Ephesians 5:22 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. 24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.
Years ago, I had a friend that would joke along with me that we “Ran Thangs!” It was always in a joking manner that when we wanted to do something, anything, that our wives weren’t sure about, we’d say something to the effect of “We are doing what I want to do, because I run thangs!” We still look back at these times and laugh about them. But often, it can be confusing as to what being “head of the home” means…
It absolutely is the husband’s responsibility to be the head of the home. That just isn’t up for debate. It is implicit in the Scripture above and in other places as well (1 Cor. 11:3, 1 Pet.3:7). What can be debated is the way in which we live out this truth. In other words, “What is the practical implication of my being the head of my home? How do I lead?” Thankfully, Paul doesn’t end with just the idea that men are in charge or that women are to submit. He gives clear instruction as to what this entails.
We can start with the woman. She is to submit to her husband “as unto the Lord.” “As unto the Lord” does not mean that a wife is to submit to her husband in the same way she submits to the Lord, but rather that her submission to her husband is her service rendered “to the Lord.” As the church is in submission to Christ, so also a wife should be to her husband. It would be foolish to think of the church being head over Christ. But submission does not mean inferiority. It means that she recognizes that her husband is the head of the home and responds to him accordingly without usurping his authority to herself.
That was easy. But what about the husband? We understand the indicative, “the husband is the head of the wife.” But what about the imperative? How is he to be this “head”? Again, thankfully it is spelled out pretty clearly for us. Husbands are commanded, “Love your wives” just as Christ loved the church. The word “love” (αγαπαο) means seeking the highest good for another person. This is an unselfish love as seen in Christ’s sacrificial death in which He gave Himself up for the church. A wife’s submission in no way hints that a husband may lord it over his spouse, as a despot commanding a slave. The “submit-love” relationship is a beautiful mixture of harmonious partnership in marriage. So, being the head of the wife and home means less about “running thangs” and more about self-sacrificing love.
“The father of a family usually finds that his pre-eminence is one of superior self-denial, rather than of self-assertion.” -Spurgeon
How we view our relationship to Christ and God will directly affect our relationship to our family. If we see God through the lens of law as judge, jury, and executioner, it will show in how we lead our home. If we see Christ as the self-sacrificing Savior of the world, Who loved us in spite of our sin and failure, we are then equipped to lead in a way that is reflective of Christ giving up Himself for us.
The wife’s submission to Christ is her submission to her husband and the husband’s humble, Christ-like, servant-leadership is his love for his wife. The husband/wife dynamic is just another example of how important gospel wakefulness is in our practical Christian lives. Men, when we feel the impulse to “run thangs,” we can be sure we are operating in the arena of law. It is only God’s grace in our lives that makes it possible for us to lead a life of love, sacrifice, and self-denial for the sake of others.