What Should Male Leadership Look Like?

Pastor J.D. addresses some common misconceptions about male leadership and explains the Bible’s plan for it in relationships, the home, and life.

A glimpse inside this episode:

There are a number of reasons someone might find the idea of male leadership difficult:

  • Perhaps there is a history of abuse, which changes how male leadership looks and feels.
  • Feel like it is archaic: strong dominated the weak.
  • More practical, perhaps a mother is raising children without the father around.

So why, with all of the potential problems, do we say that God’s design in the home is for men to lead?

Ephesians 5:23, the Bible calls the husband to be the head of the wife and the wife to submit to the husband like Christ submitted to the church.

  • Headship is not a designation of the husband’s greater value (egalitarians Galatians 3:28 vs. complementarians 1 Timothy 2–both are important, but of his specific role and responsibility).
    • Starts with mutual submission:
    • In fact, greater submission in that sense is mine. I should lose 95% of all arguments in my home.
      • Look not on my own interests
      • To serve rather than be served
    • Crown is one of thorns.
    • I am a tie-breaker.
      • Tim Keller: Moving to NYC example. He felt yes; she no. They had to make a decision; to not make one would be, functionally, to make one. He conceded: “OK, if you don’t want to go, we won’t go.” Kathy: No, you are letting me make the decision. You have to make it. Submission means man has to make the decision in the best interest of the family.
        • The number of times this has actually happened in my marriage, I could count on one hand.
        • People who say, “Well, just work it out.” That doesn’t work practically. Somebody ends up submitting.
        • Like a dance: somebody leads.
        • If two people are dancing face to face, they cannot do exactly the same thing without running into each other and ending the dance. The movements cannot be identical and equivalent; they have to be complementary and harmonious.

The creation account in Genesis 1–2 (particularly 2:5–23) provides more detail about the nature of the husband’s headship. In that text, we see God giving Adam a share of his authority by commissioning him to cultivate the Garden of Eden and name the animals (Genesis 2:15, 19–20). This provides a template by which we can understand the leadership that men should demonstrate in the home.

  • Husbands should lead in provision, as Adam was given a job prior to his marriage to Eve (Genesis 2:15).
  • Husbands should lead in spiritual growth, as Adam both had a relationship with God and had heard God’s words before Eve was brought to him (Genesis 2:16, 18).
  • Husbands should lead in romance, since, as the text notes, it is the man who is to leave his family in order to cleave to his wife (Genesis 2:24). It is also the man that writes the first romantic poem for his wife, not vice versa (Genesis 2:23).
  • Husbands should lead in protection, as Adam and Eve are referred to as “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). Paul picks up this imagery to remind husbands that they are responsible to love their wives “as their own bodies,” protecting them as they would their very selves (Ephesians 5:28).
  • God did not make us exactly the same.
    • Not good
    • Edzer kenegdo: a different one of the same kind

A great deal of resistance arises from core misconceptions about the concept itself. We reject the following misconceptions of submission as false and unbiblical:

  • The misconception that women, as a group, are to submit to men. The virtue of submission, biblically speaking, is one that all believers are called to practice. Christians are called to submit to the leadership of the church, to governing authorities, to other believers, and most importantly, to God. The circumstances may differ, but we all must exhibit the humility required to submit to God’s order. Submission is not a “female” virtue, but a Christian one.
  • The misconception that women are inferior to men. The creation narrative of Genesis 1–2 depicts men and women with equal worth. Both are created in the image of God, blessed, and given a commission to rule the earth (Genesis 1:27–28). The wife’s role of submission no more implies an inferior worth than does Jesus’ role of submission to the Father.
  • The misconception that wives submit to their husbands through unconditional obedience. The command to “submit to your husbands as to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22) does not mean, “Submit to him without question, as if he is your God.” Rather, Paul’s command is for wives to submit as a way of serving God. If a conflict arises between the commands of God and the headship of the husband, wives are to submit to the higher authority—God.
  • The misconception that husbands must make all family decisions unilaterally. The complementarian position on gender attests that men and women have creational, fundamental differences. This means that life is incomplete if viewed only through the lens of one gender. Husbands, therefore, should include their wives in family decisions, since they bring unique wisdom to each situation. In healthy marriages, most decisions result from consensus between husband and wife, not unilateral dictate from one or the other.


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