Over the last several FOSJ meetings we have learned that to become a great father it is imperative to become a great husband and to become a father who images God the Father we need to become men who husband in the image of Christ. Christ yokes Himself to His Church, His bride, with the purpose of giving her Himself, His glory, and His love. Jesus our Lord calls every husband to “learn from Him” so that we may become like Him— great husbands. So, what lessons can we draw from Jesus the Bridegroom to learn how to love our wives, glorify our wives and deliver ourselves up for our wives as Christ did?
Christ’s teaching is radically different than the world’s teaching. Over the course of millenniums and centuries, the world has taught that a husband has two options in exercising male headship: 1) the antiquated pagan model was male domination, which was characterized by the husband laying down demands, rules, and imposing them upon his wife and children. 2) The modern world attempts to escape male domination by suggesting that the husband should have an effeminate role, and that he should submit to radical feminism and should be placed in a submissive role under the headship of his wife—in other words, he should be a doormat.
Neither of these types of “headship” have the authentic character of male headship as exemplified and taught by Christ. Christ teaches that a husband is to yoke himself to his bride in order to 1) love her 2) glorify her 3) deliver himself up for her. This is scriptural: “Even thus ought husbands also to love their wives as their bodies. He who loves his own wife, loves himself. (love her) For no one ever hated his own flesh; on the contrary he nourishes and cherishes it (glorifies her) as Christ also does the Church.” (Eph 5:28-29) So, “a husband loves his wife just as Christ loved the Church and delivered himself up for her.” (Eph 5:25) (delivers himself up for her)
So how does a husband exercise his headship by loving his wife, glorifying his wife and delivering himself up for his wife, without becoming a doormat? This is a perennial problem. Modern Christianity wants reduce “men of God” into“nice guys.” Unfortunately, so many men have learned to believe that being a Christian man is reduced to being a very nice doormat. Jesus was not a doormat. If there is any doubt, read His seven woes to the hypocrites. Christ gives us men a rule, or an example, according to which we husbands can measure the manner in which we exercise charitable authority over our wives. Its foundation is found in three scriptures:
1) Matt 5:17: “Do not think that I have come to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I have not come to destroy, but to fulfill.”
2) Heb 5:8: “Son though he was, He learned obedience from the things that He suffered; and when perfected, He became to all who obey Him the cause of eternal life.”
3)Heb 2:17-18: “It was right that He should in all things be likened to his brethren, that he might become merciful…For in that He himself suffered and has been tempted, He is able to help those who are tempted.”
From these inspired texts that describe Christ’s headship we discover the three components of male headship:
Step 1) Lead by example as well as precept.
A husband cannot lead his wife and family without following Christ and the law of love. If a husband cannot learn to abide in God’s law of love, how can he impart the grace for his wife to obey the moral law? This is a Husband’s Golden Rule: Jesus imposes no law of morality upon His bride which He did not fulfill. Therefore a husband cannot command his wife to fulfill God’s moral law—His law of love—if he is not striving to fulfill God’s law himself. Our Lord Himself fulfilled the law even though He was exempt from it, we should also strive to fulfill the law—by this we set the example of love.
Step 2) Be willing to suffer wrong.
Last session we discussed the idea that a husband and wife are to be yoked to one another. To do so is far easier when the husband and wife are in agreement with one another. However, spouses can become resentful when their needs are not being met. This resentment can lead to conflict. At the point of conflict we husbands have a choice: we can either enter into the conflict, incite or continue the argument and cause further division, or we can resolutely remain yoked to our wives during the conflict. This demands patience and a self-sacrificial attitude. “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Gal 6:2) . Christ learned obedience by means of suffering wrong, and therefore was capable of imparting perfection upon His bride, the Church. When we bear sufferings, especially those caused by our wives, patiently, we fulfill God’s law and are made capable of imparting grace to our wives.
Step 3) Be merciful.
Our male genius is not characterized by imposing rules or laws upon our wives from which we are exempt, but rather by fulfilling God’s law and being perfected by grace in order to pass on that perfection to our wives. By means of experiencing the trial of temptation, in our attempt to be merciful to our wives during conflict, we will gradually become capable of mercifully encouraging our wives to also be merciful, and by such encouragement and assistance, we will transmit the grace of God to our wives. Imagine that the leper who was healed by Christ one day discovered that they were leading Jesus to Calvary. He followed the crowds to Mount Calvary where they stripped Jesus of His garment. There he discovered that Jesus had become the leper. His bones exposed, flesh cut away, sores oozing with puss, disfigured beyond recognition. The leper realizes that he was healed because Christ took on his wounds. The Bridegroom heals the bride by taking on her wounds. We will also help to heal our brides by being patient with their woundedness. “Blessed are the merciful for mercy will be theirs.” Indeed, blessed is the merciful husband, for by his mercy, his wife may become merciful.