Preserving the Family in a Disintegrating Society (2)
Written by Jack Westerink
|Reformed Practice - The Family|
Lack of Leadership in the Church and Home
Men are to be the leaders when the church meets for corporate worship. That was true for the Jewish worship in the temple and the synagogue, and that continues to be true for the New Testament church (1 Tim.2: 8-15). But, not every man is qualified for leadership in the church. Timothy lays out very clearly what the qualifications are for elders (1 Tim.3: 1-7) and deacons (1 Tim.3: 8-13). Male leadership is becoming scarce in churches and homes today. Because of this, women office bearers are rapidly invading mainline Protestant denominations, filling the void that men have left. While not every man is qualified to be a leader in the church, every man is called to be a leader in his home. He is to be the head of his wife (Eph.5: 22-24), and a father to his children (Eph.6: 4).
It is not enough to say that husbands should love their wives. Husbands must love their wives as Christ loved the church (Eph.5: 25). There is a parallel here that must be closely studied and understood. Christ is the head of His church. As the head, He assumes responsibility for His church. Although Christ could not be blamed for the sins of His church, He assumes responsibility for their sin. He gave His life for it as a sacrifice for their sin. In like manner a husband is the head of his wife. As the head of his wife, he assumes responsibility for his wife and for his family. The husband is responsible for:
(1)preserving the marriage relationship;
A husband might think it is not fair to have to assume responsibility for these areas, but if we follow the parallel, Christ never says it is unfair for Him to assume responsibility for the sins of His people. Biblical headship means that a man must be willing to place the interests of his wife and his family above his own. He is not an individual, but a leader, the head of the family. This entails self-denial. “Biblical headship is simply the exercise of a God-given authority whereby a man does all that is within his power to see that love, justice, and mercy rule in his home, even where fostering such qualities requires his own personal sacrifice” (Chapell, p.68; cf. Mic.6:8).
Young men need a clear role model in their father so that they can learn by experience what it means to be a Christian husband and father. The visual groove is deepened in a boys mind, and it becomes the standard or norm for him when he sees his father sacrificially loving his wife.
The problem today is not so much that women are unwilling to submit to their husbands, as that husbands are often unwilling to assume responsibility for their wives and children. Men have a need to feel adequate, competent, and respected. The worst fear of a man is to be considered inadequate, incompetent, and belittled. Nagging and criticizing a husband for his lack of leadership will only drive him further away. A submissive wife needs to encourage her husband, build him up, and respect him.
What are we doing in our homes to equip our boys to become heads of households? Are we teaching our boys to respect women and to protect them? Do we teach our boys to pray, and do we help them to develop skills in leading devotions so they may become leaders in their homes? Are we teaching our boys to take responsibility for their actions and behaviour? We need to stop making excuses for them. We need to stop covering up for them.
Feminism Affects Our Thinking
The first stage of what we call the “feminist movement” took place in the late 19th century to early 20th century when women were granted political, social, and economic rights (the right to vote, own property, education, and access to professions). We all surely sympathize with the end of legal discrimination against women, and wish for them to have equal opportunities. In most cultures of the ancient world, women were treated not much better than servants. This practice can still be found in many third-world cultures today. Even in our modern society, women are frequently viewed primarily as sex objects who exist for the sensual pleasures of men. It is only because of the influence of Christianity that women were elevated to a position never known before in the ancient world. Men and women are considered equal before God. Spiritual value, spiritual blessings, privileges and worthiness before God, are given equally to men and women. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal.3: 28).
The feminist movement didn’t stop at ending discrimination and giving equal opportunities to women. The second stage of the feminist movement took place in the 1960’s and 1970’s, and aimed to liberate women from their womanhood (marriage, motherhood, homemaking). Author Simone de Beauvoir and feminist leader Betty Friedan were the first to popularize this view. Whenever a full-time mother says, “I’m only a housewife,” she is repeating Friedan’s philosophy. Their influence can be seen in public school textbooks and readers today; it is hard to find a single picture depicting the work that women do as wives and mothers. That information is being carefully and systematically removed from our cultural record. The truth is that most women do not wish to be liberated from their essential natures as women. Most women love being mothers and wives (MacArthur, pp.10, 11).
Radical Feminism has been promoted by leaders such as Germaine Greer (Sharon James, p.36). The end goals of Radical Feminism are the abandonment of marriage, liberation from childbearing, and sexual liberation. All women must achieve financial independence with a satisfying lifelong career. By the year 2000, the Radical Feminist movement finally collapsed. The maternal instinct that was put there by God was too strong, and the urge to be a good mother has won out. But feminist ideas have taken root in much of our thinking. Some mainline Protestant churches even promote an evangelical form of feminism.
Since man was created first, he was given headship over the woman and over creation. The fact that Adam named Eve, manifested his authority over her (Gen.2: 23; 3:20). This headship over Eve was a demonstration of his love for her; and the submission of Eve was a demonstration of her love for him. Eve’s role was to defer to Adam’s care, protection, and leadership. She was to be a helper, suitable for him (Gen.2: 20).
The curse on Adam after the fall was that he would have to work against a fallen creation in order to survive--there would be thorns, thistles, and sweat (Gen.3: 17-19). He would eventually die and return to dust. Eve’s curse was that she would have painful childbirth and she would have to submit to the rule of her husband. “Thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee” (Gen.3: 16). “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing” (Eph.5: 22-24; cf. Col.3: 18; I Pet.3: 1-6).
It is a fact that some women have superior abilities, intellect, maturity, and spirituality than some men. A church may even have women who are better Bible students, better theologians, or better speakers than men. But if those women are obedient to God’s principle of headship and submission, they will not try to usurp the God-ordained chain of authority. “But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence” (1 Tim.2: 12; cf. 1 Cor.14: 33-35).
Women still have a God-ordained important role in the church. There are both Old Testament and New Testament examples of women who proclaimed the good tidings (Ps.68: 11; Prov.31: 26; Joel 2:28, 29; Luke 1: 46-55; 2: 36-38), women who prayed in public (Acts 1: 13-14; 1 Cor.11: 5), and women who taught others (Acts 18:24-26; Titus 2:3-5). But there are no biblical examples where this was done in the context of the public worship service. Women can teach other women (Titus 2:3-5), they can teach children (Prov.1: 8, 6:20), and perform practical works of mercy (Acts 9:36-43; 1 Tim.5: 10; Acts 9:39). Women performed a type of diaconal role in the New Testament church. The apostle Paul mentions the names of many women who were active in the church (Rom.16: 1-7, 12-15; Phil.4: 2,3). But the Bible is clear that women are never to be appointed as elders, overseers, bishops, presbyters, or pastors.
God the Father gave His only beloved Son as a sacrifice for His church (John 3:16). Christ so loved His Father that He readily submitted to doing His Father’s will and willingly gave His life for the church (Eph.5: 25). The Church’s love for Christ brings it into willing obedience by keeping His commandments (John 14:15). The love that a husband has for his wife (Eph.5: 28-33a) makes him willing to deny and sacrifice himself for her. Because of a self-denying love, the wife willingly submits to her husband, out of respect for him, not out of fear (Eph.5: 33b). Because the wife feels safety and security under the love and headship of her husband, she is now freed to love her family, and to care for them.
Society today promotes individualism, and thus a breakdown of the family unit. We are all encouraged to do our own thing, and pursue our own individual goals and interests. But this is not the biblical order. Man and woman form a complementary team--headship and nurturing are complimentary. Man’s headship does not make him independent of the woman. Nor does the woman’s submission make her the only dependent one. They are mutually dependent (1 Cor.11: 11,12). Breaking down this interdependence is the ruination of marriage.
When our children go to university and college, they will not be attacked so much for their Christian beliefs, but they will be drenched in unbiblical thinking such as Radical Feminism. What are we doing to instruct our daughters in the proper roles God has given them in the church? How are we counteracting the continuing influence of feminism today? There is no one stereotype of a “good Christian woman” (Sharon James, God’s Design for Women: Biblical Womanhood for today, p.90). Are we encouraging them to teach Sunday school, lead women’s Bible studies, teach at the Christian school, work at orphanages, women’s shelters, homes for unwed mothers, visit the sick, direct the choir, show hospitality to visitors or guests, counselling, etc.?
Are we role modeling and being the personal embodiment of what we want to see in our children? I’d rather see a sermon, than hear one any day.
James, Sharon. God’s Design for Women: Biblical Womanhood for today. Darlington, England: 2002.
MacArthur, Jr., John. Different By Design: Discovering God’s Will for Today’s Man and Woman. Wheaton, Illinois: Victor Books, 1994.
Jack Westerink was the principal of Rehoboth Christian School in Copetown, ON and is an elder in the Hamilton Free Reformed Church. This article was previously printed in the FRC Messenger and is republished here with permission.