Be the Leader!
This post will be a bit different, as it will have individual viewpoints for both husband (from Justin) and wife (from Courtney) on the topic of spiritual leadership. It won’t be very in-depth, as there are just so many ‘but what about this?’ and ‘what if it’s this case?’ questions. That’s not to say we can’t or won’t write about those questions, but we’re writing this particular post to the average family of husband and wife, kids or no kids, that is as a whole seeking growth in their relationship with Christ.
Justin: Men, being the spiritual leader is quite hard, but it’s something we’re called to do. It’s an honor, and is a great opportunity to serve your wife, your family, and Jesus. I’m still new to this concept, and I’ve got it right at times and wrong at other times. I’ll try to explain spiritual leadership in light of what it’s NOT, by my observations.
–Being the spiritual leader does not make you a dictator. Consider this [shortened] analogy used by Emerson Eggerichs of Love & Respect Ministries: There are two Army Privates, (same class, same rank), stationed on the same base. A General comes through, and orders both Privates to detail his car, give it an oil change, etc. He points to one, and says ‘I want you to report back to me when it’s done’. He was given the responsibility of leading the group, even though the Privates have the same authority. Husbands, you have the responsibility of leading the family, especially spiritually. But this does not mean you can demand your way – Ephesians 5:33 states that husbands should love their wife as himself – so treat her with the respect you want yourself. Listen to her, and try to accommodate her requests if they are reasonable and on the right track. Make the decisions together if she is willing. Ephesians 5:25 gives an even greater perspective. It states that husbands should love their wives as Christ loves the church. Just as Christ came and served us despite His position of leadership, we need to serve our wives daily.
–Being the spiritual leader is not a part-time or day job. It’s your duty every waking minute. Guys, it’s much more than just taking your family to church on Sunday or praying over dinner. It’s being an example of a life changed by Christ. It’s being transparent (ooh, that’s the hard part, thanks to pride) with your personal challenges and struggles. It’s constantly growing yourself. It’s also like being a shepherd – you have to assess the spiritual growth of your flock (wife + kids). Talk with them, find out their struggles. Help them out. Encourage them, but let them learn on their own. Pray with them and for them. Have family prayer (not just for the food) – it shows the family it is important. Pray in faith for the miraculous – Matthew 21:21 states that if we have faith and speak over the situation, whatever we are praying for will happen. Pray for health issues in the family, pray for finances, whatever. Pray with your family, and your family will see the miracle of prayer when God provides.
–Being the spiritual leader is not a choice. It’s a hard job. Sometimes an undesirable job – many times the responsibility seems way too great for me to handle. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels that at times. But really, we’re in a battle right here, right now. Spiritual warfare is going on all the time, around us and in us. We have choices every day that can bring us closer to Christ or ruin our life. Equate it to a real battle: if you’re in charge, do you rally your troops and lead them? Or do you sit back and let them fight by themselves, with no leadership to encourage, motivate, or guide them? The wife can somewhat lead a family spiritually, but I believe God set up the husband as spiritual leader for reasons. It’s our duty to lead, as well as our command to lead. Taking a passive position is really just disobedience, and disobeying God doesn’t go very well. Most wives are willing and actually waiting for their husbands to step up and lead. If your wife isn’t, that’s not the end of this – you can still lead your kids, and you can certainly lead yourself and show her the changes Jesus Christ can bring in a person and a marriage.
So husbands, you know a bit more now hopefully. Put it into action today – have family devotions tonight, pray as a family for your situations, read the Bible out loud, ask your family one-on-one how they would like to grow spiritually, just do something! It’s gonna be hard, but it’s our duty and is our honor.
Courtney: We live in a culture where radical feminism, cultural feminism, female chauvinism, liberal feminism, socialist feminism, and other groups of feminists are on the rise. Most of us women who may not know much about these groups see it just as a channel or avenue to have the voices of different women heard, a way to get their opinion out, but I believe that they are groups that are going against the Word of God itself. The more days that pass and the more that I commit myself to living as Jesus instructed us, I can see just how accurate the Bible is, and how God really does have our best interest in mind. When He tells us to respect our husbands, to submit to our husbands, to obey His commandments, when He appointed the man as the head of the household, wouldn’t you think that He had a reason behind all of this? I believe that the women behind these groups are good-willed women, yet they do not understand ‘equality’ in its original nature or context.
Maybe you’re married to a man who is lost spiritually himself, who doesn’t know where to begin in His relationship with God, yet you are seeking God’s will and want to instill all that you know into your children, “before it’s too late”. Maybe your husband is a great spiritual leader yet because of the generation that you are a part of, you feel that you have a right to speak your mind and to be an ‘equal’ of your husband, that you are just as good as he is in every aspect of your relationship.
I grew up with a father who was growing in his relationship with God, but since my mom ran almost all other business in our household, my dad was afraid in a sense to step up and be such a role [or that is at least how it appeared to me]. I don’t know if he feared being disrespected by his wife, if he thought that his role wouldn’t be influential enough to teach his kids what was most important in this world, or if there was another reason. I do not believe however that he was ‘less’ than my mom, that he did not have as much knowledge or faith as she did. Possibly, it could just be that the role for him was never clearly defined by his father, so he does not know how to be that role in his own household now.
No matter where you’re at, no matter what you know or do not know on this subject, I’d like to share with you some insight from my limited perspective.
I love listening to and hearing and reading God’s Word, in any form. The more that I read it, the more that I enjoy it and desire to know more. But whenever I go a while without feeding myself with God’s Word, I realize later that the more I go without it, the less I feel that desire. Our former Bible school facilitator once illustrated a point to us when he mentioned that ‘when we feel hungry, we will continue to feel hungry, desiring food more and more, until we’ve gotten something to eat. But our hunger for the Bible or for things spiritual, that’s the opposite. If we’re not fed on a regular basis, that desire will fall away, and we will not even begin to realize it.’ I don’t know if any of you women have ever felt that you need someone to keep you accountable, but your husband is a good place to start if you have. I need someone to remind me of what to do, I need someone to let me know things that I can approve on, and I need someone to keep me spiritually hungry.
As your husband begins to step out and be the spiritual leader, DO NOT FORGET TO ENCOURAGE HIM. We can only imagine how big of a position this is, but we must understand that he has been called by God to do this, and we cannot change that as much as we’d like. In the Bible he is compared to Christ, how He is the head of the Church. Maybe you feel like you are deeper in your relationship with God, and you would be a better leader – if you truly believe that, then prove it. Prove it by praying to God to strengthen your husband, to build him into the man that He needs to be with the character of God himself. This is one of the only ways that you can help your husband, besides submitting to his authority in this aspect. Commit to praying for your husband like this, and you may even need to initiate some of your beginning activities as a family. Maybe ask your husband to pray before a meal, or ask him to begin as you go around the family and each say a little prayer. Or maybe bring him a variety of devotionals, asking him to pick one and share it with your children. Do not force a specific devotional on him, because most likely he will feel like you are deciding for him, or possibly even mothering him, which would still be making yourself the leader, not him. Encourage him with your words, your touch, your actions, and remember to give him options so that he does not feel forced into anything, and until he realizes his own style for leading things. This may result instead in him pushing farther away from this position if he feels forced.
“Wives, submit to your own husbands as to the Lord, for the husband is head of the wife as also Christ is head of the church. He is the Savior of the body. Now as the church submits to Christ, so wives should [submit] to their husbands in everything.” -Holman Christian Standard Version, Ephesians 5:22-24
Since I’ve only been married for a little over a year, I believe that I have not come to a full understanding yet of what it means to submit to our husbands, though I do have somewhat of an idea, as I have been trying to do this. It is not necessarily obeying what he says to do, but I think it is respecting his opinion, and trusting that he is seeking God in his actions. When I searched up the definition of submitting or submission, it said that it is to yield to or give over power or authority of another, to subject to an influence, and to present for consideration, approval or influence. We have an idea of what the first two definitions mean to us and how we can live these, but let’s take a look at the third, “to present for consideration, approval or influence”. I believe that, when we come to our husbands in reverence of his position, we are presenting ourselves as ones who respect his authority and the position that he holds in our families. We are showing ourselves as products of his spiritual leadership- this in itself is often times an encouragement, to see that he has done a job that has built you up, to bring you more into Christ’s character. We must show our husbands that we WANT their leadership in our lives, to show us the way to go, as the Church desires Christ to lead them.
“Wives, understand and support your husbands in ways that show your support for Christ. The husband provides leadership to his wife the way Christ does to His church, not by domineering but by cherishing. So just as the church submits to Christ as He exercises such leadership, wives should likewise submit to their husbands. Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ’s love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything He does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness. And that is how husbands ought to love their wives. They’re really doing themselves a favor—since they’re already ‘one’ in marriage.” -The Message, Ephesians 5:22-28
The BOTTOM LINE: Families need a spiritual leader – develop that system.