Thursday, March 5, 2015

A Husband Must Lead Even if His Wife Does Not Follow

A Christian husband's effectiveness as a leader depends almost solely on the willful submission of his wife, yet even if she will not follow, a husband's role is still to lovingly lead his family.  A difficult or unsubmissive wife does not exonerate a Christian husband from his responsibility before the Lord to not only be Christian to his wife, but to insist that all that takes place in his home be honoring to Christ Jesus. Ken is going to examine what the Bible has to say about this important topic and here are some vital verses ~

But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ {1 Corinthians 11:3}. 

Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body {Ephesians 5:22-30}. 

How can we see the analogy of Christ as head of His church without His ability to lead His church? The great minister Charles Spurgeon put it this way ~

The head mystically is not merely the source of life, and the seat of sensation, but it is the throne of supreme government; it is from the brain that the mandate is issued which uplifts the hand, or bids it fall by the side. Man walks or speaks, or sleeps, or rises from his couch according to the dictate of that mysterious royal something which finds a place for itself within the head. Thus in the true Church of God, Jesus Christ is the great directing Head; from Him the only binding commands go forth; to Him all the really spiritual yield a cheerful homage; his members delight to do the will of their Head. The whole

fabric of the Church, actuated by His life, and being filled with His Spirit, most readily concedes to Him that in all things He shall have the preeminence. In proportion as Christians are truly united to Jesus, they are perfectly governed by Him, and it is only because of the old nature which abides in separation from Christ that Believers offend and transgress. In so far as they are spiritual men, so far does Jesus rule them as the Head governs all the members of the body.  

Yes indeed a wife's willingness to follow should be a joyful and willful act where she delights in doing the will of her head. Those who are spiritual will want do live their lives in a spiritual way where a one-flesh marriage mirrors God's design between Christ and His Church. It is a glorious thing to see when members of the church are sold out to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, and a wife is sold out to a husband's loving leadership "in everything." 

Most Christian wives are reasonable in their behavior towards their husband, and even if not fully submissive they are willing to be respectful even as they may often say "no" to his requests and desires. The most difficult ones may say to their husband as Lori said to me years ago when I reminded her that God's Word asks her to be submissive, "Well, you can't make me!" That is correct, but a husband can still speak truth to a wife and play out his role faithfully as her leader. A husband's primary method of leadership must be to not only speak truth into the marriage but to to live out God's truth before his wife. Caring, loving, being generous and overlooking an offense are all mandatory leadership qualities that must be the mainstay of a husband's leadership style. 

With headship comes not just the responsibility of a husband to lead but the authority by which he carries out his leadership role. Jesus as head of the church says this to His church, "Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent"{Revelation 3:10}. Yes, a husband is not Jesus, and his authority to assign consequences to a wife's willful disobedience should be modest and reasonable. Although there is no direct command that tells a husband to hold a wife accountable or confront an unsubmissive wife, there are specific verses that show how Christ leads His church and promises consequences for disobedience. If a husband is to lead and love his wife "as Christ loves the church," how does one reconcile that Christ leads one way, but husbands are not to lead in like manner when they are told specifically that he is head of his wife "as Christ is to the church?" 

What an elder in a church believes is best for the church, a parent for a child or an employer for an employee, may not match up with what the church member, child or employee feels is fair or just, or even loving. If the test for loving leadership is the feelings or desires of the follower, and not the decision of the leader, then who is really leading? If a wife is to be judge and jury as to what is her husband's style of leadership, or methods of leadership, how can he lead? I submit that a husband should take into account a wife's preferences and desires as he exercises leadership, but the Christian wife must be willing to follow as long as her husband is not completely unreasonable or unloving. In those cases, it is best to seek the counsel of an older, godly woman who believes in submission, but knows the difference between submission and controlling.

We are not speaking here to a wife who cannot see her husband as her leader. If you do not understand this clear demand on your life in God's Word, then seek the second best of an egalitarian marriage, or whatever model you think is best until the Lord clearly reveals His truths, perhaps through His loving discipline on your life. But to the believer who desires to live according to all of God's Word, and subsequently concludes that indeed her imperfect husband is to be her leader, she must be willing to joyfully accept her husband speaking truth to her about her behavior and any modest consequences he may ask her to endure for the sake of growing up in the marriage. For how can one claim to obey and submit to their elders but be unwilling to obey and submit to a husband who has a greater charge over her soul?

"Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you" {Hebrews 13:17}

To say that you believe a wife is to submit, but disagree with such a minor consequence of not buying a wife a dishwasher because she continued to willfully disobey him is to say that you believe husbands should have no recourse of consequences to try to move a wife forward, even if he knows it is best for her. A husband becomes an impotent leader with no recourse but to patiently wait for his controlling or difficult wife to come to her own decision to willingly submit. This would be a position held by the vast majority of the church, and to a large degree it is not a completely wrong position, but it does not speak to individual cases like the dishwasher case

Here is my point ~ If a Christian husband is regularly trying to get an unsubmissive wife to be submissive by using consequences, he is probably overstepping his authority as a loving husband as he may be trying to control her. BUT if a wife says she wants to be submissive to a husband because she believes in his headship and leadership, yet she acts in unsubmissive ways because her flesh has other desires, in this case, a husband is not overstepping his role and authority to ask her to accept consequences when she clearly violates her own stated values. If a wife is saying to a husband "lead me," then she needs to accept his method of leadership so long as it does not violate the Word of God nor is in any way sinful.

Look closely, as I said, "asking her to accept consequences." A husband's job is to lovingly lead, yet a Christian wife can at any time decide not to accept a consequence that a husband gives to her. Enduring a consequence  must be a willful act on her part, not something a husband can force upon a wife, yet he can ask her to accept the consequence without violating her personhood or freewill. She does not have to like, or even appreciate the consequence, to agree to forebear it. The goal must always be her personal and spiritual growth, not a husband's whim or desire to "be in control." Separating these should be easy for most wives in that they simply need to ask themselves,"Am I married to a good man who loves me, or loves me not?"

Sunshine Mary did not have to willfully accept that her husband would not immediately buy her a dishwasher. She had other choices she could make, including moaning and groaning and complaining to her friends, as many wives might do, go to a counselor or pastor for help, or just order a dishwasher on her credit card and have it installed. Each one of these things would be sinful, but she did have the choice to go against her husband's decision instead of suffering the consequences he gave to her. Wifely submission is always a willful act and SSM absolutely wanted her husband to be her leader!

A wife will need to ask herself if she will ever truly be submissive to her husband if she exalts her own mind on what leadership is, and is not, when it comes to her husband's decisions. When a wife sets her own logic and feelings up as the final decision maker as to what is right and wrong within the marriage, with no Biblical support for her position, she has defacto set herself up as leader. Most often a husband goes along with her to "keep mama happy," as we all know what a home looks like when mom is unhappy. Check out the book of Proverbs.  

A husband is to lead, even if his wife is unwilling to follow. How he leads must change if she is unsubmissive, as he must insist on accountability, yet leave it to the Lord to give any consequences. Don't for an instant, wives, believe that there are no consequences when one goes against God's clear desires for your life. But if you have true Biblical grounds where you feel you cannot submit in some things, then rest peacefully in the power of God's Word, praying that God will do His work in your husband's life to make him into a loving leader. 

When a wife is not ready to accept a decision by her husband of no dishwasher for a week, or month, or more, she has not found the heart of submission and respect for her husband's leadership. She does not trust that her husband has her best interests at heart, nor that he fully loves her "as Christ loves the church." That is not necessarily so bad, if her husband has given her reason to appear untrustworthy, but if he is a godly man, who loves her dearly, then she may, out of some fear, be unwilling to allow him to live out his role of Christian husband to her. She should explore where that fear comes from and see if it is real or if it is just a selfish desire to maintain independence instead of moving forward with him towards God's design of a one flesh Biblical marriage.

Fear kills intimacy and closeness and gets in the way of a flourishing Christian marriage. A certain amount of vulnerability is necessary for any relationship to flourish and grow. Not unwisely following a husband who is proven unworthy of your trust, but willingly submitting to a husband who has proven himself both loving and trustworthy. This godly man God calls you to love, respect and be in submission to him "in everything." Why, because God trusts him with your life and well being or He will have shown you clearly why you should not submit to him from His Word, or from other godly people surrounding you.

If you have no clear reason not to submit, don't run to the girlfriends and seek confirmation of your disobedience as they too are struggling with submission. Seek wise counsel from an older, godly woman who lives out a biblical marriage. Better yet, put your toe into the water of vulnerability to which God calls Christian wives with submission, and trust and see if indeed your husband will love you "as Christ loves the Church." A love that is complete, and not self seeking, but perhaps stretching you beyond your comfort zone to new experiences of what love should look like in a one flesh marriage where Christ and His Word are at the center. Where a husband, like Christ, leads you in ways that you at first may disagree are good, and later come to discover that they were indeed for your best interests as you and your marriage blossom as God designed.

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