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Posts tagged ‘balanced leadership’

What Should Be the Husband’s ‘Role’ in Marriage?

SOURCE: Dennis Rainey/Family Life

The Scriptures clearly give us the model for being a man, a husband, and father.

There is a story of a man who died and went to heaven to find two signs above two different lines. One sign said: “ALL THOSE MEN WHO HAVE BEEN DOMINATED BY THEIR WIVES, STAND HERE.” That line of men seemed to stretch off through the clouds into infinity.

The second sign read: “ALL THOSE WHO HAVE NEVER BEEN DOMINATED BY THEIR WIVES, STAND HERE.” Underneath the sign stood one man.

He went over to the man, grabbed his arm and said, “What’s the secret, how did you do it? That other line has millions of men and you are the only one standing in this line.”

The man looked around with a puzzled expression and said, “Why, I am not sure I know. My wife just told me to stand here.”

We have all heard jokes about “who wears the pants in the family.” Yet leadership in the home is no laughing matter. During the last few decades our culture has redefined the meaning and responsibilities of men and women in society and in the home. Many men are confused and insecure. Many do not know how to act in the home. Growing up, they lacked a good model for leadership at home and have no mental picture of what it means to lead a family. Consequently, they do not lead effectively, or they do not even try.Increasingly, many men are becoming passive in the home. They’ve decided that the easiest thing to do is nothing. The simplest thing—with the smallest risk—is to stay on the fence with both feet firmly planted in mid-air and let the wife do it. When a man is married to a strong wife who will take over, he often lets her do just that.

Fortunately, there is an answer. The Scriptures clearly give us the model for being a man, a husband, and a father. I call that model the “servant/leader.”

I hope that the concepts I share will help you understand the biblical role of a husband more clearly than ever before. When correctly interpreted and applied, these concepts not only result in freedom for the husband and wife, but will also help you work better as a team to combat isolation and conflict in your marriage.

#1: Be a leader. The Scriptures provide a clear organizational structure for a marriage. For example:

But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ. —1 Corinthians 11:3

Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body. —Ephesians 5:22-30

In his commentary on Ephesians, William Hendriksen points out that God “… placed ultimate responsibility with respect to the household on the shoulders of the husband . . . The Lord has assigned the wife the duty of obeying her husband yet … this obedience must be a voluntary submission on her part, and that only to her own husband, not to every man.”

“Head” does not mean male dominance, where a man lords it over a woman and demands her total obedience to his every wish and command. God never viewed women as second-class citizens. His Word clearly states that we are all equally His children and are of equal value and worth before Him. As Galatians 3:28 tells us, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

The teaching of the New Testament clearly shows that women are to be respected, revered, and treated as equals with men. Unfortunately, many husbands have not gotten the message. They degrade their wives by neglect or with insensitive and abusive treatment. One cause of the feminist movement may have been that men abandoned God’s design. When God presented Eve to Adam in the Garden, Adam received her as a gift of great value to God and to himself. When husbands, particularly Christian husbands, do not treat their wives as a precious gift from God and helpmate, they can cause those wives to search for ways to find significance and value as persons, often outside God’s will.

Are you a leader? Men who are natural leaders have no trouble answering the question “yes.” They know how to take over, control, guide, and get things done. Some men are not strong or are not natural leaders. How can they lead in the home?

Paul says the same to everyone. God has placed the husband in the position of responsibility. It does not matter what kind of personality a man may have. Your wife may be resisting you, fighting you, and spurning your attempts to lead, but it makes no difference. I believe our wives want us and need us to lead. You are not demanding this position; on the contrary, God placed you there. You will not lead her perfectly, but you must care for you wife and family by serving them with perseverance.

Scripture does more than assign leadership in a marriage to the husband, however. Those same passages you just read also provide a model for that leadership. The Apostle Paul says that the husband is head of the wife as Christ is head of the church. “This comparison of the husband with Christ reveals the sense in which a man should be his wife’s ‘head.'” Hendriksen writes, “He is her head as being vitally interested in her welfare. He is her protector. His pattern is Christ, who, as head of the church, is its Savior!”

Let’s look more closely at two responsibilities that flow out of proper leadership.

#2: Love your wife unconditionally. Ephesians 5:25 reads, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” Your unconditional acceptance of your wife is not based upon her performance, but on her worth as God’s gift to you. If you want to love your wife unconditionally, always be sure her emotional tank is full. One of the best ways to do that is to affirm her constantly. Let her know verbally that you value her, respect her, and love her. I have discovered that I simply cannot do that enough.

There is no question that words communicate love, but so do actions. You need to do both. As the Apostle John wrote in one of his letters: “let us not love with words or tongue, but with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:18). One of the missing ingredients in male leadership in homes is sacrificial action. When was the last time you gave up something for your wife—something you genuinely valued, like your golf game, a fishing trip, or your hobby? Sometimes you need to give up something you enjoy so your wife can have a break and see your love for her.

#3: Serve your wife. According to the New Testament, being head of your wife does not mean being her master, but her servant. Again, Christ is our model for this type of leadership. Jesus did not just talk about serving; He demonstrated it when he washed His disciples’ feet (John 13:1-17). Christ, the Head of the Church, took on the very nature of a servant when He was made in human likeness (Philippians 2:7).

One of the best ways to serve your wife is to understand her needs and try to meet them. Do you know what your wife’s top three needs are right now? If she is a young mother, she has a certain set of basic needs. If your children are grown and gone and you are in the empty nest, your wife has a different set of needs that you should try to meet. What is she worried about? What troubles her? What type of pressure does she feel? Learn the answers to questions like that, and then do what you can to reduce her worries, her troubles, her pressures.

What do you know about your wife’s hopes and dreams? I bet she has plenty—do you know what they are? Are you cultivating her gifts? If she has a knack for decorating, do you help her develop that?

Another way to serve your wife is to provide for her. This provision first involves assuming responsibility for meeting the material needs of the family. Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 5:8, “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever.”

Providing for your wife also means taking the initiative in helping meet her spiritual needs. You do this by modeling godly character, by praying with her, by spending time together in God’s Word, and by looking for ways to encourage her spiritually.

To be a leader, a lover, and a servant is to accommodate your life to the gift God has given you—your wife. Give up your life for hers and, at the judgment seat of Christ, He will say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

Misunderstandings About Biblical Headship and Submission

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

As a young wife, I attended a retreat that was geared around becoming a godly woman. Most of the wives in the room groaned when they heard the “S” word featured as our next topic. No wife looks forward to hearing that God says she must give her husband the final say in all decisions, regardless of how capable or stable he is, just because he’s the man.

Throughout the session, the speaker emphasized how God created the husband as the head of the home to be the leader. She said that even if our husband made poor decisions, God would protect us and our children if we simply trusted Him and obeyed our husband. Then she proceeded to tell a story where a woman’s husband wanted her to have an abortion. The wife didn’t want to, but she submitted. Just before she was to go to the clinic for the procedure, she had a spontaneous miscarriage. “See”, the speaker said, “God was faithful.”

I wanted to stand up and scream, “That’s crazy. Don’t’ listen to her!” but I was too much a coward at the time to risk such censure from the group. I’m braver today, and I’m telling you don’t fall for that kind of simplistic and naive teaching on this very important subject. If you want to get clear-headed and be a godly woman, in addition to listening to wise counsel, you must study the scriptures yourself and ask God to help you understand what the Bible says. Jesus tells us that as believers, He gives each one of us the Holy Spirit which He promises leads us into all truth (John 16:13).

The Bible never says that submission is only a wife’s or woman’s responsibility, nor does it say that the husband or man gets the final say in all decisions. These ideas have been misrepresented and misunderstood. Wrongly applied, they can cause harm to men, women and children, as well as thwart God’s plan for loving family relationships.

During a counseling session, Natalie asked, “I’ve always been taught that submission to my husband trumps everything, even my children. But when he’s raging out of control, screaming and threatening them and their scared little faces look to me to for help, what am I supposed to do? Does God want me to support my husband or ignore what’s happening because he’s the head of our home?”

The New Testament never describes godly headship or leadership by using an authoritarian, power/over model. Jesus demonstrated headship for his disciples so that they would be crystal clear what he meant. Instead of wielding his mighty power and rightful authority to show them what leadership looked like, he donned a towel and basin and personally washed each of their dirty feet. They were the future leaders of his Church, and Jesus wanted to show them that biblical headship meant sacrificial servant-hood. Jesus, or the scriptures, never describe biblical headship or leadership as entitlement to do what you want, demand that others do you want you want or to get your own way. The correct biblical terms for those characteristics are selfishness and misuse of one’s power and authority. There are numerous examples of these behaviors throughout scripture. However, they are never depicted as God’s example of leadership, but rather as sin. (Read through the seven chapters of the Old Testament book of Micah for numerous examples of leaders abusing their power and God’s response.)

After Jesus finished washing his disciples feet, he said to each of them, “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you” (John 13:14,15). This concept of selfless servant-hood was so radically different from his disciple’s idea of leadership, that they didn’t truly grasp what Jesus meant. Later on, James and John were arguing about who would have the better seat in heaven and Jesus stopped them and taught them the essence of biblical headship. He said, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.” Jesus expressly warned his leaders not to abuse their power just to get their way or boss people around (Mark 10:41-46; Luke 22:25,26; Matthew 23:3,4 italics added).

What Jesus taught was unheard of in Jewish culture. Hierarchy was well established even in the most intimate relationships. Men dominated women; husbands their wives.  Paul picked up Jesus’ heart on the subject of headship in marriage when he writes, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). The essence of Biblical teaching on headship is that if you are the leader, your responsibility is to initiate and model servant-hood before anyone else in the family does. As the leader, you are to show the way. You are to go first. When a leader (whether of a home, a church or a nation) manipulates, threatens and scares people into doing what he says or to get what he wants, know that he is not behaving as a biblical head, but rather as a bully. As Paul writes, “Love does not demand its own way” (1 Corinthians 13:5).

Jesus didn’t only model headship for us, he also modeled submission. In the Garden of Gethsemane while anticipating the crucifixion, Jesus’ prayed that this cup of suffering would be removed from him. He dreaded the cross; he wanted God to find an alternate way to save humankind. Yet, Jesus submitted himself when he prayed, “Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42). Throughout his life, Jesus always wanted to do what God wanted. He said his will was synonymous with God’s will. (See John 4:34; John 6:37; John 5:3; John 17:17.) Now in his agonizing moment during his garden prayer, Jesus felt differently. This was the first time he didn’t want to do what God wanted, but he chose submission to God’s will and his Father’s perfect plan. God didn’t force Jesus to submit, Jesus chose to. Jesus said, “No one takes my life, I give it (John 10:18).

In the same way, biblical submission can never be forced. It can only be done by the one who chooses to submit her (or his) will to another. When we voluntarily give our will to another or to God, it’s called submission.  When someone forces our will to be given, it is not biblical submission. The correct terms are intimidation, coercion and bullying. Submission isn’t necessarily agreement; it’s yielding your will to another for a greater good. The good might be unity in the family (or body of Christ) or honoring and pleasing God.

The apostle Paul writes in Philippians that we must be intentional if we don’t want selfishness to rule in our relationships (Philippians 2:2-4). He then uses Christ’s example for us to see how that works. Paul writes, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:5-8).

Jesus modeled both headship and submission in volunteering for the servant’s place and yielding his will to God. This describes the working together of headship and submission. The husband sacrificially leads his wife in servant-hood (through example), and the wife sacrificially yields her will in servant-hood (through example). Both are servants of the other and of God. When only one is the servant or the other is the master or god, the marriage isn’t working as God intended.

Since the fall of Adam and Eve, human beings have been vying for power and control over one another (Genesis 3:16). This was not God’s original plan, but the result of sin. Biblical headship doesn’t mean you get your way all the time, and submission doesn’t mean you have no voice or choice in the matter. The scriptures validate the mutuality of marriage and the dignity and value of each individual no matter who they are. As Paul plainly wrote, “now there is no difference between Jew and Gentile, slave and free, man or woman” (Galatians 3:28).

We may have different roles and responsibilities, but one is not over the other. Mutuality of servant-hood, submission and sacrifice are the biblical model for the trinity and for godly relationships, including marriage.

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