Final Thoughts on Headship and Submission

August 1, 2013

in Headship/Submission, Seeing Clearly, Series

Most men give lip service to the idea headship doesn’t make men better, but fewer live in a way that shows they feel this is true. God didn’t make men the head because they are smarter, more spiritual, or better loved by God. We need to get this into our hearts and heads and then we need to live as if we believe it. We are called to protect our wives, not use them. We are to honour and lift them up, not despise and push them down.

I touched on “feminism” yesterday. I see all manner of wrongs done in the name of feminism, but the solution is not to exchange one error for another – which is what they did. Women aren’t the enemy, and neither is feminism. The enemies are Satan, sin, and selfishness. These are the roots of the wrongs men have done to women, and the roots of the wrongs women have done to men. Just as it was in the garden, Satan wants us to blame each other. This leaves him free to whisper in our ears, playing on the hurts, frustrations, selfishness, and fears he has worked to place in us. The only way to win is to refuse to play.

Detail from Dieu réprimandant Adam et Ève by Domenico Zampieri

When God told Eve that Adam would rule over her, He was not giving anyone a command; He was stating a fact. The choice of word there is not a kind, loving, benevolent ruling; not the kind of headship we see in the New Testament. Maybe God was warning Eve her husband was going to “lord it over her”. First Adam failed to protect Eve, and then he tried to blame her for his sin. It seems he went from protector to oppressor.

But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” [Mt 20:25-28]

Jesus gave us a very hard word in this. I think we need to apply this to every relationship we have, including our marriages. A godly leader serves; a leader who expects to be served shows he is not godly.

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I think that this an area where we see only shades and hues of what truly is. We can get one picture of headship and authority by reading the Gospels and yet a bigger picture by reading the letters to the churches found in the end of the Book. We all do the best we can to understand a heavenly reality using human paradigms, but it falls short.

That said, we should keep seeking to grow up in Christ in this area. We will know that growth is real if it is evidenced by agape love. Even that is a mystery to me though. I am convinced that much of what we call "Christ-like love" is not the real thing and can be produced by believer and unbeliever alike. The Body is in desperate need to be better connected to the Head, and God will get us there yet...

TheGenerousHusband moderator

@NathanaelNeuenschwander It is easy to focus on one bit and miss the bigger picture.

As I was reading in Romans yesterday (in The Message version" we never go wrong in loving others.


Excellent point, but so difficult to implement, especially for those of us who grew up watching something different, or at least that we interpreted as different from this command!  Actually, it's impossible apart from the transforming power of the Spirit at work in us.  And that's why we have such great hope that we can grow in doing this headship thing well, as well as in every area of our marriages, because He is at work in us, "both to will and to work for His good pleasure."

TheGenerousHusband moderator

@learning2rest Family of origin is huge in this! Knowing what you saw growing up was less than correct is the first step, and often convincing someone of that is very difficult.

And yes, without His help making the needed changes is nearly impossible!


You are so right that the solution is not to exchange one error for another.  I see this tendency in so many places in our culture that seems to be fixated on extremes. "extreme" this or that is never the answer--nobody should be lording authority over another because the one lorded over will come to resent the one doing the lording, and with good reason.  To lord authority over another only leads to a third grade playground shoving match, much the same as the current political climate in the US has become.

I once heard a pastor explain headship in this manner ... two soldiers of the same rank are sent out to do a mission, but the commanding officer tasks one soldier with ensuring the success of the mission, and holds him accountable for that success or failure.  The soldier tasked with the success of the mission is the head of the unit, but is neither greater or lesser than the other soldier in terms of worth to the mission, or the campaign as a whole.


  1. […] feelings about headship and submission (which is all over the Christian blogosphere at the moment—here and here and here, for starters). I understand it quite differently than I did a few months ago, […]

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