We all know we can misuse the exhortation of Jesus to forgive. We can ask repeatedly for someone, whom we have hurt, to forgive us, but never really own the gravity of our sin. Such pleading for forgiveness is a feature of a relationship in which domestic violence occurs. A good principal can be misused. Some suggest the notion of male headship is similar to forgiveness. It is a good principle, which can be misused. But is headship really similar?
Concerning forgiveness, both men and women may presume on the godly character of the other partner to quickly forgive an act of violence or betrayal. But as regards headship there is no mutuality. It is the man who is given the headship. It is only the man who can minimise or justify his abuse by referring to scripture.
Any teaching, which gives an authority preference to one partner based on gender, will be always open to misuse by the one who has the power; the man. There should be no room within the church for such justification. Headship based on gender is not a good principal open to misuse, but is itself an ill-conceived notion.
The scriptures do describe a patriarchal world, but they do not prescribe patriarchy. Rather they prescribe equality for men and women, in identity and responsibility, and through mutual submission to Jesus and to one another. Jesus and the apostle Paul in deed undermine patriarchy. It is this understanding that should also be presented to students preparing for ministry.