Gospel-Shaped Families (pt 2): Husbands

In my last post, I started looking at gospel-shaped families from Colossians 3: “Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, lestthey become discouraged” (3:18-21). We began by looking at wives from verse 18. In this post, we turn our attention to fathers from verse 19.

The Gospel-Shaped Family Will Be Seen in Loving Husbands

In verse 19, Paul says, Husbands,love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.”  What does it means to be harsh with your wives?  I think it picks up on what he has just said about submission. Husbands, the first we need to say is that the Bible nowhere tells you to enforce the command to submit to your wives.  So, the words, ‘Don’t you know that you’re supposed to submit to me!’ should never be coming out of your mouths. Remember, the command was addressed to wives, not husbands about wives.

Paul doesn’t want husbands to hear ‘wives be submissive’ and continue on in the culture way of things, ruling as heads of the home with little concern for their spouses.  The verb that is here translated as ‘be harsh’ has as its basic meaning, ‘make bitter.’  When we understand that a picture immediately comes to mind of a husband who care little for the welfare of his wife and is only concerned that things happen the way they want.  He believes that he is in charge of the home and he makes it clear to his wife.  The result is a wife who isn’t happy to see her husband come home at the end of the day, nor really cares for him at all, but is instead bitter at him and the situation in which she exists.

I’m sure we could think of plenty of modern examples, but my mind always goes to Archie Bunker.  David Garland apparently feels the same way ecause he provides an excellent example from the show, All in the Family in his commentary on Colossians. In one episode, his wife Edith tries to class up the home by making fancier food. Instead of bacon and eggs, she makes Archie a soufflé. If you’ve seen the show, it’s not hard to imagine his reaction.  He completely turns his nose up at the new dish—which he can’t even pronounce—and demands his regular bacon and eggs.  Edith, always wanting to please her husband, proceeds to scurry back into the kitchen, dumping the whole soufflé in the trash.  Their daughter, Gloria, is watching the whole thing and is just incensed—can’t believe it!  And she starts ranting, ‘Submitting to him. . . that’s what she’s doing. Submitting to her ruler . . . her lord and master.’  To which, Archie respond, ‘Ain’t that a nice way of putting it?’

That picture of a husband doesn’t reflect life in Christ.  And Paul makes it clear that’s not the kind of husbands Christian men are supposed to be.  instead, they are to love their wives, not being harsh with them.  It’s interesting is that in Greco-Roman culture, we can similar lists of instructions for family life. However, nowhere are husbands commanded to love their wives as Paul does here.  The apostle is striking a chord against the culture of the day, emphasizing that husbands are to reflect the gospel just as wives are.  For them, that means loving their wives.

But what does that mean?  Martin Luther once said, “The Christian is supposed to love his neighbor, and since his wife is his nearest neighbor, she should be his deepest love.”  That’s getting us closer to understanding this command. But what we really need to know is the standard of love is which Paul is calling us as husbands.  While, I think you can build an implied case for what the standard of love is from Colossians, elsewhere in Ephesians, Paul makes it explicitly clear.  He says,Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (5:25).  It’s Christ himself and his love for the bride, the Church, that become the standard for how husbands are to love their wives.

So when we think about how we should treat our wives, how we should communicate them, spend time with them, and love them, it’s not enough to do what our dads did, or what our grandpas did.  It’s not enough to look around us at what other men are doing. It’s not even enough to get a Christian book on being a husband, as helpful as all of those thing might b. Instead, the most important thing to do is to reflect on the gospel.

The supreme act of Christ’s love for the church is seen in his willingness to die for her.   Jesus left the glories of heaven, took on human flesh, identified with sinful humanity, and then willing offered himself as a sacrifice to appease God’s wrath against the sins of his people.  This is how sinful, rebellious people like you and me are made right with God.  Like a dirty, ignorant girl prostituting herself out to other gods, we were in desperate need of s Savior.  and Christ came to be that Savior. He found us in our need, died in our place, and rose back to life that might be cleaned from the filth of our sin, given an knowledge of God, and be captivated by the love of the one, true God so as to leave all our idols behind.

It’s that kind of love that should be our example, men.  Most of you will never be able to physically give up your life to save your wife’s life.  None of you will be able to atone for her sins like Christ did, but there is still a principle of sacrifice here. It’s a principle that says her needs come before my needs.  Making sure she is happy and feels loved and respected comes before I think about what I want or think I need.  It means you are concerned for her spiritual health as much as her physical health, and you’re willing to give up things you like to ensure she’s provided for.  It means you never think about going for her body before you go after her heart.  love and love-making are not the same thing. Show her love by sacrificing for her: helping her, serving her, putting her first in the marriage; not just with words, but actions.

At the same time, it doesn’t mean that the wife actually rules the home in the name of you ‘lovingly serving’ her.  God isn’t calling you to be less of a man or a push-over.  God is calling you not to let the world shape your understanding of being a man and a husband.  Look to Christ.  he loved much but was never anything less than a man and was never a push-over.

As we implied last time, being a husband is about is about leadership.  It’s not about ruling, it’s not about self-interest, it’s not about superiority, it’s not about issuing commands, it’s not about making every decision in the home.  It’s about responsibility, it’s about serving, it’s about gentleness, it’s about teaching. Being a husband is about being a leader that leads like Christ; a leader whose motivations are driven by sacrificial, sanctifying love.   That’s what a gospel-formed husband looks like.  And if you are successful at it, you will never have to worry about a submissive wife.  she will gladly follow that kind of husband anywhere.

Therefore, husbands, let’s stopping playing the fool and start playing the man.  Let’s end the juvenile antics and loveless pretension, and by God’s grace, let’s start imitating Christ.  Let’s pray for, and work hard at being godly men who know how to lead and love their wives.  Then the gospel will be seen in our marriages and God will be glorified in our families

So, as we consider the role of husbands and wives from verses 18 and 19 together, Luther probably has the best on things (as he often does). He said, “Let the wife make the husband be glad to come home, and let him make her sorry to see him leave.”


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