Thursday, March 23, 2006

Kuwait: The Roles of Husband and Wife - Talk

The Young Adults in Christ Fellowship (YAFC) Kuwait

"The Family Talks – March & April 2006"

The Young Adults in Christ Fellowship group of the Catholic Holy Family Cathedral Church, Kuwait City

Talk III

The Roles of Husband and Wife

The following is the summary of the third of a series of family talks organized by the Young Adults in Christ Fellowship (YAFC) at the Holy Family Cathedral Premises, Kuwait. This talk was given on 17th March, 2006 by Mr. Ferdy of Couples for Christ (CFC), Kuwait, on the topic of "The Roles of Husband and Wife in a Marriage".

When two people enter into marriage, both are cast into a new role different from any role they have ever been in before and their respective roles are clearly defined and outlined in the Scriptures. Up to this time they have been just a man and woman like all other men and women. But now, that man, is no longer just a man, but he is a husband with certain fixed and clearly defined duties and responsibilities toward that certain woman he has taken to be his wife. That woman, is no longer, just a woman, but she is now a wife with clearly defined duties and responsibilities toward the man she has chosen to be her husband. Below is an outline of the responsibilities and needs of both husbands and wives.

Biblical Responsibilities of the Husband

Responsibility #1: Be a leader

In his commentary on Ephesians, William Hendriksen points out that God "...placed ultimate responsibility with respect to the household on the shoulders of the husband ...” "Head" does not mean male dominance, where a man lords it over a woman and demands her total obedience to his every wish and command. The tendency of men is to flaunt their strength in ways that dominate women, and thus to exploit women's weakness. Such "strength" loses its attractiveness fast. A husband uses his strength as God intended by working for the protection of his wife and children, by shielding them from hardship and harm whether physical, emotional or spiritual, and overall by guiding the home with consideration for them. God never viewed women as second-class citizens. His Word clearly states that we are all equally His children and are of equal value and worth before Him. The teaching of the New Testament clearly shows that women are to be respected, revered, and treated as equals with men. When God presented Eve to Adam in the Garden, Adam received her as a gift of great value to God and him. When husbands, particularly Christian husbands, do not treat their wives as a precious gift from God and helpmate, they can cause those wives to search for a way to find significance and value as persons, often outside God's will.

Are you a leader? Men who are "natural" leaders have no trouble answering: “yes”. They know how to take over, control, guide, and get things done. Some men are not strong or natural leaders. How can they lead in the home? Paul says the same to everyone. God has placed the husband in the position of responsibility. It does not matter what kind of personality a man may have. Your wife may be resisting you, fighting you, and spurning your attempts to lead, but it makes no difference. Wives want husbands and need them to lead. You are not demanding this position; on the contrary, God placed you there. You may not lead her perfectly, but you must ‘lead’ never-the-less.

Scripture does more than assign leadership in a marriage to the husband. The Apostle Paul says that the husband is head of the wife as Christ is head of the church. "This comparison of the husband with Christ reveals the sense in which a man should be his wife's "head." Hendriksen writes, "He is her head as being vitally interested in her welfare. He is her protector. His pattern is Christ Who, as head of the Church, is its Savior!"

Responsibility #2: Love your wife unconditionally

Ephesians 5:25 reads, "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her." Your unconditional acceptance of your wife is not based upon her performance, but on her worth as God's gift to you. If you want to love your wife unconditionally, always be sure her emotional tank is full. One of the best ways to do that is to affirm her constantly. Let her know verbally that you value her, respect her, and love her. There is no question that words communicate love, but so do actions. You need to do both. As the Apostle John wrote in one of his letters: "let us not love with words or tongue, but with actions and in truth" (1 John 3:18). One of the missing ingredients in male leadership in homes is sacrificial action. When was the last time you gave up something for your wife—something you genuinely valued, like your golf game, a fishing trip, or your hobby? Sometimes you need to give up something you enjoy so your wife can have a break and see your love for her.

Responsibility #3: Serve your wife

According to the New Testament, being head of your wife does not mean being her master, but her servant. Again, Christ is our model for this type of leadership. Jesus did not just talk about serving; He demonstrated it when he washed His disciples' feet (John 13:1-17). Christ, the Head of the Church, took on the very nature of a servant when He was made in human likeness (Philippians 2:7).

One of the best ways to serve your wife is to understand her needs and try to meet them. Do you know what your wife's top three needs are right now? If she is a young mother, she has a certain set of basic needs. If your children are grown and gone and you are in the empty nest, your wife has a different set of needs that you should try to meet. What is she worried about? What troubles her? What type of pressure does she feel? Learn the answers to questions like that, and then do what you can to reduce her worries, her troubles, her pressures. What do you know about your wife's hopes and dreams? I bet she has plenty—do you know what they are? Are you cultivating her gifts? If she has a knack for decorating, do you help her develop that?

Another way to serve your wife is to provide for her. This provision first involves assuming responsibility for meeting the material needs of the family. 1 Timothy 5:8 tells us, "But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever." Providing for your wife also means taking the initiative in helping meet her spiritual needs. You do this by modeling godly character, by praying with her, by spending time together in God's Word, and by looking for ways to encourage her spiritually.

To be a leader, a lover, and a servant is to accommodate your life to the life of the gift God has given you—your wife. Give up your life for hers and, at the Judgment Seat of Christ, He will say, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant."

What then are the needs of a wife?

1. A wife needs someone who understands her.

"Likewise ye husbands dwell with them according to knowledge..." (1 Peter 3:7). This Scripture speaks to the tendency of a husband to be preoccupied with interests outside of his home and marriage and to ignore things about his wife which are important to her. Every woman has habits, fears, tendencies, likes, and dislikes. In marriage, she feels the need to be understood, and the husband demonstrates his understanding of her by living with consideration toward her. Spend quality time talking and listening to your wife. Stay focused at all times to what she has to say. This is what your wife wants – your undivided attention.

2. A wife needs someone who accepts her as she is.

This is but an extension of the need to be understood. The Scriptures speak of the intimacy of marriage as "knowing" one another. Marriage is disclosure, letting each other know the heart and mind -- "the real you." Such disclosure can be either painful or wonderful, depending on acceptance. A husband sends clear messages of rejection to his wife by such actions as comparing her negatively with other women, ridiculing her personality, and overloading her with responsibility and then criticizing her for failure. Acceptance does not mean approving of everything a wife does or is, but it recognizes a wife's unique personhood and gives her the support to become all that God intended her to be.

3. A wife needs someone who cherishes her.

This is again a step beyond accepting. Both accepting a wife and cherishing her depend upon understanding her. Cherishing is but another way of saying a wife needs to be loved. Love is probably the most basic need of a wife in marriage. And certainly it is no accident that repeatedly in the New Testament the instruction to the husband is "Love your wife." Your wife needs also to experience the tender affection of her husband. She needs the security of being held close to the heart of her husband, not as a mere plaything, but because she is counted dear and priceless.

We should note here that meeting these first three needs is a cumulative process. Each depends on the former. A husband cannot accept his wife if he does not understand her, and he cannot cherish her if he does not understand and accept her.

4. A wife needs someone who is faithful.

Intimate love calls for the exclusion of all others. Thus, there is a very proper jealousy in love which says, "I belong to you, and you belong to me." A wife needs the security not only that her husband loves her, but that he loves no one else in the same way. Of course, there is an improper jealousy rooted in selfishness. This jealousy demonstrates itself in suspicion and fear, and in effect, puts a stranglehold on a husband. But nonetheless, a wife needs a faithful husband, and a husband who understands this need in his wife carefully guards her trust. He does not flirt with other women nor look at raunchy magazines. He guards his eyes, his humor, his heart. And he focuses his love faithfully upon the ONE woman in the world who is his wife.

The Role of the wife

Responsibility #1: Be Helpers to your Husbands

While all of us are called to be helpers to others, the Bible places a special emphasis on this responsibility for wives. Genesis tells us that God realized it wasn't good for man to be alone, and that He decided to make a "helper suitable for him" (Gen. 2:18). It is interesting to note that the Hebrew meaning of the word helper in this passage is found hereafter in the Bible to refer only to God as He helps us. The fact that this same word is applied to a wife signifies that we women have been given tremendous power for good in our husbands' lives. God has designed wives to help their husbands become all that God intends for them to be.

This does not mean the wife is a tagalong, someone who comes in handy at times, but that she was designed to fill a necessary role as man's mainstay. Her mind, her will, her energies are hers to use, not in competition with him, but in union with him to complement his mind, his will, and his energies. Certainly, much of the wife's potential to encourage and support depends upon the husband's willingness to talk and work together. But a wise wife will recognize that every husband has weaknesses, and she will not allow her support and encouragement to mope continually at the foot of his failures. She will instead clearly ally herself with him so that both his strengths and his weaknesses are improved by her presence in his life. A very practical way in which a wife can encourage her husband is by her gratitude. Her smile, her expressions of thanks, her willingness to find joy even in difficult circumstances will fill one of the most basic needs in his life. Every husband wants his wife to be on his team, to coach him when necessary, but most of all to be his cheer-leader. A husband needs a wife who is behind him, believing in him, appreciating him, and cheering him on as he goes out into the world every day.

Responsibility #2: Respect your Husbands

In Ephesians 5:33, Paul says, "…the wife must respect her husband." When you respect your husband you reverence him, regard him, honor him, prefer him, and esteem him. When you need your husband’s help on some issue or chore, ask for it lovingly.

Respect also means valuing his opinion and, admiring his wisdom and character and, appreciating his commitment to you.

Responsibility #3: Intimately Love your Husbands

Wives love your husbands unconditionally, understanding fully well that he is an imperfect person. Love also means being committed to a mutually fulfilling sexual relationship. We are looking at how to fulfill God's command to love our husbands. Therefore, we must look at love from their (husband’s) perspective, not just our own. When a wife resists intimacy, is uninterested, or is only passively interested, her husband may feel rejection. It will cut at his self-image, tear at him to the very center of his being, and create isolation. It means I save some of my energy for him. It keeps me from being selfish and living only for my own needs and wants. Maintaining that focus helps me defeat isolation in our marriage.

Responsibility #4: "Submit" To the Leadership of your Husbands

Just mention the word "submission," and many women immediately become angry and even hostile. This controversial concept has been highly debated and misunderstood. Some husbands and wives actually believe submission indicates that women are inferior to men in some way. Some women think that if they submit they will lose their identity and become "non-persons." Others fear (some with good reason) that submission leads to being used or abused. Another misconception is that submission means blind obedience on the part of the woman. She can give no input to her husband, question nothing, and only stay obediently barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen. What does God have in mind? The Scriptures make it clear that a wife should submit voluntarily to her husband's sensitive and loving leadership. Therefore, as I voluntarily submit to my husband, I am completing him. I am helping him fulfill his responsibilities, and I am helping him become the man, the husband, and the leader God intended him to be.

Building oneness in marriage works best when both partners choose to fulfill their responsibilities voluntarily, with no pressure or coercion. To become the servant-leader God has commanded him to be, my husband needs my gracious respect and submission. And when my husband loves me the way he is commanded to, I can more easily submit myself to that leadership. I do this with an attitude of entrusting myself to God. Husbands, remember that when your wife sees you submitting to Christ in all situations, her submission to you will come naturally. In one of his letters, Peter told us that even though Jesus suffered terrible pain and insults, He did not retaliate "but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously" (1 Peter 2:23). When you entrust your life to the Father, it's much easier to be the wife of an imperfect man, particularly when you may have disagreements.

A Special Note: Some of you may live with abuse or in excessively unhealthy and destructive conditions in your marriage. At times, it may be inappropriate or even life-threatening for you to apply unquestioningly the principles of submission. For example, if you are being physically or verbally abused. If you are in that situation, please discerningly seek out your pastor or someone wise who has been trained to help with your specific issue.

The Basic Needs of a Husband

In many ways, the needs of a husband are the counterpart to the needs of his wife. God made the woman with a view to male needs and thus He equipped her with just the proper resources for meeting those needs. So just what are the needs of a husband?

1. A husband needs someone who depends on him.

God has given to the man the responsibility of leadership in the home. There is something about the dependence of a wife which calls to the manliness of her husband. His very malehood wants to provide, to nurture, to care for, and to protect; and he finds satisfaction and fulfillment in meeting the needs of his wife. Even as the husband can misuse his strength to dominate, so the woman can misuse her weakness and dependence to manipulate. Many are the women who have used their tears, their headaches, and their whining to play upon the malehood of their husbands in order to get their own way. Such "weakness" gets old fast. A wise wife allows her husband to be her provider, but does not control him from beneath.

2. A husband needs someone who accepts him as he is.

Everyone has a basic need for acceptance, and inasmuch as marriage is the deepest level of human friendship, it has the most potential for meeting that need. It likewise has the greatest potential for rejection. Nagging, criticism and discussing a husband's failures with others are probably the two most common ways a wife signals rejection of her husband. Acceptance, as noted earlier, does not necessarily mean complete approval. It does mean recognizing a person for who he is, as opposed to fighting that reality, and supporting him in becoming all that God intends him to be.

3. A husband needs his wife's womanhood in the home atmosphere.

"Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands" (Proverbs 14:1). "The aged women likewise . . that they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home..." (Titus 2:3-5). While the husband is responsible for leadership in the home, he is inadequate by himself to build the home. He needs the womanhood of his wife to establish an atmosphere of order, beauty, cleanliness, and care. Contrary to modern thought, homemaking is not a dull, servile work for lower-intelligence women; it is a full-time, lifetime responsibility which demands creativity, intelligence, and management skills of the highest caliber. The womanhood of a wife is in many ways the heart of the home and, as such, is the fulfillment of her husband; and the career-minded wife leaves a void both in her home and in her husband which nothing can replace.

4. A husband also needs someone who is faithful.

Fidelity is imperative on both sides of the marriage relationship. Even as faithful love stirs the sweetest emotions in human relationships, so unfaithfulness stirs the bitterest emotions. There is probably nothing so devastating to a marriage as the realization that a third party has invaded the sacrosanct realm of intimacy. Wives need faithful husbands; husbands need faithful wives. A godly wife will guard her manners, her speech, and her appearance, reserving her womanly charm and beauty for her husband alone. "In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; but (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works" (1 Timothy 2:9,10).

Understanding one another's needs in marriage is the first step love takes toward meeting those needs. If we focus on our needs rather than on those of our partner, we may easily stumble in self-pity rather than move ahead in love. Much of the success in marriage depends upon the willingness to give ourselves to meeting the deepest needs of one another.

This is the exercise of love, and love is the cement of marriage.


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