Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Self-Discipline of a One Flesh Marriage

Lori’s posts questioning Should Husbands Ever Discipline Their Wives? created quite a bit of excitement last week. I am writing this post today because I have sent her to her room without lunch to discipline her for posting such controversial things. At least she should not be publishing them while she is suffering with brutal headaches when I am out of town and cannot support her! 

It is an amazing thing to see how Christian women respond to a husband’s attempt to discipline his wife as illustrated by Sunshine Mary’s missing dishwasher. In her recent post, Sunshine Mary did a great job of putting it all into perspective to show how some Christian women really think about a husband’s role and responsibility as head and leader of the marriage. It shows that there is a lot of work that needs to be done to change the thinking and behavior of Christian wives if they desire to follow the leadership of a loving Christian husband.

Why are Christian men impotent when it comes to leading their marriage forward?  Well, read the Facebook comments as listed in Sunshine Mary's Post and you will quickly see ten reasons why a Christian husband is often powerless to provide much true leadership. Instead, he is often the follower in the marriage.

Okay, Lori is not in her room or being disciplined, but it is almost humorous to read the responses of Christian women concerning a husband’s obligation to instill self-discipline within the Christian marriage. Lori and I do not claim to have all the answers to this important topic, nor do we expect you to submit to us on this subject, as one reader has accused. We simply want to help marriages think through how much authority and leadership should a wife submit to, especially if her husband is a godly Christian man

Because if a wife will not follow, will not submit, not listen nor obey, how can the husband lead?  If a godly wife who wants a godly marriage decides each day what is, and is not acceptable from her husband’s leadership, who is really leading her?

I have personally lived as a loving, imperfect Christian husband for 33 years now, and I can tell you that for some 20 of those years I was much more submissive to Lori than she was to me. Why? Read Sunshine Mary’s post and see the ten reasons why, and especially number 10. I was afraid that my godly wife would rebel and maybe put me in the dishwasher or punish me for my attempts at leadership. More than that I was told by other godly men that all I could do was love her. This was so wrong!  Love from a husband that does not lead and sanctify his wife is not true love at all.

I wrote this in response to one of the comments ~
Certainly the idea of a husband disciplining a wife is foreign to you, yet the irony is that your husband probably punishes you regularly. Most husbands and wives do it, or in my case did it. As soon as we do not like something our spouse is doing we punish with our words, moods, anger and snide remarks. We punish with our silence and by withholding love and affection. In the average marriage, and even the Christian marriage, such punishments are given often, and sometimes every day.

How do we break out of the cycle of punishment and into a loving and godly marriage?  By doing things God’s ways.  It was Karen who brought up the very important and correct Biblical view that when a man and woman get married they become ONE, and one flesh. And Karen asks, “Who disciplines their own flesh?”

Well, I do. And I venture to say that almost every reasonable and successful person in life, Christian or non-christian also disciplines their own flesh. As a matter of fact, we have a word for this called self-discipline and most of you reading this post pride yourselves on how much self-discipline you have in life; how you take care of yourself, push away from the table when full, or turn down a desert. How you make yourself go to bed at a reasonable hour even though your best show is on TV because you know you need to be fresh for tomorrow. How you give yourself consequences when you say things that you should not to a friend, and make yourself call up the friend, apologize and tell them you are buying dinner next time.

The fact is that the two becoming one flesh does not mean that flesh does not have to discipline itself. Precisely because it is the flesh it MUST discipline itself. Paul says that the flesh wars against the Spirit and makes it clear that the Believer is to keep his/her/our married flesh under control with self-discipline so that we might serve God and not be disqualified from ministry.

Self-discipline is not only something we value in our lives, but it is perhaps the most important habit that leads to personal, professional and spiritual growth. God values discipline as the Bible says ~

“For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” {Hebrews 12:11}.

But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified{2 Corinthians 8:27}.

Now follow with my logic and tell me where things may not add up in your mind ~

1. If self-discipline is to be prized and valued in a godly believer,
2. Husband and wife are one flesh and the wife is to submit to her husband,
3. The husband is the head of the wife, which means he is to be the leader,
4. The husband is to be loving towards his wife as Christ sacrificially loves the church,
The husband must be responsible for the loving self-discipline of the marriage both for himself and his wife as one flesh.

Does it not stand to reason that it is the head and husband of the marriage that is to exercise self-discipline in the marriage, and if this self-discipline involves his own flesh, his wife, that she should graciously accept the discipline and respect and honor him for trying to help create a godly, orderly, loving marriage?

I am sure we will hear an earful from many who agree and disagree with our Biblical logic on this subject as it is never taught in the church, probably out of fear. Yes, fear that a husband will abuse his position. Fear that a husband will disrespect his wife in the way that he gives her discipline. Fear that the 65% majority that are women sitting on church pews will punish the pastor and the church by closing their pocketbooks, walking away, or worse yet, demand a session with the busy pastor, all because he was willing to explore such a necessary subject concerning the Christian marriage.

If you are not convinced that many Christian men live in fear of their wives just read the Sunshine Mary's Post with Facebook comments from Christian women who say that if their husband tried to discipline them, their husband would end up in the dishwasher or kicked out of the marriage. 

Just a little more food for thought as I close this post. Ask yourself not what “husbands” can and cannot do to discipline “wives,” but instead what are you willing to allow your husband to do if he asks to enact modest discipline in your own marriage. One of the favorite excuses I see is the unwillingness to apply certain principles to ALL marriages, because of the potential for abuse, so of course, if it is not to be applied universally, why should it be applied in my own marriage?

Yes, there is the potential for abuse if some wives give carte blanche to an unloving husband. We are not talking about unloving husbands, but the godly great, imperfect guy who you chose to marry. Right?  And who you want to be your godly leader of a husband. Right?  What about that guy? Can you trust him to lead you and help discipline your flesh?

Will you go to him and discuss this important area of the self-discipline of your marriage and ask if he would like to explore how the two of you might hold each other accountable for moving your marriage forward into more good times, less punishment and more loving ways? Or does your husband have to love you perfectly before you will think about submission and the self-discipline of your marriage?

I believe this discipline should begin with a husband's willingness to set good and noble ideals for the marriage and then hold himself and his wife accountable for living up to those ideals. The one-flesh needs training in self-discipline, and it is with consequences that the flesh is trained.

A wife is an equal and full partner in the one-flesh marriage, but the husband is the head, and the head of any body always has the control and responsibility. So ask your head how he wants to do things in your marriage, and give him permission to lead you in any way he believes is best, so long as he keeps in mind just one principle below, even if he applies it imperfectly. He cannot become a great leader if you do not let him lead.

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church 
and gave himself up for her. 
Ephesians 5:25