By Peter Moore
“These are the commands, decrees and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, 2 so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. 3 Hear, Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, promised you.
4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates” (Deut 6:1-9).
I was recently told by a woman, who runs a number of women’s Bible studies, that the one pervasive “wish” of the participants was that their husbands would lead their families, instead of just watching. This got me thinking, because the participants are by-and-large highly qualified, competent women in their own right. Maybe the often-discussed topic of men being absent in the home applies not only to men who are physically absent, but also to those who are at home, but as non-participant passengers?
So, why should men lead their families?
It is so that God would be honoured and our families and society blessed.
And how should men lead their families?
By demonstrating in thought, word and deed, that Jesus Christ is the Lord of their home.
That sounds well and good. Most Christians would agree with those two answers. But what does it mean in practice for men to lead their families? We’ll start with the person who will give you the most problem in your life. You!
- You need to be Christlike. Christianity starts from the inside and works itself out. That’s why Jesus talked about being born again (Jn 3:3), because the problem starts from the inside (Mk 7:21-23). Therefore, men who lead their families must first learn to walk in the fear of the Lord (Prov 9:10), not in the fear of man. Before you encourage others to honour Christ, make sure that you yourself are honouring Christ (Rom 2:3). If there’s one thing that those close to you will pick up over time, it is hypocrisy. They will not follow a leader with two faces– one for the public and another for home.
- Be constantly learning, as you sit under God’s Word and grow as a Christian. We are all works in progress.
- Teach your family (Deut 6:7-9). Every circumstance is a teaching opportunity. God does that with us in Creation, special revelation of His Word, and in our hearts (Ps 19). Because the final authority in the home is the Lord, the final authority is His Word. Now that’s not saying that every circumstance is an opportunity for you to jump into the pulpit and preach a sermon, but every struggle and every good gift is an opportunity to be God’s mouthpiece and His ambassador. We are not to be passive observers of our families, but active teachers.
What exactly should we be teaching our children? Firstly, don’t despair. There are many good resources online with the best teaching available on almost every subject, so you’re not man alone. For example, as a family, you could do a series of podcasts or Bible studies together, and I’ve listed a few that we’ve enjoyed with our teenage kids in the resources below.
Here are some essential subjects for a father’s curriculum:
- God made your children in His image (Gen 1:26) and He did so fearfully and wonderfully (Ps 139:14). This means that their bodies are gifts from God, so they must treat their bodies with honour and respect the God-given boundaries of their sexuality. Do not leave that education to their school or peers.
- Teach your children that it is from His Word that we derive understanding of our identity (Gen 1:27); the purpose for how we should live in this world (Gen 1:28); the problem with the world (Rom 3:23); the solution for the world (2 Cor 5:18) and where we go when we die (1 Cor 15:50-57).
- We are rebels against God (Eph 2:1-3).
- Christ died for the ungodly (Rom 5:6), the righteous for the unrighteous to bring us to God (1 Pet 3:18).
- We need to repent of our sins and trust in the saving work of Christ to have peace with God (Rom 5:1). Note that this is very different from the notion that Christ’s job is to make our children happier, richer, healthier, less lonely and more fulfilled. Some, or all, may be by-products of being a Christian, but they are not the motivating force.
- Our children need to know that God, as our Father in heaven, not only walks alongside us, but actually indwells us by His Holy Spirit (Col 1:27). He alone can be trusted to care for us and lead us (Ps 23).
- God and His promises (Eph 3:6), both for this world and eternity, are true and reliable because God is God (omnipresent, omnipotent, infinite, eternal, just, good, truthful and wise) and therefore able to deliver on His promises to His children.
- Teach them that all of life is “spiritual” and should be lived for our joy and His glory. Talk about God and His goodness (Deut 6:7), and the need for a coherent Biblical worldview on every subject under the sun. In other words, let your family know that your faith is for all of life, and that all of life is worship. They cannot separate their spiritual lives from what they think, do and say in their everyday lives.
- Be involved in a life group, so that your children can see the gift of Christian community up close and personal.
- Let your family know that regular attendance at church to fellowship with God’s people and learn from His word, is an absolute priority. I know that for most in our busy culture, Sunday is “me” time, and schools are increasingly arranging sport time on a Sunday, so you’ll need to establish priorities and boundaries quickly.
- Have regular personal and family prayer and Bible study time and encourage everyone in your family to have their own quiet times with the Lord. Apart from your family seeing that you humble yourself and sit under the authority of God and His Word, they’ll also have a great example to follow.
- Have godly friends for you and your family. In an increasingly secular world, it is important that your family does not think that being a Christian family is weird and isolationist. In our family, some of the greatest Christian influences for our children comes from their grandparents in their 80’s, aunts, uncles, life group members and Christians who eat meals with us, go on holiday with us, and stay in our home from time to time.
- Fellowship as a family by doing fun things together. Establish patterns and a framework for your children to use as they set out and form their own unique families one day. What are these patterns? All the things I’ve mentioned above, as well as things like special meals around a table, family holidays and traditions. In our family, we had a pattern of movie nights and a ‘blessing’ dinner every Friday, as well as sleeping in a tent in the garden! Although I didn’t always feel like making the effort, our kids still talk about these memories as the highlights of growing up. Whatever your unique patterns, make it a goal to create a warm caring environment where your children and their friends love being in your home and with your family. Good food always helps!
- Sacrifice. Be a true shepherd (John 10:12-13). Leading means loving your family sacrificially, as Christ loves the church, of which you are a part. Clearly, you can’t atone for your family as Christ atones for each of His children, but you can seek to mirror the way that Christ provides and looks after you, and His Church. Your family must know that you are as ambitious for the well-being (especially spiritual) of each member of the family, as you are for your own career and personal wellbeing.
In closing, I must admit that in the last twenty-six years, sometimes the great responsibility of being God’s representative in the home has felt daunting, especially during the teenage years and when work pressures have been great. I’ve sometimes wondered if I could ever live up to such a high calling. It’s easy to give up, not only because we, as men, feel inadequate as spiritual leaders in our homes, but also because our society is constantly portraying masculinity as obsolete and toxic. There is very little encouragement or practical wisdom offered to men these days on how to harness their God-given masculinity to be godly, consistent leaders at home, which probably explains why Jordan Peterson has such a large following of young men. That’s why I will end with this encouraging quote and prayer by Joel Beeke for Christian men:
“God is not setting us up to fail as husbands and fathers. He gives us the marvelous grace of being his assistants in teaching our families. Instead of throwing in the towel because of our inadequacies, we should come before God in prayer:
I am a sinful human, but Lord, help me confess my sin, my inconsistent walk, my ignorance of the Bible, and my failure to evangelize my children. Let me be grieved by these failures, turn to you for grace to realise my covenantal responsibilities, and take refuge in you, leaning on your covenant promises and looking to Jesus, your Son as my model, guide and my strength.” In Christ’s great name, Amen.
Listen to this song by Andrew Peterson. It describes a father’s heart for his son as he sets out on his own.
“Go back, go back to the ancient paths
Lash your heart to the ancient mast
And hold on, boy, whatever you do
To the hope that’s taken hold of you
And you’ll find your way
You’ll find your way…