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03 June 2010

Responsibilities of Husbands

The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son (Matthew 22:2).

Marriage is a creation of God and is invested with extremely important symbolic meaning. If we understand this meaning we will have the model we need to practice marriage the way God intends.

In the passage cited above, Jesus teaches us to think of the kingdom of Heaven in terms of a royal marriage, and we learn from Revelation 21:9-11 that the culminating event of history is the wedding of Christ and the church. The Bible tells the long story leading up to this final event. It is the story of preparing the bride (a redeemed humanity) to be joined to God in marriage.

When God brought Israel to Himself at Sinai, it was described in terms of a wedding. This becomes explicit in later descriptions of that event (Ezekiel 16:6-14). Unfortunately, Israel was unfaithful to her Husband after only 40 days. Through the intercession of Moses we know that God took her back, but her adulteries continued to be legendary. The most amazing thing about the books that deal most directly with Israel’s adultery is not the unfaithfulness of man, but faithfulness of God and His promise to do something to make His bride faithful to Him (Ezekiel 16:60-63; Hosea 2:14-23). In the New Testament we learn how this was accomplished.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish (Ephesians 5:25-27). By the power of His sacrificial love the sinful bride is first purified and then made lovely beyond all description. On the last day when His redeeming love has accomplished its work, she will be unveiled and nobody will ask, “How could He marry her?” (Revelation 21:9-21). We are living in the age of her sanctification and looking toward the day for which the whole universe longs.

This means that marriage is about Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:32). Paul is teaching us how to think Biblically about the meaning of marriage and derive applications from this paradigm. The practical lesson is not that all grooms are perfect and all brides are harlots. However, husbands are called to love, lead and sacrifice for their wives. In other words, husbands are called to represent Christ in their marriage. As such, the following qualities should be present in the lives of all godly husbands:

Initiative -- In a Hebrew wedding ceremony, the bridegroom does not wait for the bride to come to him-- he goes and gets her. He takes the initiative. Again, this is what Jesus did for us. This is what masculinity looks like, it grasps the initiative. Sitting around squandering time is a functional denial of masculinity. This self-starting quality should be present in the male-female relationship from the first time he first asks her out, till he asks for her hand in marriage and through their lives together until they are parted in death. Men who hesitate to lead in marriage, whether out of fear of rejection or simple laziness, are poor representatives of Christ.

Authority -- For men to be Christ like in marriage requires authority and rule. It requires the will to make decisions that affect others. But it is paramount that husbands remember what authority is for. "For though I should boast somewhat more of our authority, which the Lord hath given us for edification, and not for your destruction . . ." (2 Corinthians 10:8). Jesus always uses His authority for the building up of His bride. Authority used to promote one’s own interests to the detriment of those under that authority abuse their right to rule.

Sacrifice -- A key characteristic of Christ’s relationship to the church is seen in His willingness to lay down His life. Not only did He do this at the climax of His life when He suffered on the cross, but He also did this throughout the course of His perfect sacrificial life. It is impossible to die well without living well. And in that "incident" over the checkbook, or the kitchen sink, or the misplaced receipt, a man is "telegraphing" his willingness or unwillingness to die for his wife. As the saying goes, “Everyone wants to save the world, but nobody wants to help mom with the dishes.” But, true sacrifice is as evident at the kitchen sink as it is in “taking a bullet” to spare her life.

Responsibility -- Christ did not just die instead of His bride, He died on account of His bride. Jesus bore our weaknesses and was bruised for our iniquities. A husband cannot ever speak of her problems in the second person. In taking a bride a man assumes responsibility not only for himself, but for his wife as well. Her mistakes and shortcomings have to be reckoned as his own. One of the bone headed things I see husbands do regularly, is pass the blame for various household failures on to their wives. The Christian husband bears the brunt of whatever shame or shortcomings befall his home.

When husbands refuse to conform themselves to these qualities it is more than just sinning against some particular law here or there. It is a lie about Christ because through our marriages, in a mysterious way, we are speaking about Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:32).

Lawrence Kelley
October 2006

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