"For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body" (Eph. 5:23). "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 Cor. 11:3). When we consider headship, we think of authority. Authority comes from the head to direct the body. But if we have not allowed God to deal with our concept of authority, and to change our thinking from the natural to the spiritual, we will move in a way that is completely contrary to what God wants, and the results will not glorify God.
How does God exercise authority in our lives? Does He force us, or demand our obedience? That was His working under the Old Testament law. It had its purpose and place in that time. But Christ fulfilled the righteous requirements of the law, then nailed it to the cross, destroying the enmity that kept man from God. In so doing, He brought in a higher law, the law of life in Christ Jesus. It was not that God had lowered His standards and overlooked that which He required in the past, but rather that He has now made the way by which we can partake of the life of God, and every aspect of His nature can now be expressed in us.
The authority of God is now exercised by an inward life of relationship and faith, not by a set of commandments from the outside. The law required no relationship--but life is not possible apart from relationship. Law and life are as different as day is from night.
Who loved first, man or God? We know the answer well. It was the goodness of God that led each one of us to repentance, and it is the love which had its full expression at Calvary that caused us to fall on our face before Him. "If you love me, keep my commandments," Jesus said, and any commandment that is kept apart from love has no meaning to God and no value to us. Thus God exercises authority in our lives by gaining our willing submission in response to His love. He gives us a heart to want to do His will. He does not force us at any point. Sometimes it takes a long time to get us to that place, but God is patient and long-suffering, and the end is worth the waiting.
Does Christ exercise authority in our lives? Of course He does. Apart from our coming under the authority of Christ, there is no salvation, no changing "from glory to glory," and no expression of His nature in a many-membered body. But remember how He gained that place of authority in our lives--by love alone.
If this is how Christ obtains a place of authority in our lives, is there any reason to think that the way is any different with our wives? So many times, we as husbands catch just a glimpse of the order of God, and then we "beat our wives over the head" with it, reminding them that we are the heads and it is their place to submit and obey. But the burden is on the husband to exercise his place of headship in the same way that Christ does with man.
First of all, we husbands need to gain the respect of our wives by the example that we live out before them. We need to demonstrate that we are under the authority of Christ by the expression of our lives, not by the words of our mouth. When our wives see the fruit of the Spirit coming from our relationship with God, they will not have to struggle with the problem of "Do as I say but not as I do." Yes, wives should submit as Sarah did even when her husband was wrong. But right now, I'm addressing husbands. Have you given your wife a life that compels her submission and obedience by its godly example? Have you demonstrated that you have a relationship with God?
God is Christ's head. Jesus demonstrated this truth as He lived in total dependence on the Father. He showed through the life that He lived that anyone who had seen Him had seen the Father. Can this be said of our lives? If not, then this is what we need to concentrate on. As you live the life of Christ before your wife, the Holy Spirit can bless the testimony to her heart and make it easy for her to find a place of submission under her head.
One thing we can say about Jesus--He always is ahead of the situation, never playing catch-up. What I mean is that He always gives us the direction that we need on time, quietly and clearly, so that we have a place to move. I am afraid that many of us husbands are lacking on this point. We are not waiting before God, watchful of the situations in our households, and moving with wisdom, on time. More often than not, we wait until things fall apart before we even notice, and then it is often our wives who bring it to our attention.
Instead of blaming ourselves for not being alert and fulfilling our responsibility to give direction ahead of time, we blame our wives for not taking care of the situation themselves. We are the ones to blame for not giving direction, and for this the whole household suffers. We would be amazed to see how responsive our wives would be to quiet, God-inspired direction that is given on time to meet the need. The kind of direction they resist is the off-the-cuff emotional responses that do not minister grace or meet the real need. Then we blame them for not having a submissive spirit. No wonder they have problems, for we are the ones who bring the problems when we actually should be the supply of God's grace to them.
Headship involves having eyes to see and ears to hear, and a spiritual mind to think as God directs. All of these only come through a relationship with God. Headship also means giving direction and ordering our households, instead of waiting for somebody else to do it. It is not even waiting for God to do it, because He has chosen to order the household through the husband. Headship means responsibility. We as husbands are responsible for everything that goes on in our homes. It is not that we are responsible for part of it and our wives are responsible for part. We are responsible for everything, and if there is blame to be taken, we are the ones to blame. God has made us able to take the blame and to do something about it.
Giving direction does not mean that we just issue a bunch of orders and then walk away. It means dealing with the real situations of life and taking specific steps to see our households ordered. It is so easy for us to leave the home and go to work with the excuse that "we have to earn the paycheck, but it is up to our wives to deal with the children." That is nothing but irresponsibility, and if we do this in any degree, we need to repent and accept our place as heads of our homes. We are the ones who are responsible, and this responsibility cannot be delegated.