MLK has a quote that I think about often. “Whatever your life’s work is, do it well.” Every husband needs to take his life’s work well. And what is that life work?
Paul put it this way. “Love your wife as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her.” Peter gave wise instructions to husbands when he said, “Live with your wives in an understanding way,” and then gave content to his guidance, which I will paraphrase. First, treat her as you would a fine piece of china. Second, I appreciate her femineity. Third, give her the honor she deserves as a fellow believer (image bearer). Paul adds another dimension to this that is often overlooked. It is also found in his letter to the Ephesians (5:21). Marital pardoners are to be mutually submissive.
Expectations for Husbands
So, what does a loving husband look like? That is a good question; I am glad you asked. Since Paul clearly indicates that the husband’s love mirrors the love of Christ for the church, a good way to answer that question is to pursue the four gospels and observe Christ loving the church. We find that he cared for them, provided for them, taught them, spent much time with them, prayed for and with them, restored them when they sinned, and entrusted them with responsibilities. We can finish this thought by noting that he made the ultimate sacrifice of giving His life for their redemption.
When my wife and I presented family life seminars, I had one cartoon used to illustrate what husband leadership does not look like. It pictured a stern five start general towering over a recruit sternly reprimanding the recured. Leadership as a husband incorporates all those qualities of a lover modeled by Jesus cited above and incorporates them into managing his wife as his helpmate. Now note! The word in Hebrew, translated as helpmate is not a diminutive word. The same word is used several times as a descriptor of God (see Ps 33:20, 121:2). Remember also, she is created in the image of God and is a fellow heir as an adopted child of God.
So, the leadership of one’s wife is best thought of as a mutual working relationship to negotiate life’s journey in a manner that glorifies God and produces a mutually satisfying experience. Husbands should welcome their views’ insight, experience, training, and spiritual gifting.
Now, hear me clearly. I have no problem with wives working and having a career. However, one of the first things we learn about living in a fallen world is that men will earn (provide) by the sweat of the brow being constantly challenged by thorns and thistles. Wives will be burdened with the pain of childbirth and all that goes into mothering. In other words, these will be the main roles of each—providing and mothering.
Husbands have the freedom to include other activities, as do wives. But each should prioritize their primary tasks, husbands providing and wives mothering.
Throughout the Old and New Testaments and Christian church history, the motif of men protecting women has been characteristic. While there are many examples where this has not been the case, the exceptions do not cancel the principle; they emphasize it. At the end of this blog, I will include the address for a site that gives an extensive list of verses that capture this principle.
So Why This Blog?
First, this blog has always primarily been about saving marriages. One of the bedrocks of keeping a marriage cohesive and well-functioning is a couple being in sync with the design of the Designer.
Second, one of the issues that seems to be on the rise among Christian couples is that of husbands using the Scripture’s instruction regarding a husband’s leadership position as a club to demand that their wives become more like mindless servants than helpmates created in the image of God whom God has provided to complement and complete them to produce a dynamic duo capable of raising a godly family.
A Challenge to Husbands
Brothers, it is simple. Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God (a phrase coined by the Apostle Peter) and put on humility by recognizing that God did not put you in charge with a cattle prod to keep your wife in line. He put you in charge to lead by exercising love that mimics the love of Christ (noted above). He provided you a woman to be your companion, not your servant, to be your lover, your fellow worker who brings to the table gifts, insights, and perspective packaged as a fine vessel to be cherished (greatly appreciated). She needs you, and you need her—that is how God designed it.
Lead her in the study of Scripture but hear her insights. Lead her in prayer and relish in hearing her feminine perspective as she prays for you, the children, and others. Struggle together not with her, though there will be conflict at times, grow big ears to hear her. When she differs strongly with you, do not become a commanding general, but pause that decision, pray, research, seek outside counsel and until she is comfortable to the point of at least saying, “I may still disagree, but I can support your decision and trust God to work things out for us.
Conclusion and Implementation
I am certain Pam would agree that I’ve never pulled the general position and commanded her. But several times along our sixty-one-year journey together, I convinced her to concede to my way, and I have regretted almost every time. She was wiser than I, and the bank account gave evidence of that fact. God used the bank account to refine my understanding.
Here is how, brothers, to implement a self-examination. First, assure your wife that you desire honest answers to some questions you desire to ask her because you want to repent where necessary. Then ask:
- Are there times when my leadership makes you feel like you are the recruit and I am the general?
- Can you give one or two examples, please?
- How could I have approached you differently than I did?
- Please forgive me. While I would not have here to for, characterized those times as being a general commanding a recruit, I certainly acted that way.
- Today. I want to commit to you; if I do that again, I want you to say, “Honey, I’m not your recruit. I am your wife and want you to consider my input important.