Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Marriage Matters: Roles in Marriage

Drum roll, please! We have at last reached the final topic in Winston Smith's "Marriage Matters," one sure to stimulate conversation at tonight's dinner table. Headship and submission. What in the world does this seagull have to do with headship and submission? Maybe you haven't been looking at it from the right direction. Which direction is the right one? Well, our perception of  roles in marriage is formed by several influences. The home in which you were reared and the marriages of family members and friends formed your first ideas about marriage and the family. What we read in books, watch on TV, and what we view in movies certainly sends us a lot of messages, mostly conflicting ones. What an identity crisis!
Who am I, June Cleaver?

Or perhaps some modern version of Rosie the Riveter.
(If you're too young to know who she is google her and send me a report.)

We look to the bible to instruct, to inform, and to give us our pattern for living in the family and home. We read in the opening pages of scripture that God made man. Let us make man in Our image...So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him. Gen.2:26,27. It is being made by God in His image that gives man his ultimate worth which surpasses the rest of creation. Intellect, creativity, the ability to reason and communicate, and the desire for relationship are but a few characteristics of man that reflect the image of God.

Next, we see that God made man male and female in that same verse...male and female He created them. Though distinct in their characteristics God made male and female as equal image bearers of God, equal before Him in value, dignity, and purpose. God told the man and woman to be fruitful and to fill the earth. This mandate is as well reflective of God's boundless life-giving creativity. Only through a union of differing but complementary beings does God sustain the creation of His image bearers.

God also told the man and woman to subdue the earth and to exercise dominion over it. The created earth and its contents are for the benefit of man and God gives man the authority to subdue it for his good. It is an intentional ordering of God's kingdom with Adam as God's representative head.

God makes a helper suitable for Adam. This word helper "ezer" is the word God uses to call himself a helper. This is where we don't want to get hung up on what it means to be a helper for our husbands. The word "suitable" is a helper to us. Suitable does not mean, "Well, I guess you'll do." No, it is more "like opposite." Men and women are like opposites in the same way that two pieces of a puzzle fit together, not exactly alike, not randomly different, but different in a way that the one needs the other in order for the picture to be made whole and visible. Not you'll do, but nothing else will do.

When Paul writes to the Ephesians about lovingly submitting to one another for the purpose of unity, purity and love, he instructs them in regard to the smallest kingdom, the home. If we want to know how to live in God's larger kingdom, we learn in the smaller kingdom. Wives, submit to your own husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church.  Eph.5:23. The church does not submit to Christ because it is a slave to His demands, but because of Christ's great love for the church, (that He would die for her) wives submit to their husbands as a way of displaying the love of the church for its head, Christ.
This, my friends, is not the picture of the husband as portrayed in Eph. 5:25. Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her. Do not be fooled into thinking that a godly husband is a thankless taskmaster to be served. To the contrary, a godly husband is one who loves his wife as dearly as our Savior loved the church, that He would leave His home in glory, take on the form of His creation, live a perfect life, and would suffer and die to secure for His people a relationship with God the Father. If you ask me, godly men have been called to the larger duty. I love John Piper's definition of headship as he writes in his book This Momentary Marriage. "Headship is the divine calling of a husband to take primary responsibility for Christ-like servant leadership, protection and provision in the home. Leadership is the overarching role and protection and provision are the expressions of it." Godly leadership in the home is like Christ's, a decisive action to protect one's family from physical and spiritual harm, to guard his family from unbiblical, unholy or harmful influences, to assume and exercise oversight for the protection of his family including spiritual shelter from the world in the body of Christ. That is a sacrificial, loving protection.

Paul goes on to write, In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it just as Christ does the church. Spiritually speaking, the Christ-like leader husband provides for his wife and family as he would for his own body which is to to be nourished (fed) and cherished (tenderly cared for). He is to see that the souls of his family are spiritually fed, their minds instructed, and their hearts directed toward God.

A word to a wise wife. Do not demand leadership from your husband. Demanding is the very opposite of what you long for. If you demand, you take the lead. If you demand you cut the heart out of leadership which is a selfless desire to serve. If you demand you circumnavigate the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart of your husband. It is the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart of a man that calls him to this kind of leadership. Pray for him.

Behold the image that makes us crazy. You don't have to wear gingham and bows and bear 31 children to be a godly wife. Piper defines submission as "the divine calling of a wife to honor and affirm her husband's leadership and to help carry it through according to her gifts. The godliest wife I know is trustworthy, advises her husband, loves him and their children, is industrious, a business woman, teaches bible study, secures and prepares meals for her family, sells real estate, volunteers in her community, is well dressed and groomed, carries herself with confidence, enjoys a sterling reputation, and is well respected by her husband and children. She is a holy woman of honor found in Proverbs 31.
This godly woman, submissive to the leadership of her husband, is spiritually, intellectually, emotionally, and physically engaged in the labors and pleasures to which God has called her. I can't tell you what God has called you to do, but He can. You and your husband when working in concert are perfectly capable of determining who mows the lawn, who works where, who pays the bills, etc. We are gifted and skilled and given abilities that vary from person to person and marriage to marriage. We are also called to sacrificially serve those whom God has given us because He has told us all to be like Jesus. And if your husband is not a believer? You live exactly the same way in the confidence he may be won without a word by the conduct of your heart. 1 Pet.3:1.

Wives are instructed to respect their husbands. v.33. We're told that because a man's greatest need is for respect. How can you show respect for your husband? By expressing your gratitude for his leadership. By the way you rear and discipline your children who bear their father's name. By the way you use your family's resources. By the way you encourage your husband in his work. It isn't just a paycheck, ladies. By the way you speak to him and about him to others. By the way you tend to his spiritual, physical and emotional needs. These alone should keep us on our toes and on our knees.

And finally, tuck this away in your heart and mind as you pray for your husband. Jesus came not only to absorb the penalty of our sin, but also to absorb some of the pain of life. Cast your cares on Him for He cares for you. Comfort one another with the comfort that you have been comforted with. One of your greatest opportunities to minister to your husband is to be a soft place to land at the end of a hard day. There is much we cannot fix, much we cannot do, much we cannot control, but one thing we can be is a comfort and reassurance that when the rest of the world seems to crumble and the mountains roll into the sea, our Sovereign God is in control. As wives we can be the calm and pleasant place at the end of the day. Are you someone you'd like to come home to? No other flesh and blood  person in your husband's life has the power or privilege be like Jesus to him.

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