Adam Northcroft
A healthy 'headship': Do we really need it?

Few verses in the New Testament have provoked more controversy than the encouragement for men to accept Christ as their 'head' [authority] and for wives to accept their husband as a spiritual head (1 Corinthians 11:3) (listen also the talk on this website: Don't Lose Your Head, April 30th).

Perhaps this is because many people immediately just see headship as negative. Experience has taught them [and in many cases with good reason], that it just opens the door for misuse and abuse, so is an idea that should be resisted or even consigned to the dustbin.

They would argue that mistrust and cynicism towards leaders, authority and any other kind of headship, is the only safe and sensible way of protecting against further hurt.

While we may feel empathy, can we, as Christians, go along with this?

We believe that the Bible is God-breathed. It is the inspired Word of God and if treated correctly will do us good, not harm - and that includes 1 Corinthians 11:3.

So if we peel away the layers of negative connotation that thickly surround the idea of headship, are we able to see this concept as positive?

Well, yes, we can.

Biblical headship is about providing a selfless, secure, loving and good environment in which others can flourish.

It is what parents instinctively want to provide for their children. When provided it makes others feel affirmed and allows space for them to grow and learn.

Just look at the impact of those who have brought such headship: Nelson Mandela, Sir Winston Churchill or William Wilberforce for instance. They all brought vital courage, strength or freedom to others who desperately needed it.

Alternatively think of the many teachers, parents or other authority figures whose headship is so gratefully appreciated by the children who were inspired and enabled to succeed under their influence.

When headship is removed, a person is left alone, vulnerable and exposed - just think of Jesus on the Cross when forsaken by His Father.

Many would know the feeling of going out on a limb in a work environment only to see your boss back away to protect themselves rather than you. In this scenario your 'head' hasn't done their job, although hopefully many of us have experienced the opposite as well.

When Paul gave his advice to the Corinthians he was speaking into an independent and dysfunctional society where both men and women had been poorly treated by leaders and authority. This wasn't a warm, receptive audience and no doubt wouldn't have received his words well, even though they seem to have been the very thing they needed.

Like some of us, they needed encouragement to see that headship can be good, and not always bad. And while it may need mending and refining, it should be welcomed [with eyes wide open] and not rejected out of hand.

Maybe some of us need to change our mind and embrace headship by both giving and receiving it again.