As we begin to wrap up this series on marriage, the topic today (for husbands) is love, sacrifice and authority. Next week we will consider (for wives) respect, submission and authority. The element the two have in common is obviously that word authority, and once we refresh ourselves with the principle, we need to work with some of the nuts and bolts applications.
“And when the ten heard it, they began to be much displeased with James and John. But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:41-45).
We have already touched on the difference between right handed authority and left handed authority (to use Martin Luther’s phrase). But in this passage, Jesus sets the principle before us plainly. The unbelievers view mature authority one way, and Christians are commanded to view it another. “But so shall it not be among you.” The problem is not that “right handed” straight line authority is evil—it is most necessary in teaching toddlers. But it is not the most mature expression of authority, and to believe that it is means that one is a totalitarian. Maturity requires that we grow up into the kind of authority that gives itself away. Jesus did this, and He summoned all his followers to do this as well. This means that husbands who want to function as the respected leader in their homes, who want to be “great amony you,” need to come to Jesus Christ in order to die. Do you receive your authority by demanding? Or by bestowing?
SAY “THANK YOU”
This is an issue that must be resolved at the level of heart motives first. This is because many times you cannot tell which kind of authority it is by simply recording the action taken on paper. One man might require his six-year-old boy to say thank you because the father was irritated by the boy’s ingratitude. Another man might require it because he wants to bestow the habit of good manners on his boy so that his son will be blessed throughout the course of his life. The two fathers are doing the same thing (say “thank you”) but they are also doing radically different things. In marriage, a man might be making the biggest sacrifice of life by requiring something of his wife. Or he might be acting like a dope. Settle these things in your heart before the Lord. Once a man has come to Jesus in order to be put to death, he may then after the fact do as he pleases. And unless he has died, nothing he does (however technically correct) will be right.
Say that a man has this peculiar kind of “left-handed” authority. What is he to do with it? What are some test cases? Incarnational living always comes down to the particulars. Abstractions are gloriously true and never make anyone mad. But faithful living means getting down into the details.
We have already addressed the husband’s responsibility to provide for his household.The man of the house is certainly called to provide his wife with the wherewithal to discharge her responsibilities. But the wife has a corresponding responsibility to do him good, not harm, all the days of his life. And buying a truckload of stuff is not necessarily “saving money” because it was all 20 percent off. That may well be, but the purchases are all 80 percent more than what was going on yesterday. Godly wives are self-governed in this, but that is a subject for another time. A man ought not to think that he can discharge all his responsibilities in this area by simply working harder, getting a raise, or a second job — and saying nothing to his wife. That might float the financial boat, but it might also indicate some real problems. The basic question is this: can a man and his wife have an intelligent discussion about the checkbook without conflict? Has he put enough “sacrifice” in the checkbook to write this particular check?
Genesis tells us that a man leaves his father and mother, and cleaves to his wife. The parents of the bride give her in marriage. Putting these two things together, we see that a new household unit is created in this way. Certain obligations to the in-laws remain, but the entire picture changes. Children must honor father and mother throughout their lives, and not just while they are home. But the form this takes changes. The issues that most frequently need to be worked out are time and lines of authority. And the better you do with the first, the more difficulty you will have with the latter. And the better you do with the latter, the more difficulty you will have with the former. But if the in-laws are walking with the Lord, and understand the principles involved, they can be a great help in this
This is not a series on rearing children, but children do come into marriages, and their presence certainly affects those marriages. One of the most common areas of trouble in a marriage has to do with the education and discipline of the kids. Two sample problems: what to do about dad’s tendency to be detached from nurture and education? And what to do about differences between mom and dad when it comes to discipline styles?
Delegation is not the same thing as capitulation or surrender. A husband who visits regularly with his wife about how discipline is going, or the homeschooling, or how the kids are doing spiritually, is a delegating father. But if he does not, then he is an abdicating father—and an abdicating father is one who is leaving his wife in the lurch.
One of the best ways for a man to love a woman is to love her children. This means caring enough to be involved and to know what is going on. When was the last time you spent one-on-one time with each of your kids? Do your kids have blogs? How come? And if they do, do you read them?
And last, your children’s loyalty to you and your wife will almost certainly be a function of your loyalty to them. And your loyalty to them is a ministry to your wife.