The Head of the Home

Rev. Wayne D. Mueller

Men should follow Jesus’ lead and head their families with love, sacrifice, and the Word

Politically correct pundits are changing their tune. Well, maybe it’s the same tune, but at least it’s set to a different arrangement. Just a few years ago divorce, Murphy Brown, and homosexuality were touted as acceptable norms.

Increasingly, however, marital infidelity and parental neglect are taking a devastating toll on our youth. Across the country, teachers struggle to manage classrooms, juvenile crime is skyrocketing, gang activity and drive-by shootings target the innocent, and elementary schools fear gun-toting students.

How Men Fail Family

So polite conversation is pulling back from “alternate lifestyles,” and suddenly the “good of our children” is the hot topic. It’s become obvious, even to those who defend moral aberration, that we are producing a generation of little monsters. These spiritually disabled children are created in monstrous families. A monster is a beast with more than one head — or no head at all.

Men must accept most of the blame for America’s headless and two-headed families. When sin interrupted the peace of the perfect family in Eden, God held the man primarily responsible. God appointed Adam the head of his family. But when trouble threatened his family, Adam failed his God-given role. That’s why God called on the first man to account for the tragedy.

Adam’s sin, my sin, and the sin of all men, is the sin of omission. Either we fail to lead at all, or we fail to be spiritual heads of our families. Men who control their families in a legal, wordly way make even godly women leery of mail headship. Husbands and fathers looking for the meaning of headship should not look to the first Adam or his sinful progeny. Instead, we look to our own head, Christ, the second Adam. Jesus earned his headship of the family of believers by providing for his body, the church, what the first Adam failed to give.

How the Heart Fits In

What makes for a Christ-like husband and father? Many men are looking for answers. Too often, however, they are asking the wrong questions. They want quick-fix approaches to family leadership that will quickly endear them to their wives and children. Should I bring flowers, do the dishes, communicate better, change the diapers, spend more quality time?

But the Bible is remarkably short on specifics. God inspired the Scriptures for personalities and cultures of all times and places. God is not into providing short-term hints. By holding Jesus up as men’s head, God aims for their heart. Above all he wants men to come to Jesus in repentance and faith. He wants men to kneel before their Savior in sorrow for their failures and stand again to take joy in their salvation.

With such faith in Jesus, men begin to understand the nature of spiritual family leadership. “For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church” (Ephesians 5:23). Paul’s picture of Christ and the church calls on men to express their faith. It is not a list of hints and how-to’s but an appeal to man’s mind and attitude.

Listen how Paul aims at the heart of family leaders: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the Word” (Ephesianss 5:25,26).

How Faith Exercises Headship

Three important characteristics of Jesus’ loving headship emerge from these verses. Jesus heads his family, the church, with love, sacrifice, and the Word.

A Christian man’s headship in the home begins, as Christ’s does, with love. A man’s love for his wife and children flows naturally from his love for himself. And his love for self grows as his trust in the Savior’s forgiveness increases. With their pasts erased, men learn to see themselves as God sees them, righteous in the merits of Christ.

Loveless headship comes from men who do not love themselves and therefore cannot love their family. Their guilty consciences chafe under God’s law. Their anger spills out on others. A bad day at work and they come home to kick the dog and fight with their wives. They misconstrue headship as laying down the law, and that’s how they try to lead others. By nature, men tend toward legal domination instead of loving headship.

But through faith in Jesus we become dead to law. Yes, we men are chauvinistic. But Jesus became our brother to cancel out our patronizing sins. Yes, men act selfishly toward their wives and children. But our unselfish Head came to serve and give his life as a ransom for us.

Men who love as Christ loved also seek to sacrifice as he sacrificed. Wordly leaders expect their subjects to make sacrifices for them. But the cross testified to Christian men that their head sacrificed himself for his subjects. And what good thing will God withhold from those for them he has already sacrificed his Son?

A man whose head is Christ imitates his unselfish spirit. His wife’s and family’s needs outweigh 4×4’s, fishing boats, golf and endless hours away from home. Just as the church sees the cross at the center of Christ’s headship, the family led by a godly man can see the sacrifice in his attitudes and actions.

The 90s man, we are told, is a communicator. That’s old news. Paul writes that Jesus transmitted his love to the church “by the washing of water by the Word” (Ephesians 5:26). That is an obvious reference to baptism. Through the power of God’s Word both in sacraments and the gospel, Jesus communicates everything God does for his family of believers.

Adam failed when he did not communicate God’s words to his wife at a time when she most needed to hear them. Husbands will steer away from his sin to follow their spiritual head, the second Adam.

The communication a godly man receives from his head he in turn shares with those he loves the most. He reads the Bible for himself and for his family. He offers the full message of Scripture, not just the moral rules, but above all the good news of forgiveness. His attendance at worship and Bible study in church speaks louder than the orders he shouts at home. His house is a place where Jesus feels at home. He surrounds his loved ones with Christian art, music, and literature. He tempers his direction with encouragement and follows up on his discipline with forgiveness. He provides first for the soul, then for the body.

Men’s leadership of the home includes moral authority. But his love, sacrifice, and communication of God’s Word create the atmosphere in which his headship is received. God urges men of faith to love their wives “just as Christ loved the church” (Ephesians 5:25). Christ led with his heart. When our head touches our heart, we will also lead our families to Jesus.


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