You Cannot NOT Be the Head

The following excerpt is the first chapter from the book A Faithful Man, by J. Mark Fox.

You Cannot NOT Be the Head

A friend of mine, Marc Jantomaso, stated in a workshop with pastors, “It’s God’s heart to train men.” He compared the kingdom of God to a mountain and drew a picture on the whiteboard. “See, the base of the mountain must be large and broad enough to support the rest,” he pointed out. “If the top of the mountain is broader, more developed than the base, the mountain will topple over. The base consists of mature believers, disciples, and disciple-makers who are invested in the lives of younger, less mature believers. The kingdom of God is expanded as the base is expanded. If we add souls but the base is not expanded, souls will fall off the side!” Marc went on to explain that one of the ways we can build the base is to equip and train men to lead, and especially to help men understand and walk in their responsibilities as the heads of their households.

Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 11:3, “But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. (emphasis added)” Which part of this verse do we have the hardest time “knowing” in a way that demonstrates obedience and victory? I don’t think there is much serious debate about Christ being our head, or about God being Christ’s head. It is the second clause that gives us fits and has been misunderstood by the church today. The head of woman is man. Seems simple enough, and it really is. As Douglas Wilson emphasized in Reforming Marriage, this is not a command but a statement, a fact: every man is the head of his household (pp. 22-23). It is an indicative, not an imperative. God does not command man to be the head of woman; He simply states the fact, the reality, the truth of His design. Man is the head of woman. As some have said, you can be a bonehead, a meathead, a musclehead, an airhead, or a knucklehead…but you cannot not be the head. So, why not do whatever it takes to be a godly head?

There are some reading this book who could say, “I know what that means and I am doing it faithfully, by God’s grace.” I praise God for you brothers who are leading your families faithfully and seeing the fruit of your labor. There are others reading this book who could say, “I think I know what that means, but I know I am not leading my family in a consistent manner.” I praise God for you brothers as well, for your willingness to admit that, like all of us, you need some encouragement and some instruction in these things. There are still others reading this book who could say, “I don’t have a clue what you are talking about. I love my family, but I don’t know what it means to be the head. I am not really the spiritual leader in my home, but I want to be. I just don’t know where to begin.” I praise God for you brothers, as well, for your honesty. The only place God can really deal with us is where we really are. As I heard years ago, you have to be real with God if you are going to be right with God.

Consider another analogy with me. What do you have to do when you realize that you have traveled 100 miles in the polar opposite direction of your intended destination, and instead of being 100 miles closer to the beach with your family, you are 100 miles closer to the mountains? You have to admit your mistake, which will include turning around…going the other way. That’s repentance, and it is the very first step toward getting there. If you are not willing to admit you are going in the wrong direction, well, have a great time in the mountains! Let me know how all those sand toys and boogie boards work out for you in the woods. Here’s the thing, though: the only one you will be fooling as you sit under the tall pines in a beach chair, wearing your bathing suit and flippers and holding your shell bucket–will be you. Your family will not be fooled, or even slightly amused. Neither are they amused in the least with a father who claims to be headed in the right direction in his leadership and is as far off the beam as he could possibly be. Get real.

Paul said, “For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another” (Gal. 6:3-4).

Dad took my two brothers and me to Sears once when we were little, and this clown-head helium balloon machine in the store captivated my younger brother. Eric begged Dad to give him a balloon until my father relented. Dad put a quarter in, pushed a lever, and a balloon popped out. Now, he was supposed to put the balloon firmly on the nozzle that came out of the clown’s mouth, then push the red button that was his nose so helium would rush into the balloon. The problem was that Eric got so excited when he saw the balloon pop out he pushed the clown’s nose, and the helium started rushing out of the nozzle before the balloon was in place. Dad frantically tried to get the balloon on there in time, but could not do it and clearly lost his cool in the process. The balloon ended up pitifully small and still earthbound. It dragged behind my younger brother, who was crying, while Dad fumed, frustrated that his efforts to do something to please his son ended in tears.

That scene has been played out in my own fathering many times. I have tried to lead my sons or teach them or please them, only to be frustrated at the results or at my own selfishness when my efforts failed to please. As I have asked the Lord to help me be a better father over the years, He has graciously taught me and led me and helped me to repent again and again.  

The next few chapters outline a man’s responsibilities as the head of his household in four ways: as prophet, priest, protector and provider. You will not find these four terms used to describe a husband in the Bible, but the principles are there. I first heard these four roles mentioned at a conference, wrote them down, began to chew on the idea, and decided to search the Scriptures for biblical understanding. It was John Calvin, writing in his classic work, Institutes of the Christian Religion, who said, “the office which [Christ] received from the Father consists of three parts. For he was appointed . . . Prophet, King and Priest.” (Book 2, Chapter XV:1, pp. 425-426). If Christ is head of the church as our prophet, king, and priest, then I believe it is the father who is called by God to stand before his family, in Christ, and fulfill the same roles: “But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.” (1 Corinthians 11:3) For the function of king, I substitute protector and provider, for a couple of reasons. First, it may be more palatable for a society that is decidedly not a monarchy to avoid referring to men as kings. The term may carry unwanted baggage. Second, the primary leadership responsibilities of the kings of Israel were to protect their people as the head of the army, and to provide for their people as the head of the state.

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About C4FIC

The Council for Family-Integrated Churches exists to promote reverence for the gospel in order to reform the church and restore the home as an embassy of the kingdom of God.
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