Husbands: Proactive Leadership, Through Sacrifice, With Understanding

As I posted yesterday, the good male leadership not only benefits our American culture, but it also helps people to understand what God’s perfect love is like. Because of all the misconceptions about male leadership, I thought we should know what a husband is NOT.

A HUSBAND IS NOT A(N) 

  • Parent: In this relationship, the man functions like a parent that must be obeyed and depended on for everything.
  • Child: The man acts like a child who must obey his wife. He is helpless without her.
  • King: “I’m the king of this castle.” This husband expects the world to revolve around him and serve him.
  • Napoleon: A Napoleon controls everything in his wife’s life. Sometimes, this control is dictated by some form of inferiority complex.
  • Abuser: An abuser controls through beatings, verbal lashings, or sexual abuse. All of the errors on this list are bad, but this one is especially heinous and harmful. If anyone is abusing someone or being abused by someone, contact us for help.
  • Employer/Boss: With this kind of man, everything is earned. He gives love if someone earns it. He gives gifts if someone works for it. This is not love, but work.
  • Roommate: As long as neither spouse gets in the way of the other’s life, goals, or aspirations, they will continue to live together.
  • Homer: “Anything you want to say before football season starts?” This husband is lazy, disinterested, and uninvolved. Through his stubborn laziness, he has broken his wife’s spirit and her hope that he will ever get better.

Generally speaking, being a good husband can be summed up by this phrase: PROACTIVE LEADERSHIP, THROUGH SACRIFICE, WITH UNDERSTANDING. 

PROACTIVE LEADERSHIP, through sacrifice, with understanding.

Ephesians 5:25-27, 29 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. … For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church,

In this passage, we are told to love our wives “as” Christ loved the church. Christ’s love was proactive. He did not wait for “the church” to ask for his help. He did not pursue his own interests until he was badgered into helping her. Instead, he took the responsibility to save his church and proactively pursued her good.

We need to take proactive responsibility for our wives physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually.

  • Physically: Chauvinism is not dead. One of the most basic instincts of men is to protect his wife and family from harm. This is a good instinct. Taking responsibility for her physically may involve protection, but it also may involve making sure she gets enough sleep and giving her some time to rest physically.
  • Emotionally: We are there for her emotionally, understanding and affirming her—after time, this will also develop an ability to understand her emotions. We should not be cold or distant, but seek to enter into her life and walk beside her like a true friend.
  • Intellectually: We challenge her intellectually, or rather, she challenges us intellectually. In one sense, we need to work together make wise decisions, which will involve stretching conversations. These discussion serve as the philosophical bedrock on which our relationships are built, which means we must proactively take responsibility to engage important topics with one another. (This is always true, but this is especially true for stay-at-home-moms. These mothers have made the decision to stay at home, not because they cannot work, but because they choose not to. This often means they have not been intellectually engaged by anything more than the alphabet and counting for awhile. Engage your wife in intellectual discussions in which she is interested.)
  • Spiritually: Spiritually, we cannot make her love God more, but we can set the example of love for God, tell her how we are growing, and develop spiritual companionship and accountability with her.

Proactive leadership, THROUGH SACRIFICE, with understanding.

If we stopped after the first point, it would seem like men have the right to use and abuse their leadership to get what they want. But, Leadership is not the right to control or to abuse or to neglect. Leadership is service and sacrifice. 

This is the beauty of the way God set up relationships to work. Entire systems of checks and balances are in place to make sure that no one gains too much control or is able to manipulate to get what they want.

In the end, the way that we should proactively lead involves sacrifice. The road of proactive leadership always involves forgoing our interests. If we decide to walk on this path of leadership, we must let go of our interests and pursuing some else’s good. This is exactly what Christ did for us. He let go of the comforts of heaven in order to become a man. He ignored his interests to the point of death. He let go of comforts, rights, and pleasures in order to sacrifice for us. When Paul tells us to lead as Christ did, he means that our path of leadership involves sacrifice. Love is sacrificial concern and action for someone else’s best. 

I firmly believe there is something in everyone, and especially men, that draws them to be this kind of hero. Every great story involves a great hero who is willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to save someone. This basic theme plays on our heart strings and calls us to be something more.

But we don’t need a hero who will sacrifice his life to save the world; we need a hero who will sacrifice his free time to save his wife from being burnt out. We don’t need a hero who will take the place of the heroine on the railroad tracks, we need a hero who will take the place of the heroine on the midnight shift with a crying baby. We don’t need a hero who will take charge in a bunker with the enemy closing in; we need a hero who will take charge in his home and when temptations to selfishness and apathy surround him.

We need men who stop trying to vicariously live through video games and professionally athletes, and instead live their own lives, level up their sacrificial ability, and come through in clutch situations for their wives.

Proactive leadership, through sacrifice, WITH UNDERSTANDING.

1 Peter 3:7 Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.

Colossians 3:19 Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.

How can we sacrifice if we do not know what our wife needs? How can we care for her physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually if we fall back on the tired cliché that “it’s impossible to understand women.”

Men and women are wired differently. Communication easily breaks down and misunderstandings are frequent. Both genders are responsible for this. Understanding our wives involves a lot of work, a lot of time, a lot of listening, a lot of questions, a lot of sacrifice, and a lot of openness.

Think about it like an adventure. Like all good love stories, in order to love our wives, we will need grit, determination, intellectual prowess, and sword-fighting ability—actually, one of those is not necessary. We are men. We are not boys. We do not quit easily. We fight to understand our wives, their needs, and their preferences.

LET’S GET PRACTICAL

  • A good leader knows the thoughts and desires of the ones he leads. Especially in big decisions, we need ask questions and understand our wives Ask questions like, “What do you want to happen? How do you see this ideally playing out? What is your preference? What do you think should happen?”
  • We need to choose one thing a day that sacrifices for our wives. We can do the dishes, babysit the kids so she can shop, give her a shoulder massage, or simply turn off the TV and pay full attention while she is talking. After a few weeks, we can try to do two things a day that sacrifices for her. As we continue this, a pattern of sacrificial love for her forms. That pattern becomes a habit. That habit becomes an attitude. That attitude becomes a character quality. That character quality makes a good husband.
  • Experiencing Christ’s love for us each day is the best way to cultivate a loving, sacrificial attitude. We need to rest in his love and forgiveness until we are transformed into more loving, patient, forgiving, and gentle men.

The Need for Male Leadership in the Home

What are the male figures like on our favorite TV shows?

What about on movies?

Why does it seem like men are almost always portrayed as distant and passive or as fumbling idiots?

I think it is because the writers know what will connect with the audience–an aloof, selfish, disinterested, male character will connect with the viewers.

STATISTICS REGARDING THE IMPORTANCE OF MALE LEADERSHIP

This ongoing trend is called “The Decline of Fatherhood and the Male Identity Crisis” by to Psychology Today. In their study, the lack of male leadership in the home is partially responsible for many of the problems in our society.

  • “Fatherless children are at a dramatically greater risk of drug and alcohol abuse, mental illness, suicide, poor educational performance, teen pregnancy, and criminality, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Center for Health Statistics.
    • 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes according to the U.S. Bureau of the Census;
    • 85% of all children that exhibit behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes according to a study by the Center for Disease Control;
    • Daughters of single mothers are 53% more likely to marry as teenagers, 111% more likely to have children as teenagers, 164% more likely to have a premarital birth and 92% more likely to dissolve their own marriages.
  • 71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes according to the National Principals Association Report on the State of  High Schools;
  • Children from low-income, two-parent families outperform students from high-income, single-parent homes. Almost twice as many high achievers come from two-parent homes as one-parent homes according to a study by the Charles F. Kettering Foundation.
  • In a longitudinal study of 1,197 fourth-grade students, researchers observed “greater levels of aggression in boys from mother-only households than from boys in mother-father households,” according to a study published in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology”

THE GOSPEL AND MANHOOD

Not just the fabric of society hangs on this, but the ability to understand God’s love can either be helped or hurt by a male role model. 

Ephesians 5:25b-27, 29 “… Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. … For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church,”

The gospel story from Ephesians 5 tells us that Christ came to this earth and gave himself—not just his stuff—for us. He sacrificed everything to be punished for our sins. This great act of initiative, sacrifice, and love cleanses us from our sins and brings us close to himself.

The hope of the gospel is that, although we have been scarred, wrinkled, beaten, and spotted by sin, Jesus Christ can cleanse us and make brilliant and majestic. No matter what we have done, through Christ’s sacrifice, we can know that we are accepted and loved by God. He cherishes us as something unique and precious to him.

It is no mistake that people who have been burned by a man—through abuse, through unfaithfulness, through aloofness—struggle to understand these points of the gospel.

“You mean, God is interested in me?”

“You mean he is faithful in his love?”

“You mean he loves me for my good, not to use me?”

“You mean he sacrifices for me?”

“You mean God is more than a sleeping angry powerful force that I don’t want to wake up?”

“You mean he is consistent with me?”

“You mean he loves me?”

Those without a male role model, or with a bad one, struggle to understand that God loves instead of uses, sacrifices instead of demanding service, and pursues our good instead of his hobbies.

On the other side, a loving, sacrificial male role model can profoundly impact a family. When my father was a teenager, my grandparents started to save up money to buy him a record player (for those born after 1985, it’s kinda’ like a big iPod). During a rebellious phase, my dad snuck into my grandparents’ bedroom and stole some of the money so he could buy drugs and alcohol for a party with friends. When my grandparents found out, they were heartbroken because my dad had abused their love for him. My dad still remembers how disappointed and sad my grandpa was when he found out.

The next day, my grandpa came home from work with a brand new record player under his arm. This sacrificial act of faithful love helped my dad to understand more about God’s faithful love for him. Within a few years, he asked God to forgive his sins and trusted in Christ as his Savior. Shortly after that, he decided to become a pastor and has now spent over 30 years sharing God’s love with others.

CONCLUSION

Our society desperately needs good male role models, and our families desperately need to understand God’s sacrificial love for them. Husbands play a vital role not only in America, but also in God’s plan to illustrate his love for mankind.

The story of God’s love is not just another way to show us (Husbands) how we don’t measure up; the gospel forgives us for our failures as husbands. It reminds us that, through faith in Christ, we are absolutely loved and accepted by God. We need to experience God’s precious love for ourselves every day and then share that proactive, sacrificial love with our families.

Descriptive or Prescriptive? Biblical Stories of Marriage

If you are a Christian or have grown up going to a church youth group, you have probably heard a dating message from the story of David and Abigail, or Adam and Eve, or Jacob and Rachel, or Isaac and Rebekah. Many books have been written that built off of these Biblical stories to make a Christian method of dating.

It is important to note that the Biblical stories are not prescriptive, but descriptive. In stories, Biblical authors simply describe the events that took place. There are no headings over each story that say, “Good Example” or “Bad Example.” They simply state the facts. In other words, just because we read it in a story, that does not mean we should necessarily do it. In fact, the Bible’s cold-hearted description of the events around many marriages in these stories are an unrelenting critique of those marriage models. Here are some examples:

  1. One of the most common arguments against the Bible is polygamy. Critics have argued, “David was lifted up as a righteous man, but he had many wives. Does that mean that polygamy is ok?” While polygamy was permitted in ancient cultures, the Bible relentlessly gives the details of these polygamous men’s lives and describes the troubles it brought them. (Genesis 16)
  2. Many agrarian cultures, like the ones in the Bible, treated marriage like a business transaction to profit a family. In the business transaction between Jacob and Rachel’s family, we see Laban tricking Jacob into marrying his more ‘undesirable’ daughter. When Jacob didn’t like his purchased product and realized it couldn’t be returned, he worked to purchase the product he really wanted. This led to weird complications between daughter and father, sister and sister, and husband and wife. The details of those stories are a condemnation of making marriages a business transaction. (Genesis 29-31)
  3. In Jesus’ day, if you were unmarried, you were a second-class citizen. To them, marriage was a sign of God’s blessing and raised your status. However, Jesus frees us from viewing marriage as a sign of blessing or singleness as a sign of cursing, because he and Paul were both single. In fact, Christianity was one of the first religions that made singleness a viable option for its followers. (1 Corinthians 7:6-7)
  4. Also in Jesus’ day, it was common for a man to divorce his wife basically any reason, leaving her a social outcast with very little means to support herself. Jesus harshly condemns this practice. (Matthew 19:1-12)
  5. In the early church, women were dynamically lifted up as equals to men, though they had few rights in their cultures. (Galatians 3:28, 1 Peter 4:7)
  6. In the Roman culture in which the early church was birthed, husbands were allowed to cheat whenever they wanted. Wives were often forced into terrible forms of birth control, and, if they got pregnant, could be forced into abortions by their husbands. These abortions often lead to life-threatening complications or drastically damaged their ability to have children. (these terrible actions are noted by historian Rodney Stark in his book The Triumph of Christianity) Through all of this, the Bible still holds that the husband is head, but radically slashes at the Roman view by telling them not only to flee sexual immorality, but also to nourish and cherish their wife, as if she was part of his own body. (1 Corinthians 6:12-20, Ephesians 5:25-29)

The stories in the Bible are written for our example, but we need to determine whether they were a good or bad example from the explicit teachings of the Bible. The truth in God’s Word and the examples given critique many incorrect models of marriage throughout the history of the world. Although many incorrectly view the Bible’s teaching on marriage to be outdated, it continues to be a clear voice on gender equality, anthropology, marital roles, practical marital advice, sexual morals, true love, the pleasures of sex, the meaning of marriage, the nature of relationships, and much more.

“‘Therefore, a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” Ephesians 5:31-32