Headship (Follow Me) – Father’s Day-8

For the husband is head of the wife, as Christ is Head of the Church  [Ephesians 5:23]

The biblical roles of “male and female” certainly have a way of upsetting our comfortable private lives and egos.  In contrast to our human nature, “male and female” is not just about “us,” but rather how Jehovah has chosen to reveal Himself in this world.  Unpleasant to this human nature are the concepts of “submission” (reflecting how God practices it), our “weakness” by His design, and “humility,” as discussed in previous posts.

The last post mentions “How odd it is to think of God being humble, much less that humble!”, referring to the idea of “submission,” as Jesus submits to the Father as well as to His Church, and as the Father serves the needs of creation.

“Headship” occurs within this environment of such humility and submission. The husband’s headship can only begin with his submission to his Head, Jesus [I Corinthians 11:3].  He is to reflect the “Image” of his Lord, Who in turn has submitted to and reflects His Head: “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him. … He who has seen Me has seen the Father” [John 14:7,9].

Therefore as the husband follows his Head, he must also reflect the same submission he sees Jesus having, Who for example washes the feet of His disciples [John 13:1ff], as the husband is to do likewise [vv 13-15] and therefore is to be “subject to one another out of reverence for Christ” [Ephesians 5:21].  The wife then, is to reflect her head, as he reflects Jesus, Who reflects His Father.  Headship must be understood only within the concept of a “pass-through” instrument, where each is accountable to his Head in how that Head is being represented.

Which way one faces is key here: the husband’s attention is basically not on whether his wife “toes the line,” but rather, facing his Lord, on how well he is reflecting “the Image of God,” that is, being a mirror which is filled with the Object he is reflecting.  A mirror is not a photograph – the connection to the Object he is reflecting has to be “real time”: constant, living and present tense.  He has to be involved with getting to see his Head more clearly since that is then what he is to be about toward his family.

Of course, due to our fallen human nature, the reflection will be never as clear as it had been designed to be.  Men have given sometimes very unfortunate portrayals (either too harsh or too soft) of Jesus, and therefore of the Father, within the history of families.  However, this does not thereby give permission to simply discard the task and dismiss the human, neither by the man nor by the woman.  Despite the defects (which can be patched by love and forgiveness by both God and human), since the design has been created by a Master Craftsman, it still has validity even in our fallen world of today.

So then, what is this “Image” that the husband is to express to his family?  St Paul speaks of it as “the image and Glory of God” in I Corinthians 11:7.  In fact, he declares that as male and as female, “beholding as in a mirror the Glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from Glory to Glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord” [II Corinthians 3:18].  Of course, the reflection is of the man’s Head, “the Glory of Christ, Who is the image of God” [II Corinthians 4:4], as He reflects “the light of the knowledge of the Glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” [II Corinthians 4:6] – “His Glory, the Glory as of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” [John 1:14].

Although “Glory” does mean many things, there is a special aspect of it that I believe warrants it being capitalized: it is a window into the very nature of God.  This character of Glory becomes displayed in Exodus 33 beginning with an exchange between Jehovah and Moses:

[Moses] said, “Please, show me Your glory.”
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Jehovah’s response – His definition, if you will – to the request to see His Glory is to emphasize His goodness, His Covenant relationship (identified by His Covenant Name Jehovah), and His grace and mercy.  Then in the following chapter [vv 6-7] He includes steadfast love, faithfulness, forgiveness, and justice.  Here in capsule form is the whole Bible, but especially the description of the Person and life of Jesus – what we see as “the Glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

So then, what is the “Image” of the Head (Jesus) that the husband should reveal to his wife?  Goodness, Covenant (with its unbreakable unity), grace, mercy, steadfast love, faithfulness (trustworthiness), forgiveness, and justice.  These are not easy qualities to express in one’s life.  That’s why his relationship to his Head cannot be a photograph but a mirror – the relationship has to be alive, growing; the “Image” has to be made clearer and clearer.

Even then, Paul declares, “for all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God” [Romans 3:23].  At first one may decry the fact that ones so entrusted with such a imposing honor should also be such fallible creatures.  There may be many who do not care about what their position as head of the family means, but there are also many who take seriously this high calling and are frustrated that they can be so inept at something so important.  After all, when the wife and the children’s closest experience of Jehovah (in the reflection of “the Image”) is through their husband and father, this is far from trivial.

Yet even the failures are useful.  In his admission that he is not a perfect representation of his Head, there is the opportunity for the family together to look to Jesus and find that perfection.  But the husband must also understand that this is not as if he is now outside of God’s plan!  He has opened the door so to speak through what he has been able to reflect, and then must encourage his family on to greater awareness of what Jesus has for them, which is far greater than what he is able to portray; to lead them to see the Ideal Head that stands above him.

As well, he has a humbling and wonderful opportunity to demonstrate to his family what the death and resurrection of Jesus is all about.  There is hope for himself and his family because he and they are surrounded by an astonishing forgiveness made available by his Head.  Here is a necessary and valuable way by which the family discovers that Jesus is more than some great Leader and the like – He is also a Savior and Redeemer.  How else will they get to “see” Him in all His Glory except that He comes into their family circle with the forgiveness He has so dearly won for them!

The father then has the opportunity to show also how he lives in forgiveness, reflecting to his family the ability of “one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead” [Philippians 3:13 – written by Paul who had been “as to zeal a persecutor of the church” v 6; also Acts 26:10] – a wonderful freedom for life that gives him and his family release from the past!

So then how might this headship of the husband be accomplished in his family?  Well, his Head put it succinctly: “come, follow Me” [Matthew 19:21; also 4:19; 8:22; 9:9; and John 21:19,22].  His task then could be characterized as similar to how Napoleon treated his troops:

Abbott, the historian, tells us that one characteristic of Napoleon was that he never commanded any soldier in his ranks to go where he himself was not willing to lead him.  On one occasion, he ordered his army to cross a river; but seeing them hesitate to obey, the emperor spurred forward his horse crying: “Soldier, follow your general!”  He was first to plunge into the river and first to reach the other side.  Needless to say, his army to a man followed him cheering as with one voice their bold leader.  [Unknown]

As the husband enters into the field of God’s Glory, he is the pathfinder, the scout, the leader who explorers deep into the qualities of God, with all the challenges that come in this world; showing his family the way not to be “successful,” but rather to be God’s People in their lives; modeling his life after his Head’s, that his family may model their lives after his – and that he may discover, as Jesus leads him,

that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him,  the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the Glory of His inheritance in the saints   [Ephesians 1:17-18]

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