Sunday, December 23, 2007

Spiritual leadership

Over the past few weeks, the dw and a friend of hers have been engaged in a spirited discussion of what characteristics a man should have to be considered a "spiritual leader" in his home. I have, for the most part, simply sat on the sidelines of this discussion watching and being entertained by it. But it has caused me to do some thinking on the subject and to wonder if the reason why we often hear so much about husbands being the spiritual leaders of their homes is that modern-day pastors were simply too chicken to say that husbands were simply "the leaders" of their homes without the qualifier. That sounds all too plausible to me, given the direction of the wider church in the last 50 years or so. Maybe the whole "spiritual leader" bit is modern Christianity's concession to the feminist movement, seeking to maintain some level of biblical truth without making the whole thing seem so antiquated and patriarchal. Because after all, 1 Peter 3:1-6 seems to make it clear that male leadership and female submission are biblically defined roles even if the husband is an unbeliever.

At any rate, I have decided to leave the sidelines and join the game. Here's my take on what characteristics should be present in a Christian husband's life:
  1. A Christ follower. This may seem obvious, but too often I have seen Christian women marry ostensibly "Christian" men who show no evidence of commitment to Christ. There is no desire to grow in knowing Christ, no desire to serve Christ, and little interest in the things of God in far too many "Christian" homes. I feel great compassion for the women in these marriages, but I suspect that the men they married are very much like they were before the wedding. 1 Corinthians 7:39's statement about marrying "in the Lord" is meant, at least as I understand it, to be more than simply a box to check off on the way to the altar. A man who isn't "on fire" for Christ prior to the wedding very likely won't be afterward.
  2. Sexually pure. Our times have brought an explosion of opportunities for sexual immorality. And many men who are "physically pure" (i.e., they haven't had physical contact with anyone other than their wives) are nevertheless impure with their eyes and thoughts. 1 Corinthians 7:1-7 and Hebrews 13:4 should describe every Christian marriage, with Song of Solomon and Proverbs 5:15-19 the standard to strive toward.
  3. Self-sacrificial. Ephesians 5:25-33 says, in summary, that husbands must be willing to sacrifice themselves for their wives, just as Christ sacrificed himself for His bride, the Church. A lot of men would willingly lay down their lives and make the ultimate sacrifice if it came down to it, but too many of us relinquish our selfish desires while we remain alive only with great difficulty.
  4. Fiscally responsible. 1 Timothy 5:8 says a man must provide for his family's financial needs and that failure to do so is a denial of the faith.
To be clear, I don't think this is all that is expected of Christian men ever. I think that every man should strive toward the requirements for elder in 1 Timothy 3:1-7. But a man who meets the minimum standards outlined above should still earn the respect of his wife as a spiritual leader.

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