Doug Wilson's excellent book Reforming Marriage (the one with Jan Steen's 1658 painting 'The Sleeping Couple' on the cover) has some strong things to say about husbands needing to know their imperatives from their indicatives. Indicatives are statements of fact ('This is a blog'; 'You are reading it') and imperatives are commands ('Read the book instead!').
Wilson points out that headship is not an imperative in the Bible, it is an indicative: 'For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church' (Eph. 5:23). Paul is not commanding husbands to be the head of their wives or stating how marriages ought to function - he is stating what husbands are and what the relationship between husband and wife is. It is not something for egalitarians and complementarians to debate. It's a statement of fact.
This has massive implications for the Christian husband. The issue facing him is not whether to be the head, but what kind of head he will be. Wilson writes:
'Meditating on this is a very valuable thing for husbands to do. Because the husband is the head of the wife, he finds himself in a position of inescapable leadership. He cannot successfully refuse to lead. If he attempts to abdicate in some way, he may, through his rebellion, lead poorly. But no matter what he does, or where he goes, he does so as the head of his wife. This is how God designed marriage. He has created us as male and female in such a way as to ensure that men will always be dominant in marriage. If the husband is godly, then that dominance will not be harsh; it will be characterized by the same self-sacrificial love demonstrated by our Lord - Dominus - at the cross. If a husband tries to run away from his headship, that abdication will dominate the home. If he catches a plane to the other side of the country, and stays there, he will dominate in and by his absence. How many children have grown up in a home dominated by the empty chair at the table?' (p.24).
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