I’ve never written about headship and submission here because I don’t want to be that guy telling women about submitting. But a recent comment pushed me over the line. A woman said she was trying to be “subservient”*.

Submissive wife © cristinev | stock.adobe.com

How does the image above make you feel? Isn’t she a nice, subservient wife?

Personally, the image makes me ill. I’m mad at him and I worry about her. I believe in headship and submission, but what I see there is something else – something ugly and probably abusive.

About a month ago I wrote a post for TGH entitled I Want An Ezer Kenegdo. I started that post by saying “I’ve never wanted a “little woman” who would cook, clean up, tell me how smart and strong I am, and have duty sex on command. I don’t want an assistant, I want a full partner in this adventure we call life.” Too much of what I’ve seen presented as “headship” has nothing to do with the servant leadership I see husbands commanded to live.

If you’re an egalitarian, I understand. If I felt I had to choose between egalitarian and what has been offered as headship by most, I’d have to choose egalitarian as both the lesser of two evils and closer to the truth of the Bible. I think true, biblical headship is something very different than what many of us have been taught. A man is to sacrifice for and serve his wife, just as Jesus did for the church.

But I don’t want to advocate headship here; I want to correct the idea that God wants a woman to be her husband’s unpaid servant. While men and women are different  and have some differences in gifts and callings, we are equally loved and valued by God. Each of you is His daughter, and He hasn’t given you to your husband as a slave, toy, or possession. Your husband is supposed to be building you up, helping you become the woman God intended. 

* I may have misinterpreted what the women who said “subservient” meant. The dictionary defines it as “less important or subordinate”. God has not called any women to be less important than or subordinate to her husband.

~ Paul – I’m XY, and I hate it when men act like the guy in the picture!

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8 Comments on “Headship

  1. Thank you for this, Paul. I grew up in an egalitarian home (which for us meant that my mom walked all over and constantly disrespected my dad until he checked out all but physically). When I first met my husband, who strongly supports complementarianism, I was very attracted to this, knowing what a strong yet gentle man he is. Having since joined a more conservative denomination, I’ve now also seen the ugly side of complementarianism in others’ marriages and how it can be misused to make women subservient. I now find myself in a strange position where my views are too egalitarian for most complementarians but too complementarian for the egalitarians. Frankly, I find that the perfect place to be. I feel the truth so often lies between two extreme, or two truths that have been twisted too far. I’d label myself complementarian, but the version I believe in requires SO much more of men in marriage than of women. If anyone is going to say “That’s not fair,” it should be the men, not the women. I like how Matt Chandler explains it, calling Christian men to love their wives so well that the world cannot even argue that there is a better way. Headship done right is hot!

    • @Kay – “I now find myself in a strange position where my views are too egalitarian for most complementarians but too complementarian for the egalitarians.”

      Exactly where Lori and I find ourselves. We have friends who call themselves egalitarians who are in the same place, and we all find we have more in common with each other than with “our side”.

      In many things God’s way is somewhere between the extremes of the two camps. May we have the courage to go outside the camp to meet our Lord!
      Paul Byerly recently posted…The Why of Things: Why Why MattersMy Profile

  2. I don’t see it as kings and queens of a castle, but rather workers in the life God gave us. Stewards. Christ is my king, not my husband. My husband is my husband, my partner in the life we chose to journey together.

  3. Kay is correct. Headship requires much responsibility. Headship done right makes submission easy when it it necessary.

  4. Thanks for posting this, Paul. Growing up, I saw a very screwed up version of headship, where my dad wanted a subservient woman. My Mom pretended to be that publicly, while going behind his back and doing her own thing wherever possible. In my twenties I walked away from my faith and became quite a feminist, and my battlecry was that I would never submit to any man, thank you very much. Other Christians tried to explain to me what headship/submission was really supposed to look like, but I could never get it. My best friend (who stayed with her faith during that period of our lives) told me she actually thought I was yearning for that real leadership that looked like Christ’s love for the church. That made me mad at the time…until I returned to Christ, and met my now husband. The first commenter on here is correct: headship when done right is absolutely hot. My man does it right, and holds my respect and my love because of it and so much more. I like what Nick said. I would describe it that my husband is my prince, and my partner. I can finally put down that battlecry of over 15 years, which in all honesty, is a relief.

  5. Biblical leadership starts from being on your knees, actually and symbolically, in service, not cowering. As I serve my Lord, I am to serve my wife. Not because she deserves or does not deserve it, or to motivate her to do something for me, rather because Jesus is my King!

    When I fully serve my wife, she is more inclined to serve in any way she believes is her calling. Again, not because I am goading her, but rather because we all respond better to a servant than to a tyrant. Isn’t it much more invigorating to serve Jesus than Satan?

    We know how to serve because we follow His example. He did not honor us to “make” us do anything. He served to purchase and love us as our example.

    Mutual servant hood for a husband and wife sees neither being lord and the other second rate. Also “jobs or activities we perform” are not to be done for any manipulating.

    If we ever believe we are getting the “short end of the stick” – perhaps we are not actually serving but selfishly expecting. Of course this is not easy, but it is a good benchmark for us to address.
    Jerry Stumpf recently posted…3 magnetic moves to secure a pleasurable, healthy and thriving second marriageMy Profile

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