In this third article of the series centered on the family and its indispensable place in all human societies, particular attention is given to the role and functions of the husband/father, the head of the family. What does the Bible mean by the man being the head of the family? What are some of the key responsibilities and privileges of such a significant position in the family? How may a head of the family fulfill such an enormous duty and opportunity? Let us examine below. The second article of the series made the following salient points:
The basic essential elements of the family life are love, openness, patience, and understanding. Love tops the list because it is the greatest and best of all virtues (1 Corinthians 13). Agape the God-like form of it, is essentially a quality that says no matter what anyone does to me I will never set out to revenge but will always seek the good of others. Love is commitment to the good of the whole family. It is about each member of the family contributing to the greater good of the whole family.
Love is manifested in openness to the other. Husband, wife and other family members have to learn to be open about family and individual issues while keeping family matters private. Family openness must go hand in hand with confidentiality which vows to protect the family and its members from intruders. Each member of the family should have no fear to share secrets, fears and aspirations with other members of the family and be confident of support.
Closely related to openness is the virtue of patience. The family cannot survive long in a healthy state without its members being patient with one another.
Patience is the ability and willingness to wait for the appropriate time to react or respond to situations and people. It means often self-control in the face of provocation or when things do not to go one’s way. It is required for any healthy relationship, especially of a family kind. The other side of patience is forgiveness which is to let of go of grudges against family members. The basis of forgiveness is that we all have faults and must learn to forgive and receive forgiveness from others.
And lastly, is the quality of understanding. Understanding comes when one seeks, more than in the literal sense, to see, feel and hear from the other person’s perspective. The vehicle of understanding is effective communication. Communication can be verbal or non verbal (with or without words). Signs and actions can communicate well too. Where the virtues of love, openness, patience and understanding are known and practiced in a family, the family benefit.
What then is the role of the head of the family? The Bible is very clear that the husband is the head of the wife and by extension of the family. Let us quote the clearest passage of scripture on the headship of the man: “Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the Church, his body, and is himself its Savior. As the Church is subject to Christ, so let wives be subject in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:21-24). The key to understanding this passage is found in verses 21 and 24: “Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ… Husbands, love your wives…”
Jesus Christ and the rest of the New Testament teach that headship or leadership is more about responsibility than about privilege and power. “Rather’, he explains, “let the greatest among you become the youngest, and the leader as one who serves” (Luke 22:26). So the husband is not to dominate or oppress his wife but to serve, if need be to sacrifice his life for his family. He is to provide the family’s basic need (food, clothing, shelter, health and education), protection, and guidance. He is not only to provide material things for the family but lead in worship and spiritual guidance.
His primary role is to lead by example in discipline, honesty, hard work, and setting high standards and values for the family to follow. His relationship with his wife should be one of love. As Paul puts it: “Let the husband love his wife as he loves his own body… for no one ever hates his body but nourishes and cherishes it…likewise the husband should love his wife as he loves his own body” (Ephesians 5:25-30). The father has an awesome responsibility and a wonderful privilege to make his family an asset to God’s Kingdom and the wider society and his reward for fulfilling such a God-given duty is a God-given satisfaction. The next article will say more about the role and functions of the wife/mother of the family.