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Volume 7, Issue 1: Husbandry

Men Without Chests

Douglas Wilson

At least one obvious difference stands between an ancient pagan home and one belonging to a modern pagan. In the ancient Roman world, for example, the paterfamilias was the head of the home. Because he was pagan, he led his family in error, and if the message of Christ came to him, he was used by God to lead his family out of that error. In the first century, the normal pattern was for the head of the house to be converted to the Christian faith, and his household would follow almost immediately after. The ancient heads of households could readily say with Joshua, "as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord" (Josh. 24:15). This was God's pattern (Eph. 5:22ff.).

The modern world is quite different. Here it is every man for himself, and devil take the hindmost. The modern man is certainly very male , but when it comes to the biblical definition of masculinity , the husbands of our culture have fallen far short of God's standard. This means that any faithful presentation of the Christian message to them must include the necessity of repentance at the heart of the matterand the widespread rebellion against masculinity is at the heart of the matter. In any culture, a superficial demand for repentance will always be readily understood, and commonly applauded. A radical and biblical demand for repentance, in contrast, will frequently require a turning away from those things we all assumed to be good . "For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God" (Luke 16:15).
As an example of this, the message of Jesus Christ confronts the modern unbelieving husband at three key places. They are, in turn, a rebuke of the modern man's refusal to think seriously about religion, his refusal to represent his household in spiritual matters, and his refusal to love God and his neighbor.
The refusal to think: When considering spiritual issues, it is commonly thought by nonbelievers that spontaneity and simplicity are greatly to be desired. But Christianity is a serious and demanding religion. The greatest commandment in Scripture includes the requirement that we love God with all of our minds . Men who are contemplating a conversion to Christ should begin by reading the Bible, and should submit themselves to a serious preaching ministry of the Word. Questions should be asked in all seriousness, and not from a desire to keep the point of decision at arm's length. Serious books about the doctrine and practice of biblical Christianity should be thoughtfully read. (See a suggested reading list in this issue's Ex Libris. )
The refusal to lead: At the heart of Christian theology is the doctrine of covenant. God's promises are made to His people on the basis of His redeeming covenant, and He has created our race with a covenantal "molecular" structure. That structure is the family . Modernity notwithstanding, the husband and father of any given family stands before God as the covenantal head of that family. If he is an unbeliever, he stands before God as an unbelieving husband and father . It is easy to say that one wants the children "to make their own decision," but to do so is rebellion against God.
The refusal to love: This refusal to love has been masked through a good deal of sentimentalism. When men refuse to follow Jesus Christ in His love for His bride, they usually substitute some counterfeit of that love. In our era, this counterfeit is a sentimental and romantic attachment to wife and familybinding as long as the sentiment lasts. When someone remains sentimentally attached for life, he is considered lucky, not covenantally faithful. Unbelieving men must know that God requires them to love their wives. The biblical pattern for this is how Christ loved the church, and not how the prince loved Sleeping Beauty.
The tragedy is that if modern husbands think about their sin at all, it is usually in terms of the details of sin. Instead of lamenting the heart of their rebellion against God, they concentrate on the periphery of their sin. This is because it is in the peripherals that sin often becomes a nuisance, and it is easy to "get religious" in order to clean up the peri-meters of one's soul. But the Bible requires the service and worship of the entire man, and his entire family . The central problem is not sin in sex and cigarettes; it is the refusal to be a biblical man. Such a refusal does bring on genuine sin at the perimetersin that God will judgebut the gospel still aims at the center.
The demand for a biblical repentance brings the problem centerstage. In another era, a man could come to faith as the Philippian jailor did and rejoice as his family came with him. In our day, if a man were to say, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord . . ." his wife might stare at him as though he were insane, while a surly teenager would mutter under his breath in the background. This state of things requires repentance.
We thank God that He freely gives true repentance for any sin, including this. God has established His Son as Redeemer of all nations, kingdoms, tribes, clans, and families . The Christian church has been charged to take this message to all the families of the earth. In Abraham, "all the families of the earth shall be blessed" (Acts 3:25). The fact that modern non-Christian husbands have sinfully allowed their families to be scattered makes this task more difficult, but by no means is it impossible.
The way back, for you and your household, is offered in Christ Jesus.

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