Leadership comes natural to most husbands. But leadership in love characterizes the Christian husband who leads his wife in a way that makes Jesus’ love the greatest love she will ever know. It starts by seeing her as his equal.
Equality frames loving leadership in a marriage. Since it is fixed in the gospel, and the gospel is the soil in which love is rooted, equality necessarily buds in the shoot of godly marriage. Put more plainly, when the gospel informs marriage, spouses are inevitably equal.
Scripture speaks to husbands when it says wives are “heirs with you of the grace of life” (1 Pet. 3:7). It teaches that our leadership does not imply superiority. Rather, we lead our wives to the affections of Christ because we are their equal. We are heirs, beneficiaries, of the same grace of life.
Theologians disagree on the exact meaning of “the grace of life.” Older works point to the fact that the words heirs, grace, and life are most often coupled to refer to salvation that is to come. More recent works point to the construct of the Greek words that refer to marriage. In either case, the truth of equality is there. Whether it be grace of marriage in this life or the grace of salvation in the next, husbands and wives are joint heirs. They equally receive God’s grace.
In the grace of life found in marriage, the husband should see his wife as equally inheriting the goodness and responsibility of godly matrimony. Her voice is as valuable as his. Her work is as useful as his. Her contribution is as crucial as his. The stakes of marriage, and the picture it portrays, are for both to share (Eph. 5:32).
In the same way, the grace of life found in salvation is also theirs. Both were born sinners in need of the same Savior. Both receive grace through the same faith. Both are inheritors of the same promise (Gal. 3:28). Neither is superior to the other, though they have different functions and roles in the marriage.
The treatment of wives as lesser people results in God turning a deaf ear to the husband (1 Pet. 3:7). It is a serious offense to God’s image. When the husband sees himself superior, he distorts the grace that was given to them both.
Loving leadership recognizes equality in marriage. It acknowledges that though men and women are functionally different, they are spiritually the same. The implications are extremely practical.
The loving husband should advocate.
He should call his wife to his side and to his aid. She can voice her opinion to him because he values it. She holds power and influence for change in the home and in the public space.
The loving husband should invite.
He should ask her to contribute and help lead. She is his partner and friend in life. She is to give heart-to-heart conversations and work toward family goals.
The loving husband should risk.
In both private and public space, he should risk himself on her behalf as much as he would himself. Her reputation is as important as his.
The loving husband should submit.
He should listen intently and respond humbly. Though he has the final word on matters of the family, he is never to seek to “win” the conversation, but defer to wisdom.
The loving husband should encourage.
He must draw out the her gifts and passions for God’s glory. He should give her support when necessary and celebrate her accomplishments.
If you are to be the loving husband who leads her in the Lord, consider her value. The marriage is every bit hers as it is yours. Make every effort to raise your wife from degradation. Help her feel equality in the hope of heaven.
Home is a place of friendship, a place of spousal likeness, within the context of complementary roles. You are heirs together in the utter dependence of the gospel and divine grace. As Solomon said, “This is my beloved, and this is my friend” (Song of Sol. 5:16).