Q: The Bible instructs a wife to “honor” her husband. What does that mean, and in what specific ways can a woman carry it out?
A: In my opinion, the word “honor” has been interpreted too narrowly. We tend to think of honor as affirming the family leadership of the husband. While I certainly think there is merit to this perspective, I would like to offer a broader hermeneutic.
I believe that a wife honors her husband by helping to shape him into the man of destiny that God has ordained. Shaping is a process that involves encouraging and challenging one’s spouse. It also includes accountability. Specifically, this process of shaping is operationalized through petitioning and protecting.
Wives shape their husbands into destiny by petitioning on their behalf. They petition before God and man. This means praying to God for divine revelation for your husband to ensure that his aspirations are, indeed, Holy Spirit-inspired. This means praying for open doors (or closed doors where appropriate) for his dreams. It also means praying that God will give him the wisdom to make sound decisions.
The second part of honoring one’s husband is protection. A wife protects her husband when she refuses to join others who speak against or discourage him. She protects her husband by advocating on his behalf — for his aspirations and dreams. She protects her husband by being his partner in pursuing God’s desire for their union. She protects her husband by using her “woman’s intuition” to foster healthy boundaries around their marriage. Finally, a wife protects her husband by holding him accountable; challenging him to be a God-fearing spouse who treats her with the agape love that Christ showed his bride, the Church. This measure of accountability means that a wife honors her husband by expecting him to honor God.
Q: How can a woman who is called to the senior pastorate affirm her husband’s “headship” in their marriage?
A: Female senior pastors affirm the headship of their husbands through words and deeds. It begins with communication. These pastors must explicitly share with their husbands their belief that God has appointed the husband to demonstrate marital headship — a responsibility that is unchanged by her role as senior pastor.
Second, the couple must be deliberate in discussing their respective roles in both the home and church environment. It is important, however, to communicate that the marriage is a priority irrespective of the environment. Most importantly, the female pastor must consistently demonstrate honor and respect to her husband — at home and at church. If she demonstrates this consistently, her church members will also respect the role of her husband.
Third, husbands must understand the difficulty their wives encounter as female pastors. As such, they must accept that their headship role in the marriage entails petitioning and protecting their wives in their pastoral calling. Men married to senior pastors must also be comfortable sharing their wives with others. This is the epitome of “servant headship.”