Who’s in charge around here?!
Have you ever heard or even spoken these words in an unguarded moment: “Well, who’s boss around here anyway?” (meaning: in your house)
The other day someone asked me a similar question. My instinctive response was to point my finger heavenwards. I wasn’t trying to be super-spiritual. Just speaking the truth.
As God’s family, Jesus our Shepherd and Saviour is the One whom God has appointed as our Boss (read: Master). Well, of course, you might say. It’s a biblical response, but then how does this divine Boss exercise control over us and our homes?
Before we proceed further with our discussion, I want to rephrase the question. I have negative feelings towards the word “boss”. Sounds as if we’re talking here about God being “bossy”! Instead, let’s ask the question: “Who’s in charge around here?”
How does Jesus lead our homes? The biblical answer is: through delegating this responsibility to ordinary, imperfect people like you and me.
Does the Bible spell it out more specifically or leave it up to us to work it out depending upon certain human factors such as who’s the more dominant personality, or who’s to lead according to the dictates of our particular culture?
Or what about the “no leader” approach – “all one, big, happy family”? This seems to be the popular choice of many families, particularly in western countries.
Recently I purchased Selwyn Hughes’ book, Marriage as God Intended. One of his chapters is entitled “Who’s in charge?” I was truly encouraged to read his clear, definitive, sensitive and biblical answer to the same question I’m raising in this reflection. (Please don’t stop reading at this point if you are thinking: “I know where this is heading, and I don’t agree!” Can I kindly encourage you to keep listening? Perhaps God may even have something new to say to you.)
In Selwyn Hughes’ chapter in a section with the sub-heading, “The husband – a loving leader,” he writes: “Paul in Ephesians makes it quite clear that God has given the husband the responsibility for leadership in the marriage. But note it has to be more than just leadership – it must be loving leadership. ‘Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church.’” (page 28)
Here then is the biblical answer: God has established the husband and father as the leader in the marriage and home. On the one hand, we cannot treat the question of leadership as a non-issue, but on the other hand, we also cannot use some human standard for the appointing of the leader, such as superior intelligence, or superior gifting, or superior personality, or superior status.
Is this biblical teaching the common practice in most Christian homes? What about those arrogant (Christian) men who take this teaching to mean that it’s all in their court, i.e. they don’t need to consult with or listen to the counsel of their wives? What about those men who lead their homes as mini-dictators? How do these examples sync with the biblical model of godly leadership?
Such questions really aren’t so difficult to answer. Take a good look at Jesus and the leadership He exercised over his disciples. It was strong and intentional but certainly never harsh. It was marked by love, compassion and care but also open and honest. It was disciplined and decisive, and counter-cultural. Above all, it was pre-eminently servant leadership.
Undoubtedly this is the model of leadership that lies at the heart of Paul’s teaching in the Ephesian epistle that Selwyn Hughes comments on. It’s God’s leadership paradigm for both husbands and wives – for believing husbands to become godly leaders, and for believing wives to become godly followers. Followership goes hand in hand with leadership, otherwise the word “leadership” makes no sense.
Paul’s teaching finds little support in post-Christian countries in the west. In fact, some people ridicule it outright. Consequently, not a few of us face daily pressures to fall into line with the current secular thinking about marriage. But if we give in to such pressure, our marriages and relationships at home can fall into the same broken cisterns that the world has dug for themselves through their rebellious attitudes towards God and His Word.
How many of us as God’s people allow ourselves to take on board such cynical views towards the teaching of the Bible in relation to marriage? We are continually encouraged to accept the common secular beliefs and practices about marriage and to treat Paul’s teaching as out of touch with our modern culture.
By God’s grace, early in our marriage Frieda and I chose to build our marriage and family on the foundation of God’s truth. Have we proven that God’s Word is true and fits with reality? We’ve proven that God’s pattern for roles in marriage – for leading and following and living as a team of co-workers – doesn’t only work but also produces much good fruit in life and relationships.
Please don’t read into this that we’ve obeyed God’s Word perfectly. Far from it! But as a husband and wife team who have sought to obey God’s Word even if very imperfectly, we are in no doubt about the truthfulness of God’s teaching on this particular topic.
However, it could be that you personally are still finding it hard-going to work out your leading and following roles in your marriage. Have you even been thinking of yourself as a failure – as a very poor leader or as a very difficult follower?
Dear sister, dear brother, we understand. We also have had our struggles along the way. In those early years of marriage, we both had “heart issues” that hindered our obedience to God’s Word. We battled with (battle with!) fears, pride, insecurities, sinful attitudes et al. But God in His great faithfulness kept moulding and shaping our individual lives so that we could become both leader and follower on the home front as He intended. His work is far from finished!
Allow me to close with a few simple words of counsel. Firstly, let’s keep reaffirming our personal conviction that regardless of the opinions of others, the Bible is for us God’s authoritative and trustworthy Word, and so we will read it, study it and obey it.
Secondly, let’s keep asking God to give us His wisdom, discernment, discipline and grace so that we can ride together as a couple riding a tandem bicycle – with the husband pedalling in front but enjoying the ride together with his wife.
Thirdly, when we find ourselves pedalling uphill (read: we’re finding it almost too hard to keep exercising our God-given responsibilities), let’s not jump off our bike in haste or disgust, saying: “It’s all too hard. I’m such a failure as a leader (husband) … as a follower (wife)”; or “it’s impossible to lead with the kind of attitudes my wife is dishing up to me” … or “I’ve tried so hard to do the right thing and follow my husband’s leadership – but what leadership!?!”
If you’re presently facing such a situation, we can certainly sympathise with you. However, stay on the bike and keep pedalling. Ask God for strength moment by moment, so you can keep going. He who established this order for our marriage roles is certainly able to help you no matter how difficult the situation may appear to you. And He will also reward you for your faithfulness.
Do YOUR part according to Ephesians 5:33 “However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” Then wait to see how God will work in the heart of your mate!
I know that several dear sisters who receive this reflection have the heartache of being unequally yoked. It could also be that other readers are married to a wife or husband whose heart has grown cold or hardened towards God’s truth, even though they profess to be Christians. For both Peter’s counsel in 1 Peter 3, vs.1-2 offers clear guidance: “Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.”
Dear brother, dear sister, do you really desire to know God’s shalom in your marriage relationship, even if you also know that it will be at times interrupted by those inevitable tensions and disagreements? I’m sure you do.
Then husbands, keep growing as godly leaders, submitting to Jesus, your loving Leader. And wives, keep growing as godly followers, submitting both to your husband and above all to Jesus who in all points submitted Himself to His loving Father.
Graham M. Roberts
Equip & Encourage International
22nd October, 2009