By Peter Moore
Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them. 21 Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged (Col 3:19, 21).
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. 6 4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord (Eph 5:25-33; Eph 6:4).
Contrary to feminist beliefs, men are needed in the home and in their families.
In Part 1, I wrote about a Christian man’s vital role as God’s representative in the family. Today I will address his responsibilities to love, discipline, protect, serve, encourage, inspire, pray for, and lead his family. A man should be a “gentle warrior” for his family, rather than a passive, weak and popular dad (Beeke, P23). It all starts by loving our wives, just as Christ loved the Church:
- Love your wife and the mother of your children. Remember “Happy wife, happy life”! Both are clichés, but true ones: the best way for you to love your children is to love their mother. That is Paul’s main command to husbands (Col 3:19). And then, just to answer the question of how to do this, the Apostle Paul adds, “as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her” (Eph 5:25; Col 3:19). So, brother in Christ, love your wife. Sacrifice and provide for her, cherish her, just as you love your own body. Give up your own comforts for her.
Joel Beeke fleshes out a husband’s love in concrete terms,
“Give her your thoughts, your time, your talk, your tenderness, and your touch—but make sure you touch her heart before you touch her body. Stop measuring out your love in small handfuls according to what she has done for you lately. Start pouring out your love by the bucket according to the infinite riches of Christ’s love for you.”
2. Be actively involved in each child’s life, and never have favourites. Remember, children spell love as TIME, and that doesn’t mean only ‘quality’ time. It’s everyday involvement that matters, like your presence beside the sport’s field and beside their sick bed. Lay down your life for each member of your family– even when they’re teenagers and no longer shower you with love and adoration! You’ll be richly rewarded at a future date!
3. Discipline your children, and never have favourites in this either. Remember the root word for discipline is also “disciple”. So, disciple your children with honour, consistency, prayerful humility, and self-control, never in anger or vindictiveness. All discipline should be surrounded in love, just as God disciplines His children in love (Heb 12:6).
4. Protect. I often joke with my daughters and say, “You can have your first date when you turn 30!” But they get the picture: I’m very protective, because I want them to have the best life with a godly spouse. Defending your family in the 21st century might well involve fighting, with great wisdom, the foreign godless ideologies being introduced into their schools, even “Christian” schools and churches. I’m convinced that if a father is a warrior for his family, he will raise young men and women who are better equipped to stand up to peer pressure and to stand by their own convictions.
5. Serve. Your service can be in society at large (on your children’s school PTA or sports’ team), in your local church, and in your family. When they see that Dad is not above serving, they see what a Christian man really is. One day your girls will be looking for a man as a husband. Have your children seen a godly example in their home, or someone who expects to be served by others? And remember, the counterintuitive reality is that, as you serve, you often receive more benefits than you bestow on others (Acts 20:35). I can personally attest to this.
6. Encourage. I suppose the opposite of encouragement is to exasperate, criticise, provoke, embitter and shame your children, leading them to believe that they are a disappointment to you and will never amount to anything worthwhile. This is why Paul repeatedly warns his readers who are fathers (Col 3:21 & Eph 6:4), not to exasperate or discourage their children. It is obviously a dangerous tendency that fathers have. It is vital to repent immediately if we find ourselves exasperating our children, as this harshness will have devastating consequences on our families.
7. Inspire. Inspire your family by setting the bar high, rather than pulling your children down with discouragement. We often hear people say, “You can be anything you really want to be”, but we all know that is patently untrue. Opportunities and gifting differ tremendously, so it’s not loving to puff up our children with pride. However, we can inspire our children to be all that God has made them to be. So, the goal is not to try and make your children the same as you (“Johnny must be an engineer because Dad is an engineer”), or to hope that they choose an ‘impressive’ career, but rather to help them discover their gifting and inclination. Undoubtedly, where the grace and truth of the gospel permeates a society and a family, both men and women experience true opportunity and personal freedom to flourish.
Just one warning: in a continent where education is seen as the route out of poverty, it is dangerous to think that academic education is everything. The last thing you want to raise is a godless, rich, materialistic professional. Keep the end in mind: the end goal is a godly, productive family that, under God, produces godly productive people, who produce godly, productive families that replicate themselves.
8. Pray. One of the great privileges we have as Christians is to talk to our heavenly Father. Yes, He is ruling the universe, but He is also Immanuel, God with us (Matt 1:23). He has explicitly encouraged us to pray continuously, (1 Thes 5:17) because he cares for us (1 Pet 5:7) and loves us (Gal 2:20). This includes intercessory prayer.
So, pray for yourself, your wife and your children constantly and in all circumstances. Implore God to be working in their lives, even when they might seem far away from him. Remember, He is the good Father who finds lost sheep (Luke 15:1-7), lost coins (Luke 15:8-10) and lost children (Luke 15:11-32). When your children grow up and increasingly go out into the world, and your face-to-face time with them wanes, your prayers can still go with them, because God is there. He hears and acts graciously on their behalf.
9. Lastly Lead. Yes lead, whatever our culture says about men taking the back seat and trashing our masculinity. Leading is active, rather than passive. Leading means setting the direction and priorities of your family. It means navigating the road ahead with energy, strength, conviction, courage and kindness. This is what God has designed men to do for their families and it is one of the main reasons for our God-given masculinity, which is different from a woman’s femininity.
For fathers, the greatest temptation is to be absent, either by leaving your family and your responsibilities, or being present in the family physically, but absent emotionally and in everyday responsibilities: “I’m so tired. Please don’t bother me. I’ve got more important things to do.” These excuses are just abdication, similar to Adam’s abdication when Eve was engaging with the serpent. Although leadership can take many shapes to accommodate you and your wife’s character, gifting and jobs, nothing justifies abdicating your God-given role as leader of your home. Christ, the Great Shepherd himself, will hold us responsible for how we led, fed and watched over the families under our care (1 Peter 5:2-4).
Leading does not mean that you have to be a lone ranger, making all the decisions and ruling like a tyrant. However, it does mean that you take responsibility for your family– spiritually, financially, and physically. A Christian marriage is not a power struggle between a husband and a wife for dominance, the patriarchy versus the matriarchy. The power struggle has already been resolved when the husband and wife both submit to God as the Lord of their home, and each undertakes to serve each other and the family in the way that God has outlined in His Word: Equal but different. It is not even a 50:50 job. It’s a 100%:100% responsibility, where each spouse works under the Lord to do what he/she has been called to do.
At the end of the day, my greatest ambition as a man, a father and a husband is for my family to say:
“We did not have a perfect Dad / husband, but we had a godly one, who served his family and pointed us to Christ. That is why we love the Lord Jesus and want to follow Him too.”
To do this in our culture, we need to be courageous.