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The Husband in the 21st Century Home

by

Graeme Tattersall

In recent weeks, anyone watching the TV news reports would see sad and tearful faces of innocent people caught up in the Russian war on Chechnya. The close-ups reveal anguish and despair, not on the faces of rebels or terrorists, but ordinary folk like you and me. Their loved ones have been killed or missing; their homes have been wrecked. One feels that even if some time in the future a hope or dream is realised, they would always bear the scars of this terrible conflict.

Not all wars are fought on distant battlefields; many are suffering as a result of conflicts that are taking place in homes right here in Australia. There are many victims and the casualty list includes husbands and wives, parents and children. Today the situation is so bad that the breakdown of Australian families has become the nation's No.1 social problem.

One does not have to look too far to see evidence of families crumbling at a disastrous rate; too many youngsters are running away from home; there are too many suicides among the young (we are told that the Australian rate is amongst the highest in the world); huge numbers of youths are ending up in the courts. Over in the United States they have statistics that show that approximately ten percent of all school-age children have moderate to severe mental and emotional troubles, and the Australian statistics are moving in the same direction. Is this any wonder, when it is realised that a large percentage of this nation's children are not living with both parents? One doesn't have to think to deeply to realise the awful hurt that is caused by thousands and thousands of divorces. And all of this is a major part of the marital scene as we move into the new millennium

So the subject given to me for this lectureship: "The Husband in the New Millennium" is, to say the least an interesting one. Interesting because I have no doubt that the Christian husband tries to be as the Lord commanded: to love his wife even as his own body. "For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church" (Eph.5:29).

Of course, that is the ideal, but let us ask the question, I mean, in today's society how does a Christian husband keep himself unspotted from the worldliness around Him? That leads to another question: How does he, working with God, build and sustain a Christian marriage? Where does he begin?

The painful experiences of God fearing men and women marrying unbelieving partners should serve as good examples of what not to do. The man who seeks a successful marriage must be careful to select a Christian mate. Courtship should reveal the strengths and weaknesses of their Christian personalities. The search, led by God, is for a person committed to Christ. Therefore a man must entrust himself for life with a will to abide. This language is more than aesthetic talk, I mean, it is a dreadful mistake for a Christian to marry another Christian, without the magic of romance. Better never to marry!

You see, the husband's obligation to his wife is a lifelong commitment, that requires for its foundation, a deep affection, a love, and respect that will grow, as he and his beloved, experience life's gladness and sadness together.

When Jesus was asked about divorce, He said that divorce was permitted for the cause of adultery (Matthew 19:9). But, He emphasised that God intended for one man and one woman to live together for life. He never intended for a married couple to be divorced. His prophet Malachi tells us that God "hates divorce" (2:16b). And we can read this most emphatic statement that Jesus makes in Matthew 19:6 "Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate".

Yet, for many of the thousands in Australia this year, the excitement and glitter of the wedding day will end in the unfriendly atmosphere of the divorce court. These who have vowed "till death do us part" will instead be separated by something other than death and become part of a growing statistic that shows the extent of our national sickness. Small wonder that God has given detailed instruction to be used by the man who would be found faithful to both his God and his wife.

While the causes of marriage failure are multiple, a frequent one is the "grass is greener on the other side of the fence" syndrome. Many men allow themselves to be attracted by persons other than their chosen partners and eventually commit adultery. This is the essence of a number of teachings in the book of Proverbs, which indicates that the problem is not a new one! Note particularly Proverbs 5:3-23, 6:23-35, and 7:6-27. Among the Scriptures we read: "For the lips of an immoral woman drip honey, And her mouth is smoother than oil (5:3); For the commandment is a lamp, And the law a light; Reproofs of instruction are the way of life, {24} To keep you from the evil woman, From the flattering tongue of a seductress. {25} Do not lust after her beauty in your heart, Nor let her allure you with her eyelids. {26} For by means of a harlot A man is reduced to a crust of bread; And an adulteress will prey upon his precious life. {27} Can a man take fire to his bosom, And his clothes not be burned? {28} Can one walk on hot coals, And his feet not be seared? {29} So is he who goes in to his neighbour's wife; Whoever touches her shall not be innocent. (6:23-29). With her enticing speech she caused him to yield, With her flattering lips she seduced him". (7:21)

The motivation for an illicit relationship is clearly set forth. The speech of the person who attracts us is sweet and inviting. There is no criticism or argument, no responsibility or commitment, no history or future . . . only the enticing pleasure of the moment! There is also physical attractiveness (6:25). Perhaps the years have drawn wrinkles or a paunch on our mate, who compares poorly to the beauty of youth. Or perhaps a union based only on physical attraction is now threatened by a sensual bond which is newer and more pressing. The ego is certainly involved! The alluring one "comes out to meet the victim", who is "sought eagerly until found" (7:13-15).

How many husbands become so enmeshed in the boredom of routine and the commonplace that they cease to be exciting and make no effort to make their mate feel special and wanted? And how many inadvertently set themselves up for just this sort of scene. It may be, however, that the master stroke is in the misuse of the word "love" (7:18).

Love is presented as an act which can be consummated in a night, a delight which can be quickly grasped, thus masking the exploitation and manipulation involved. The whole concept of love as a relationship, a commitment, a giving and receiving is cheapened and counterfeited.

Since the book of Proverbs contrasts the nature and rewards of wisdom and foolishness, the consequences of adultery are graphically portrayed. The person who falls prey to the adventurer will find that the end result is death (5:5,21-23,7:25-27). God sits in judgment on those who break their marriage vows, and Sheol awaits the foolish ones. Under the Old Law, the penalty for adultery was death, although the sentence stopped being carried out before the time of Christ. Also, the lifestyle characterised by such a departure from God's established order inevitably leads to general dissolution and many negative fruits (5:8-12).

Others profit by the waywardness of the victim, exploiting his strength and resources. (One is reminded of the parable of the prodigal son.) There may even be a warning of venereal disease (5: 11). Of particular note is the wrath of the vengeful husband in the event the mistress is married (6:22-35). Since a sacred trust has been violated, a most precious and private treasure has been stolen, no price other than the full demand of the law, death, will be accepted.

Against the backdrop of this powerful description of the disastrous nature of infidelity, the beauty of faithfulness in marriage glows. One's own mate is a very special and personal possession. While the foolish spread their seed abroad and may not even know where, those who follow God's plan have precious offspring as their heritage from the Lord. There is a maturing relationship in which one is enriched by beautiful memories rejoicing in the mate of his youth, delighted and infatuated by an enduring love. Implicit in the description is a sharing of life's adventures, with its consequent mellowing and embellishment, which makes the casual sexual adventure cheap and vulgar by comparison (5:15-19).

That is the way God would have marriage- lasting, beautiful and precious. But now a few more words about the role of the husband in the new millennium. As we have noted it is vital to safeguard your marriage by protecting it at all costs. No others must be permitted to intrude into the inner sanctity of the sacred covenant. No emotional commitments may be allowed to tear down vows. An inner circle of friends must be chosen whose lives are not lived on the outer fringes where divorce is accepted, sex taken lightly, or marriage treated flippantly. Life's necessary demands: vocational, social, and community, must give way to the ministry of marriage. Two lives with God require renewal; special moments spent alone in the shelter where spirits blend and life is born afresh.

It is further protected by meaningful, constructive communication. "How are things in your heart?" "What hurts?" "What brings joy?" "I believe in you!" "I love you more than ever before!" "I'm so fortunate that you're mine!" Christian marriage needs constructive talk that does not humiliate, especially in public. It needs silent talk too - hearts that interchange the requisites and ecstasy of life held in communion.

Marriage is safe-guarded by experiencing trust, forgiveness, and faithfulness today - not yesterday, for it is past. Not tomorrow - for it is not. But now! Paul says, "Love knows no limit to its endurance, no end to its trust, . . . ." (I Corinthians l3, Phillips). The husband, particularly the Christian husband needs to ask himself and give an affirmative answer to these questions: "How have l trusted, forgiven, and been loyal to my life partner today?"

Finally, husbands must give up their rights. They have no rights. They belong to God and another. Jesus gave up His rights for His bride. If he hadn't, there would have been no cross; we would have no forgiveness, life, and hope This is the incomparable analogy - Christ and his bride, a Christian husband and his spouse. That's how God creates, builds, and sustains marriages that count!

If we draw on the teaching from Ephesians 5 we can see that Christ's caring, sacrificial love for his bride, the church and her answering reverence and integrity is the only valid pattern which meets thew needs of Christian life partners. This then is the pathway for the husband to follow in the new millennium: it was in the first century and that is the way it will remain until the Lord comes again.

The spirit of this admonition to value love which is built through shared time and experience is illustrated in Browning's immortal poem, "Grow Old Along With Me."

Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made;
Our times are in His hand
Who saith, "A whole I planned,
Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be
afraid."

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