting off task. Husbands may want to do “many things” for their families but the one key spiritual responsibility to his wife hinges around this unique responsibility of headship:
To contextualize this same concept to marriage, I believe that the husband’s headship means he is under authority. God has entrusted him with a responsibility to his wife. Ephesians 5:22-33 indicates this headship means two primary things:
- Love your wife as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her (5:25).
- Love your wife as your own body; no one ever hated his own body but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church.
Being under authority means that we have entrusted to a responsibility by someone to whom we are accountable. When Pilate explained to Jesus he had the authority to release Jesus or to have him crucified, Jesus clarified that he (Pilate) would have no authority at all if it had not been given to him from above (John 19:11). When Jesus came to earth, He lived “under authority” of the Father for the purpose of doing the Father’s will and accomplishing the mission of redemption. When Jesus met with His disciples on the mountain outside Galilee, His declaration to them was simply, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matt. 28:18). Husbands need to remember we will be accountable to God for how we carry out this responsibility to our wives. We need to give attention to what we should be doing not to what we think she should be doing.
On the other side of the coin is the women is called to submit to husband. This of course sounds pejorative because of our extensive cultural and Christian conflicts. That discussion is for another day. If we want to infuse our marriages with the vital, energizing presence of His grace, then it means we need to carry out our responsibility with great zeal and confidence. Worry about how we are conducting ourselves not how we think our spouse ought to be carrying out their responsibility to us.