Men should lead…please. Further reflections

As promised I thought I’d post about my own struggles to apply these clear Biblical principles to my life.

There were many excuses I had for not being a leader. I didn’t like putting forward my opinion publicly where it could get shot down. I was and still am particularly sensitive to criticism. Similarly I used to lack the confidence in myself and my own abilities in spite of the fact people told me otherwise.

To make matters worse the male leadership models I grew up with in weren’t particularly styled in a way that I wanted to imitate. Consequently when I became a Christian I was heavily influenced by the blokes around me at the time. We were by all accounts fairly extreme and took what the Bible said seriously.

This was certainly the case with the roles of men and women. I was a bloke and it was my job to lead. However in an earnest sense to apply these principals and correct against the prevailing feminist view of relationships, I and many others ended up over correcting. Consequently many of the girls at our church were crushed, some left and we began to get a reputation for being ultra-conservative.

In my own life I had begun to date a girl. Things initally went well however once we were engaged and began looking at marriage the problems began. I tried to the best of my ability to lead her, asking her to submit to me in areas I thought were important. I asked for her to submit to me in areas that didn’t matter and wound up being incredibly selfish and unloving.I made many mistakes. The relationship unsurprisingly broke down and while it wasn’t totally my fault, I still bore ultimate responsibility for what happened.

So what has changed you ask? I wouldn’t say that my theological conviction has changed nor my certainty that men should lead in God’s created order. The application of it however has changed a great deal. I have spent the last two years thinking carefully about the whole issue, sorting out what battles are worth having. More importantly what battles aren’t worth having. I have been greatly changed and humbled. I have sort forgiveness from my ex and from God. I believe that I’m far better person for it. Our church has also undergone a time of repentance for the mistakes we made.

What does this now look like practically in the future? By God’s grace I won’t seek to crush my wife* into submission. Rather seek to earn her love and respect and engage in selfless action (just as Christ did for the church), laying down my life. I would seek to put my wife’s needs first, putting aside my wants, investing time, surrendering money and effort to work at the relationship. I would treat her with great tenderness, sensitivity not misusing my position to abuse, frustrate and embitter.

There would be an acknowledgement of equality in our relationship, at the same time recognizing the different roles we each have to play. My responsibility as the leader would mean ultimately I am accountable to God for the decisions we make together as a couple.

May God help all godly married men to be like this.

*More about single blokes leading later.



Chris said... 9/01/2006 1:56 pm  

well said. we would all do well to remember that ...

I think it's easy for those of us married guys to ignore the sentiments you expressed, especially if they come from somebody who's never BEEN married. But ... I think you have a fantastic handle on it. Just because it SOUNDS optimistic doesn't mean it's wrong, and don't let anybody tell you otherwise. You're spot-on - good on ya :)

Anonymous said... 9/01/2006 7:03 pm  

Mike, I imagine your comfortable with female leadership in secular contexts? But what is your opinion about male/female leadership in grey areas like theological colleges or para-church organisations? This is the really tricky area because I think, like you, that a reasonably strong case can be made for male leadership in the marriage and ‘church’ contexts.

Radagast said... 9/01/2006 7:55 pm  

Good post! We seem to be thinking in parallel.

C.S. Lewis says something somewhere about the two crowns a husband is entitled to wear -- with Eph 5:25 giving him the right to wear a crown of thorns. A lot of people read that verse without thinking through all the implications.

Once you've lost a foot and a hand defending your wife from a sabertoothed tiger, you've probably succeeded in getting her to accept your leadership role (and probably also succeeded in realising how much you depend on her help).

What do you think of Steve Farrar's Point Man, btw?

Jim said... 9/01/2006 10:46 pm  

This issue of male leadership in a Christian marriage is a tough one to always balance. I've been married now for just over three years. Like any married couple, my wife and I have had our ups and downs. It's funny - in most places in our relationship, I feel like my wife is far more qualified to lead than I am. She almost always seems to have a better understanding of most issues, she certainly has the drive a leader needs, and she simply has far more of the skills of a leader than I do. Yet she wishes me to lead, to step past my own insecurities and misgivings to take the lead in our marriage and relationship, both with God and with each other. It's intimidating and scary, and I'm still working out how to be a good leader for her. I suspect it's a lifelong process.

Luke S. said... 9/02/2006 6:35 pm  

Sounds like your on the right track Mike, thanks for the very honest post.

Its interesting to think about how often leadership as a topic comes up, but how little is actually discussed in terms of application, leaving people (especially guys) to learn their lessons the hard way, if at all..

A few random points..

- Leadership is often discussed & debated in a vacuum, removed from the context in which it is supposed to be applied (usually relationships). When this happens, and people are left to apply it for themselves, the results can be pretty worrying...

- Christians (esp twenty-somethings) are generally pretty crap at relationships anyway. So many people get burned. Instead of trying to sort this out, "leadership" gets lots of airtime, but its such an abstract concept that everyone can vaguely agree and no one has to actually do anything.

- When leadership is discussed, there's so much implied, or left out, particularly when you think about romantic/marriage relationships. Girl wants guy to lead her spiritually, but still wants to make all the other decisions in their life. Guy wants to 'lead' girl, but ends up overbearing and domineering. Both were trying to establish 'leadership' in their relp, but were pretty inept at it - how they relate in the first place is probably the bigger issue.

- Does 'leadership' do anything useful for couples with a healthy relationship anyway? If not, are the ingredients that go into a healthy relationship more important to who 'leads'?

While there are a lot of good, pragmatic things which come out of "leadership" (many of which you've encapsulated in your post Mike!), in general I always think there's a bunch of other, more important issues to do with relationships that go unsaid.

Its a topic that comes up a lot because its contenscious in our post-feminist societ and the bible has something to say about it, and in that sense it is important. But really though people find it interesting because it speaks about how we should relate in some of our most important relationships. Yet instead of, you know, actually talking about how well we relate in these relationships, we get these somewhat arbitrary, disproportionate debates about 'leadership'... cynical, me?! ;)

My random 2c anyway (and first comment here :) !

Laura said... 9/02/2006 10:49 pm  

Let's keep in mind that the REASON men are to lead in marriage is to show the world how Christ tenderly leads his Church! Went to a wedding this summer (er, mid-year) where the officiant jokingly said to the groom, "Your job is easy! All you have to do is act just like Christ!"

I would say it's not an unimportant issue as though Paul flipped a coin to see who he would say should lead. "Heads? All right, men it is! Which gives me an idea about a term for this... Headship!" What he really said was, "This is a great mystery, but I am referring to Christ and the Church!" I've found that the more seriously I take the purpose of marriage as a picture of Christ and the church, the more seriously I take God's roles for marriage.

And now, Mike, your beloved is here to pick me up for our day of lovely granola hippie fun.

mike said... 9/03/2006 4:32 pm  

Hey Jim I'm pleased to hear you struggle with the issue. I know that while I sometimes feel inadequate I work hard to be the Godly leader of my relationship that God wants me to be.

mike said... 9/03/2006 4:50 pm  

Thanks for your comment Luke S

Regarding point 1 I think overcome these we must model and teach (publicly) on leadership in our relationships.

Regarding point 2 lol I am only a twenty something :) . My feeling is that a bloke needs to lead his wife and family in a Godly way before being considered for leadership. (eg. 1 Tim 3)

Point 3 I think both parties need to have a shared view of biblical leadership. I have been blessed to have a girl who shares the view I advocate.

Point 4 I think the most healthy and best relationship is one that models biblical roles. I’m not saying other ways won’t work or don’t work rather that if God says it then it’s best.

Point 5 I’d like to hear what you have to say on this esp if you are older. As you pointed out I am young (and have much to learn).

Also feel free to email me personally if you’d like (see my profile)
Cheers Mike

mike said... 9/03/2006 5:05 pm  

Hey Luke I. I have no definitive answer for you but I know for me that it is the Pharisee within that asks “what is the least extent to which I can obey God”. For this reason I have initial feelings of uneasiness about saying women leading in secular contexts is always ok. But I need to think about it much more.

kerri m said... 9/06/2006 8:49 am  

Hey Mike - I´ve got heaps out of both your and Christine´s posts on headship and submission and how the whole relationship thing works - thanks for balancing out the theology with a bit of the practical and personal experience.

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