So yeah, I blogged yesterday about the concept God has really been leading me with in mentorship, namely the idea of “teaching and admonishing” from Colossians 1:28. I said there that God had really blessed the discussions I had in the past week or so in this vein. He honored me speaking boldly and honestly with some men in my life, not only teaching but being strong in warning them about the consequences of their actions.
Tonight? Not so much on the blessing, at least on the surface. I had a very, very difficult conversation with a man whose marriage I am “bought into.” He certainly wasn’t buying what I was selling! I knew he was going to call me tonight, so I had been praying for wisdom and for grace to speak to him in a way that honored God and helped him live for Christ. I know I needed to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) and prayed for the courage to do so. I believe that God answered my prayer and that I said what I was supposed to, even if he didn’t want to accept it.
The upside I suppose is that the conversation reminded me that I needed to post the next entry in this series on marriage. Part 1 can be found here. There’s an adage that says that every healthy marriage is healthy in the same way, while every unhealthy marriage is unhealthy in unique ways. While there are limits to that saying, it does bear a lot of truth. A healthy, loving, God-honoring marriage comes when we each embrace the truths of Scripture and the responsibility that we bear to honor God with our life and with our marriage.
The place to begin the discussion on responsibility in marriage is with husbands. Ladies, thanks for reading ABF and I will get back to you real soon I promise. This post isn’t for you, and frankly you might not enjoy it or think well of me in places if you read it. So you might want to end your reading of this post here.
Guys, let’s not beat around the bush. Let me say it in plain language: the quality of your marriage is dependent on you far more than it is dependent upon your wife. Did you catch that? The quality of your marriage is dependent on you far more than it is dependent upon your wife. Don’t believe me? Read what Paul says about marriage in Ephesians 5:25-30:
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her,
26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,
27 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.
28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself;
29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church,
30 because we are members of His body.
The relationship between a man and wife is compared by Paul here to the relationship between Christ and the church. The marriage relationship is perhaps the closest human analogy we have to the relationship that we have with our Lord. Think about this aspect of that analogy for a bit. Who is more responsible for the relationship between Christ and the church: Jesus or us? Who is faithful no matter what? Who provides for whom no matter the cost (His death) or the heartache (our unfaithfulness)? Who makes sure that the relationship is secure and God-honoring? The answers are all quite clear. Jesus is the One who does all those things, whether His bride responds appropriately or not.
This isn’t the only place in Scripture that we see marriage used as an analogy for our walk with God. God also uses the analogy of marriage to describe His people’s relationship with Him in the book of Hosea. In Hosea 1:2 God tells Hosea to marry a prostitute as a picture of His relationship with Israel. Ahem…a prostitute. In Hosea 3 God tells Hosea to take this woman back despite her continued unfaithfulness as a picture of His faithfulness to His people even with their sin. He asked Hosea to forgive infidelity, even the prostitution of his wife, as a picture of God’s love for us.
Men, are you getting the picture? You are called to be to your wife like Christ is to the church. Like I said, the quality of your marriage depends more on you than it does on her. Yes, I know that He is perfect and you are not. I know that you have legitimate needs and that it hurts terribly when your wife disrespects you. I know that she can make it incredibly difficult at times. I know that it is an awfully heavy burden to carry, but frankly that’s why God gave it to you and not to her. Your shoulders are wide enough to carry it! You’re a man, so act like it. Love your wife like Christ loves His church. Love her like He loves you and patiently puts up with all of your garbage, even when you’re being unreasonable and childish.
Is the man in the mirror someone who you can honestly say is making every effort to love his wife like Christ loves the church? Are you going out of your way to show her that you love her, and in ways that she can accept? If not, why not? Follow the example of your Lord and love when it’s inconvenient and painful. Obey Him in your marriage (Luke 6:46 comes to mind) and see what happens. I have yet to meet a man who is submitted to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, who strives to live for Him in all areas including marriage, whose wife hasn’t eventually warmed to him. Try it and see what happens; prove me wrong, I dare you. 🙂
So what does that look like in real life? That’s the hard part, obviously. It’s all well to say that you love your wife, but it’s harder to actually do it. Here are some tips:
- Put her needs above your wants. She needs financial security more than you need new stuff, so quit being a boy and grow up financially. Save some money, live below your means, and do what it takes to make it. Sure, real godly men struggle with money at times. Over long periods, though, a man needs to rein in his spending so that he can live within his income for the sake of his wife and kids, whether he makes $30,000 a year or $300,000.
- Likewise, she needs your engagement with and commitment to your kids. All the statistics say that kids with dads engaged in their lives have a much better chance of doing well in life, so get after it dad. I know the baseball game just started; get a TiVo and go play some catch while you can. Ask about homework and really care. Listen and dialog; they’ll only be this age once, and you don’t want to be old and filled with regrets about how you raised them.
- More than all of that, she needs to know deep down that you’re committed to Christ. Man up and pray with her at least three times a week, and not over dinner. Take her aside before you leave for work or before lights out and ask God to bless her abundantly. Put your nose in the Word, too, and do it with her! (as an aside, our online Bible study is teaming up for April with the ladies’ study to read the same passage…so join us!) Work on your walk with Christ and see what that does. Let Him change you from the inside out and your marriage will follow, I promise.
- Quit using your headship for your advantage. God did not put you where you are to be the chief tie-breaker. Headship is a place of service, so look at it as a position of servanthood. Use it to steer your family in the direction of Christ, not for your own benefit. Always ask the question, “How would Jesus respond if He were the head of my household?”
Again, being a husband isn’t easy. That’s why He gave that responsibility to you, because it isn’t easy! Through thick and thin, though, as men we must always remember that God has put us in a position to serve our wives and children in a way that is very similar to the way in which Christ serves us.
If all of this sounds like it’s too much, frankly it’s because it IS too much for us to handle on our own. There is no way that a man in his own strength has what it takes to live as a truly God-honoring husband. That, my friends, is why we need the grace of God and His work on us from the inside out. When we come to God with our weaknesses and ask Him to take over, then we can agree with the Apostle Paul when he says in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10:
9 And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.
10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
For resources, there are few books for men better than these to help a man be a biblical husband and man:
- Every Man’s Marriage: As biblical a book on what headship really is as exists. Not for the faint of heart, but a great read about biblical leadership in the home.
- Every Man’s Battle: If you’re a man you receive sexual gratification through your eyes. That’s just a fact. This book will help you do so and still keep your heart right with your wife and God.
- The Five Love Languages: This will show you how she receives love in the most significant ways and help you find ways to express your commitment to her.
- Love and Respect: This is the cornerstone of my pre-marital and marital mentorship. The heart of this book is about how to stop cutting each other to ribbons and start building one another up.
- Wild At Heart: All about being a godly, yet manly man. Every man has a damsel to rescue, an adventure to have, and a battle to fight!
Being a husband ain’t for sissies, that’s for sure. But guys, let’s remember that we chose to be in this position, and chose to honor God. So let’s stuff the whining and complaining and get after being obedient. Let’s turn to God with our marriages and ask Him to change us from the inside out and make us into the men that He wants us to be.