Volume 7, Issue 1: Husbandry
Men Without Chests
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.