I cannot count the number of times I’ve heard men demand to be the leaders of their home, characterizing their role as that of the boss, with their wife expected to follow and respect them as a private would submit to his commanding office, unquestioning. Men may even abuse the intended meaning of the phrase in Eph 5:23, “the husband is the head of the wife.” What does that really mean, biblically?
I do not question Scripture’s role distinctions, but I believe that many wives would faint upon hearing their husband declare himself to be the lover of their home. The lover role comes before the leadership role! Husbands are to set the atmosphere for LOVE in their own home.
In fact, if we lived in Colosse and only had Paul’s epistle to the Colossians to guide our role, we’d hear the command in 3:19, “Husbands, love your wives.” That is the total role description that the husbands of Colosse received. Paul knew that if a husband learns the lover role, he will more effectively lead his wife and children. In fact, if husbands understand that combination as modeled in Christ’s role to his bride, the church, they would reflect the image Christ as the loving-servant-leader.
If husbands would put as much energy into the other husbandly roles as they put into the desire for leadership, they would no doubt see their own wife willingly follow that demonstration of loving-servant leadership. Ephesians 5 includes the word “love” six times out of nine verses to describe the husband’s role. Headship is only mentioned once. That should be no surprise to us, because even though we see Christ as a leader, the word that would describe his ministry more than any other word is love. If a husband does not know how to love his wife, then he will not know how to lead her.
The husband is also the learner of his wife. He is to “live with his wife with understanding,” (1Pet 3:7). Yes, he is to be a student of his wife and learn all about her. What does she like or dislike? What is her favorite restaurant, food, or ice cream? What are some of her favorite things to do? What gives her the greatest security? What can he do to help her build genuine trust in him? There is no question in our minds that men and women are different. That is why a man who will be a student of his wife, motivated by love for her, will study her ways and then wisely fulfill his role of Christlikeness toward her in ways that truly love and protect her.
Maybe you have already recognized the alliteration of L’s: lover, leader, learner. There are seven L’s that capture the primary role distinctions of a husband to his wife. Memorize them, but more importantly, walk them out as a loving husband.
Another L is that of lecturer (sorry, that is the closest L that I could find!) By that I mean the husband is to be the primary teacher to his wife and family. In Eph 5:26, he is to do as Christ did, to “wash his wife with the washing of water by the Word.”
Husbands are to be the spiritual leader in the home and wives should encourage that leadership. Families should have regular times (and I use that word purposefully because the word daily can be self-defeating when conflicts in schedule arise) of prayer, devotions, worship and lovingly leading the family to participate in the various ministries of the church. There are many helpful materials written today to guide husbands as they fulfill that role, following Christ’s example. Men, we are without excuse in modeling spiritual leadership to our families!
Listening is an important communication role for the husband. Most men are not good listeners. It seems true that most women talk more than men, but it also seems true that men listen half as much as women. James 1:19 instructs us to be quick to listen. Daily times when husbands put aside their own cares to listen attentively to their wives will enhance the unity in marriage. Without listening, husbands cannot correctly love, lead, and learn his wife.
Laborer is the sixth L. Yes, he is to provide for his wife and children. Since Creation, man was designated as the primary bread winner of the home. Men of faith are identified as providing for those of his household (1Tim 5:8). This does not mean that a wife cannot be a helper and companion in providing. It is obvious that the Prov 31 woman helped though labor outside of her home. She was a helper and companion to her husband in meeting the needs of her family in multiple ways. In today’s society, it is sometimes necessary for both the husband and the wife to share some type of employment to make ends meet. When that is the case, however, the husband who is the loving servant-leader and learner of his wife will share in the chores at home to ease her load.
The last of the L’s is loyalty. Is loyalty a rare commodity in your marriages? There are so many things that can compete for a husband’s loyalty. Man is to be the husband of ONE WIFE (1 Tim 3:2). His role is to love his OWN WIFE as he loves his own body (Eph 5:31). Loyalty is shown by fidelity to his wife. His faithfulness is strictly bound by a pledge – a vow that binds one to another with trust, a threefold cord that cannot be easily broken (Eccl 4:12).
In a world with so many competing mistresses, such as vocations, hobbies, TV, video games, pornography and perhaps another person, men need to be sober and vigilant to maintain the loyalty that God raises high in Scripture. Men are to strive to live up to the loyalty that we see exemplified throughout the gospels by Christ and his bride, the church. The loyal husband is the best lover, leader, learner, lecturer, listener and laborer for his own wife. Be a faithful lover like Christ is for His bride, us!