Pastor Doug Wilson writes** in The Great Servant Leadership Mistake (emphasis mine):
So what would a genuine servant leadership result in? If it were the real deal, the result would be a greater likelihood of the wife being willing to refer to her husband as a lord, and not choking on it. But the moment anyone suggests that we might want to take such a thing seriously, we rush to the abuses, we rush to the caricatures, we rush to the extremes, we rush to the cartoons, and we rush to the barricades. A contemporary evangelical wife, trained in the jargon of soft complementarianism, is more than willing to call her husband her “best friend,” “wisest of counselors,” “true companion,” or someone who “has my back,” who is “there for me.” And actually, those are all good things. Great. Do so more and more. But why the insistence that something like 1 Pet. 3:5-6Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) cannot be seriously entertained as an option? Why such a demand?
Why do we call it servant leadership? Why not servant lordship?
We should have no trouble with the concept of rulers giving themselves away through service. That is preeminently biblical. True authority bleeds. The problem is that we are dealing with a counterfeit service, not the real thing. We are dealing with widespread abdication that wants to call itself servant leadership. Calling it that makes the painful sensations of having been castrated more manageable. The tag servant leadership is spiritual hydrocodone for the freshly fixed.
The reason we can know we are not dealing with real service in what goes under the heading of servant leadership is that real service results in what? It results in authority, and authority is the great enemy of this generation. Authority is the one thing we cannot abide.
“But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant” (Matt. 20:25–26, ESVOpen in Logos Bible Software (if available)).
Those who are great in the kingdom are those who have given themselves away like this. So a man who wants his authority to be recognized in his home—whoever would “be great”—must pursue that authority the way Jesus says to do it. But when he pursues the role of servant, he is pursuing genuine authority. He is not pursuing the status of “nullity” or “milquetoast.” And when he pursues this under the blessing of God, the very first person to see it will be his wife.
This is you will notice the very same reversal I wrote about in Headship sleight of hand. The Bible tells us that the husband is the head, and instructs wives to submit to their husbands and husbands to love their wives. One can from there deduce*** that if the husband is the leader, if he has authority (which Scripture tells us he does), that he has a responsibility (of some sort) to lead. Modern complementarian thought has however taken this logical deduction and run it backwards, concluding that a husband is the head (has authority) if he leads properly. Read the quote above again to see how naturally this deception flows.
But if we were foolish enough to take this line of thinking seriously, this would mean that a husband not only has the obligation to cause his wife to wish to submit to him and call him lord, but to fear him as well. For in the very same passage that wives are told to call their husbands lord, they are likewise told to demonstrate fear of their husbands (1 Pet 3:1-6, NKJV):
3 Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, 2 when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear. 3 Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel— 4 rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the a]”>[a]incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. 5 For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands, 6 as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror.
Not all modern translations choose the English word fear in 1 Pet 3:2, but as you can see from Bible Hub this is a common translation, including both the King James Version and Douay-Rheims. Many other translations choose the English word reverence instead of fear****. Godrules.net indicates that the word is Strongs 5401 (foboj):
Orig: from a primary phebomai (to be put in fear); alarm or fright:–be afraid, + exceedingly, fear, terror.
Use: TDNT-9:189,1272 Noun Masculine
Heb Strong: H367 H1763 H2730 H2844 H3374 H6184 H6343 H7413
1) fear, dread, terror
1a) that which strikes terror
2) reverence for one’s husband
We see the same Greek word in Eph 5:21 (KJV):
21 Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.
We also see a derivative (Strongs 5399) of the same word in Eph 5:23. The KJV translates the derivative as reverence and Douay-Rheims translates it as fear:
Nevertheless let every one of you in particular love his wife as himself: and let the wife fear her husband.
But nowhere in the Bible are husbands told to make their wives fear them, just as they are not told they have the obligation to make their wives want to call them lord. To the contrary, husbands are repeatedly instructed to love their wives. Moreover, while husbands aren’t told to win their wives over through their leadership, wives are told they should hope to win their husbands over through their demonstration of fear and submission!***** Complementarians have turned the whole teaching on husbands and wives upside down.
*The question in the title is a rhetorical question. A Christian husband is not called to instill fear in his wife. He is called to love her.
**For the sake of time and peace I will stipulate that Pastor Wilson does not mean what I have quoted from his blog post above, but means something else entirely, something that is correct. I therefore ask my readers to imagine if someone else had written the quote above and actually meant it, as the ideas expressed in the quote are entirely common in complementarian thought.
***In Eph 5:26 husbands are instructed to sanctify their wives and cleanse them by the washing of water with the word (ESV). This fits with other NT instruction to wives to ask their husbands for biblical instruction. This is clearly an instruction for husbands to actively lead, but this is the one kind of leadership complementarians are certain husbands must not do.
****I have given more examples of the same word being translated alternately as fear and reverence in this post.
*****But even here the Bible does not state that the true test for a wife’s submission is whether she wins her husband over without a word. The claim that we can tell if a husband’s love is authentic by the wife’s response is wholly unbiblical.