Headship (Humility, Eternity, and Abuse) – Father’s Day-7

But I want you to know that the Head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the Head of Christ is God.  [I Corinthians 11:3]

“Headship” is another minefield of which we have been conditioned to think about in a negative way.  Especially in regard to St Paul’s Ephesians 5 instruction, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord; for the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is Head of the Church; and He is the Savior of the body” [vv 22-23], so often the reaction is swift and vehement: “No man is going to be boss of me!  At best it is going to be a equal partnership!”

Of course, there are a number of things overlaying this attitude, which we have already discussed in previous posts.  One is a lack of trust (discussed in “Submit – Father’s Day-5”), where there is a curious fickleness in which one pledges his or her life to the other, and then on the other hand, in essence, turns and says, “but I really do not trust you with my life; I do not believe you really care about my welfare; I alone know what is best for me.”

Also in that post is how, curiously, submitting to each other is one way we fulfill our task of being “the Image of God.”  As Paul’s Ephesians instruction begins with mutual submission, we have come to realize that this is actually but a characteristic of Jehovah: in Jesus submitting to His Father and also becoming Servant to His Church, and in the Father serving the needs of creation.  How odd it is to think of God being humble, much less that humble!

Another “layer” is the realization that we are weak, deliberately designed so (discussed in “The Weaker Vessel – Father’s Day-6“).  Neither the man nor the woman is self-sufficient.  As of yet this is still pretty obvious in regard to procreation – it cannot be done alone.  But that is not the real issue here.  This “weakness” goes deep into the nature of the human in regard to the central task of being “the Image of God” – we are deliberately designed to be a two-part “Image”: “male and female He created them” (discussed in the post by that name).

Then of course, there is always the rebellion of sin; the attitude that is now part of human nature; the reaction which immediately responds to Jehovah, “I am not going to let You boss me around and tell me what I can do!”  Even when a human may genuinely be reflecting “the Image of God,” how easy it is to still react to that “Image” (in that person) with the same resistance.  This not only happens within a marriage setting, it can also be how one reacts to a speed limit, a seatbelt law, a warning about danger, a “Do not walk on the grass” sign, a do not eat the fruit of a certain tree [Genesis 2:16-18], or any of hundreds of other situations where we refuse to have anybody tell us what we should do.

Indeed, one’s reaction to Paul’s instruction has many “layers” with which to contend before we get to the concept of “headship” itself.  These “layers” have to be faced and dealt with appropriately before “headship” will get a fair hearing.  How will we handle the lack of trust and the automatic tendency to rebellion?  How serious are we to reflect even those aspects disagreeable to our natures within “the Image of God,” such as “submission,” and to accept how we start from a place of “weakness” as a human so designed?

This is important, because as already mentioned, if we are to reflect Jehovah, and as we look at Jesus’ submission in the above opening Bible text, there is the standard raised in Philippians 2: “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, … He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” [vv 5,8].  Will “humility” – especially before Jehovah – be an element that characterizes the relationship between “male and female”?

Our human nature does have some powerful fears in regard to trusting another person with one’s self and future.  There is a risk, and there is danger.  If marriage becomes a “power” relationship, and then Lord Acton’s warning speaks of a real concern: “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  We are aware of the reality of that statement, and we are quick to protect ourselves.

However, our various Bible texts remind us that this is not to be a power relationship.  As mentioned, humility surrounds this subject – humility both of the man and of the woman. The husband’s authority does not lie within himself, but rather, as being “the Image of God,” it is only a “pass-through” power.  He is to reflect particularly Jesus, and is also accountable to Him.  This means that he must be very careful to accurately reflect his Head, mirroring what is to be found in his Lord.  This is why the Christian background, especially of the husband, is not incidental.  Unless he knows his place with Jesus, he will not understand what his role is to be with his wife.

Since the wife’s head is her husband, she then is to reflect the humility of her husband, just as he is to reflect the humility of Jesus, his Head.   Yet even if he is derelict in this “reflection,” this is not thereby permission to throw humbleness out the window.  Ultimately her task is not “the image of her husband,” but still “the Image of God.”  Paul insisted in Ephesians 5 that her model is the Church, to whom our Lord said, “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet, for I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you” [John 13:14-15].

When the husband is disconnected from his role as head, this is an area where eternity wrestles with the temporal.  St Peter puts it this way:

Likewise you wives, be submissive to your husbands, so that some, though they do not obey the word, may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, when they see your reverent and chaste behavior. … but let it be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable jewel of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.  [I Peter 3:1-2,4]

With busy schedules and irregular lifestyle, men do not find their love-live thrilling, enjoying and pleasurable any more. Do not take it with any juice or alcohol as the http://pharma-bi.com/wp-content/downloads/IncentiveComp_CaseStudy2010.pdf viagra no prescription online combination might lead to severe health hazards. 4. The provider gives you cialis 40 mg continue reading here the chance to be organized and avoid an embarrassing moment. Fitting any unauthorized spare part will only harm your luxury car- your extravagant pharma-bi.com levitra on line asset. The struggle is in regard to our values: is the cost of humility, of putting second our own here-and-now unmet dreams and ideals, worth the risk of submitting in order to eternally save our spouse?  Does an eternal goal outweigh our private ambitions?  In a culture in which one is defined by power – income power, manipulation power, prestige power, advancement power –, what does it mean to reflect “the Image of God,” especially in reference to His humility?  What values are to reflect Jesus and His Bride, the Church? This is not intended to place a “guilt trip” upon anyone, but it is to identify what needs to be considered rather than to merely be swept along with modern society’s value system.

However, there is a problem that stems from Peter’s “likewise” (above), which refers back to particularly three verses earlier [2:23]: “When [Jesus] was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten; but He trusted to Him Who judges justly.”  This now gets sticky.  Truly, no one will be perfect in one’s role and task in marriage – neither the husband nor the wife –, but Peter seems to indicate that potentially one may be in an abusive relationship – how far is humility and submitting to headship to go?

Actually, since either spouse can be abusive, this is not only covers the submission of the wife to an abusive husband as head, it also deals with the husband’s submission to his Head, Jesus, in the midst of being reviled and suffering from an abusive wife.  How far are we to be humble, how far do we go in putting aside our ambitions, and even comfort, for the sake of eternity?  Ideally, we should reflect Jesus, even if it “costs” us: “looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” [Hebrews 12:2]

Sometimes abuse may not necessarily be of a violent nature: Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) fell in love and married a Christian girl named Livy (Olivia).  She was devoted to God and wanted her family to also be.  She insisted on prayers at mealtimes and set up a family altar to have spiritual devotions each day.  One day Sam said, “Livy, you go on with this by yourself if you want, but leave me out.  I don’t believe in your God and you’re only making a hypocrite out of me.”  As time passed, Livy fell further and further from God.  When the crisis of the death of two of their three grown daughters and Livy’s own impending death came, Sam said to her, “Livy, if your Christian faith can help you now, turn to it.”  She replied, “I can’t, Sam, I have none left.  It was destroyed a long time ago” [Christian Digest, issue #4655, pg: 1067].*

What is especially awkward in Peter’s statement above is “so that some … may be won” – he does not give a guarantee of an outcome.  Even with Jesus, a large group of people for whom He died have reviled Him to their deaths.  Peter, who has watched fellow Christians suffer and die for their faith, is not treating the wife’s humility and submission callously.  He does understand the extreme cost.  But he also understands what the stakes are, even when such humility will cost his own life on an upside-down cross.

He makes his comments not as if the woman’s submission to her husband is in isolation, but rather in view of how it occurs within her first humbly submitting to her Lord.  In an abusive relationship, one tends to be overwhelmed by the abusive partner’s opinions of oneself.  Unlike what happened to Livy, she needs to constantly reaffirm the value and worth that the Lord has placed on her in order to give balance to what she encounters.  This is what Hebrews 12 (above) means by “Who for the joy that was set before Him” – the long-range, eternal meaning to her life is established by Jesus’ opinion, value and action for her, which no one else can take away from her.

It is hard to stand against intense abuse, and humanly speaking it is hard to hold on.  Paul indicates that there is a time when sometimes husband and wife must part ways.  Although his “advice” encourages that the couple stay together, the context is that this will not always be the case:

To the rest, I say – not the Lord –, that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her.  If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him.  For the unbelieving husband is consecrated through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is consecrated through her husband. … [I Corinthians 7:12-14]

Obviously, the goal is the proper headship order in which “the Image of God” is visibly demonstrated.  When it is not, or is not comfortable, our nature often casually “tips the hat” to the concept, but then is very quick to jump toward the easier, more convenient and less spiritually costly solutions.  However, if we are to seek God’s will, then humility, values, and submission must be faced: first, humility and submission to the Lord; then humility and submission to each other; and third, humility before the eternal values that must be contrasted with the earthly values.  God never said it would be pleasant to be His person in this world, just as it was by no means pleasant for Jesus to submit totally to the will of His Father, but He does indicate that it will be worth it in the end.

This has been a long explanation and we have not really gotten to what “headship” is.  That will have to be for the next post.


*I have come across this account in a few other sources and it appears to have substance, as indicated in the following excerpt of a review of Resa Willis’ Mark and Livy:

Willis asserts that Livy tried to “civilize” Clemens by trying to curb his swearing, drinking and smoking, but she makes it clear that Livy soon accustomed herself to her husband’s habits. And although during their courtship she planned to turn Clemens into a Christian, she instead followed her husband and fell away from regularly observing the Sabbath during their marriage.
[Garret Condon, “Biography Casts New Light On Wife Of Mark Twain,” Hartford Courant (Courant.com), posted June 21, 1992 at http://articles.courant.com/1992-06-21/entertainment/0000200420_1_olivia-langdon-clemens-wife-of-mark-twain-underground-railroad; retrieved 2012-08-21]

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