“In Word and Deed”, #5 in Spiritual Headship by Pr. Mark H. Hein
“Do as I say, not as I do” is not an expression that you hear all that often, but it is one that is lived out and applied in so many ways and in so many households. The reason you do not hear people say this is because the hypocritical overtone is so obvious. Doing and saying should be congruent. What we do is also what we should say and vice versa.
As the spiritual head of the Christian household, it is critical and essential that the man… the husband… the father and grandfather… exhibit both great consistency and congruency when it comes to what they say and do in regard to their life in Christ and that of their wife and family. For that to happen, it is an understatement to say that the man needs to “have his act together.” Thanks be to God that many do. Sadly, many, many more do not.
How is it with you in terms of having your spiritual act together? If it is something you are struggling with, well, at least you are struggling as opposed to those who are doing nothing. When it comes to spiritual headship, be it in the home or in the church, it is always going to be a struggle, a fight. This is by no means all bad. Struggles are good. My most cherished accomplishments have all come out of struggles. And what we are talking about here, believe me, is worth the struggle.
In the home, it the man who has the lead, who sets the pace, who sets the standard and puts in place the Christian framework upon which family life is built. In the absence of the same, chaos rules. In the absence of the same, many devout sisters in Christ… wives, mothers and grandmothers… have thanksfully stepped in to fill the void!
As we are constantly emphasizing in this series, it is not too late to change things – to start “doing” what you have not been doing before, to start “saying” what you haven’t been saying before. In Christ Jesus we have full and complete forgiveness for all of our shortcomings. And by His Holy Spirit we can pick up and take on the sacred responsibilities which go with our vocation as husband, father, grandfather, etc. These are all headship positions. These are all leadership positions.
In the previous articles in this series, we have talked about the “manuals” or guides that the head of the household has by which, through which, in which he can faithfully lead his wife and family in the way of Christ, in the way which leads to life everlasting. Holy Scripture is, of course, at the top of the list. The psalmist declares, “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105) And so it is for all of us!
Husbands, fathers, grandfathers, you need to be in the Word… daily. Without the Word, you are among the blind leading the blind. Attend divine worship every week and be in Bible class. Listen. Hear. Ask questions. Pick up Scripture and read, mark, learn and inwardly digest it. Two great ways of doing just that are with The Lutheran Study Bible that was just produced and the new Treasury of Daily Prayer both by Concordia Publishing House. You will really appreciate all of the information and notes in The Lutheran Study Bible which will help you understand and convey the faith with everyone in your household. The Treasury of Daily Prayer is also a great way for you to share God’s Word with your wife and family. It is all there for you – Scripture readings, writings from our Lutheran Confessions, Martin Luther and Church Fathers. You have the Psalms, the Small Catechism and various liturgies that you can use at home.
Some of you may look at spiritual headship and leadership in the home as being a daunting or even insurmountable task – one that you cannot even begin until you are at least “in the know” … until you are well versed in Scripture and in our Lutheran Confessions. That simply is not true! You can lead while you learn. You can still head up your marriage and your family as you find out what headship is all about. It is never too early to begin and never too late to start.
What is important also is to make your intentions known. Share with your wife and family that you really want to be a faithful husband and father, a true spiritual head that is by no means just figurative and ceremonial, but real and active. Ask for their prayers, their support and assistance as you “learn the ropes” which bind you and your family even more so to the Lord and to His Body, the Church.
Also ask your pastor for guidance and assistance. He would love to help you and encourage you. If you have a Brothers of John the Steadfast group in your congregation, join it or help start one! In the short time we have had a BJS group at St. Paul’s – Lockport, it has truly been a blessing to our men in the whole area of spiritual headship.
As opposed to the phrase with which we started off this article, in Holy Scripture we hear our dear Lord say that we are to do as He does and say what He says. Indeed, all that Christ did and said was consistent and congruent. It was holy, perfect and right. And we have the joy of following His example pure. As Christ is the Church’s Head, so we as simple men, faithful yet imperfect men, seek to be the head of the household, the head of the family… all to the glory of God and for the sake of our family… out of love for our wives and for our children and our children’s children.
The Rev. Mark H. Hein
Pastor of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church