A recent article in the Journal of Biblical Counseling helped, convicted, and gently counseled me. In this post, I summarize it briefly, using Ed Welch’s own words. But I also encourage you to consider purchasing the entire article here (only $1.99). I believe you will be helped immensely. If you are a JBC subscriber, like I am, then you can download it at no extra charge.
Ed Welch begins his article with this question: “What does it mean to be a Christian man?” Then he proceeds to share how his personal experience influences his understanding of what it means to be a husband. Nevertheless, Welch does his best to set personal experience aside and take a fresh look at portions of Scripture that are often overlooked when we think about the role of the Christian husband.
Kings, Priests, and a God Who Invites
What does creation suggest about who God is and how he reveals himself? Our purpose is to notice what forms authority and power take in the very beginning.
- God partners and invites. Gentleness is the order of the day. Creation is invited to participate with God in his creative work. Then the gentleness of his kingdom moves through Scripture. This contrasts with the violence that can be found in every human heart. We all have ways to exert power over others, but that power is intended to be kept in check by the restraints of humility and gentleness.
- Kings have compassion. Kings were called to be “shepherds” who had a particular concern for those who lacked power. They were to pursue justice for “the least of these” (Matt 25:45), which could come with a personal cost. Their role was to bless the people and enhance life.
- Kings shepherd hearts. Kings were to provide spiritual leadership by ridding the land of idols. Men who are fulfilling their roles will hate the anger that lurks in their hearts because of its affinity to violence and oppression.
- Priests who pray. As their job description develops, priests are called to make intercession with God for the people…. Though Moses is monthly known for his role as a prophet, he was also appointed by God as a priest…. Moses was willing to take the punishment that was theirs. In an astounding reversal of our sinful tendency to blame and accuse others. Moses asked if he could be held culpable for their crimes.
- Priests who bless. The prototype for speaking God’s blessing to others is the priestly blessing, “May the Lord bless you…” (Num. 6:22-26). Now, in Christ, this priestly blessing has been opened to us all.
Men Who Keep Watch and Pray
“The New Testament looks to a Person more than a role when considering the contours of being a man. Jesus is the Human, the Man.” Welch continues, “I will follow how Jesus refines men’s particular priestly and royal duties through the roles of pastor and husband.”
- Pastors keep watch and pray. The pastoral role is relevant to husbands because of the similarities between care in the church and care in the home. Pastors…care for the vulnerable and defend them as they are able, but their prominent interest is to protect the souls under their care.
- Husbands keep watch and pray. The essence of being a husband is to be a servant. Husbands make sacrifices for the advantage of their spouses…. Of course, servant is not the only picture that informs us as husbands. We are companions and friends as we share our hearts and lives with our spouses. But acknowledging the role of servant offers a critical protection from our natural inclination to be over rather than under, to deserve rather than owe, and to be right rather than love…. Cleanse and sanctify is the language of the temple; sanctify is when those who have been cleansed are set apart as holy to the Lord (Eph. 5:23, 25-28; John 17).
The Way of Manliness
God calls all of us to imitate him in our relationships. Within that general call, husbands are to care for the souls of their wives. This is manliness. The calling is an ancient one, though the gift of the Spirit has certainly raised its profile because now we are actually equipped for the role, especially as intercessors. Drawing from Scripture, here are some practical ways to be a manly husband.
- Be an intercessor. This unique mission imitates the husbandly care of Jesus. “Holy Father, keep them,” Jesus prayed; “Keep them from the evil one” (John 17:11, 15). Keep could be more vividly described as guard. While Jesus was with the disciples, he stood guard over their souls (17:12) …. Jesus set the stage. Now, intercessory prayer is at the heart of the husband’s role.
- Know your spouse and pray for her specifically. You are an intercessor. You speak to the Lord on her behalf. Think of your prayers as the incense that burned in God’s house. “Let my prayer be counted as incense before you” (Ps 141:2). That incense is most fragrant and pleasing to the Lord as we come to him through the final sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
- Grow up to be a child. Intercessory prayer depends on weakness. It is not sustainable when we deny our need for the Father, Son, and Spirit. You could put it this way: you are an ordinary person.
- Include your wife as a co-laborer. The language of marriage is “we.” A close analogy is team sports. We admire athletes who are less excited about their own statistics but care about the well-being of the team. A good musical band follows the same pattern. We admire members who are quick to praise the essential contributions of others.
- Watch for dangers. As a kind of sentry, a husband knows that there are enemies that specialize in stealth and wait for opportune moments to bring disorder and division. The enemy is a consortium of the world, our own tendencies toward sin, and Satan. This means that we keep watch for danger.
- Confess your sin. Action begins with confession of any sin you contribute to the marriage. “Forgive us our sins” is a standing feature of life with Christ (Luke 11:4). Without prayers of confession, we will either hide or assume that we are doing just fine, and either one is sure to bring a quick end to intercessory prayer.
What Does It Mean to Be a Manly Husband?
Every husband will work out the details of their roles and callings in a distinct way. God prefers diversity in his creation and among his people… We are to invite more than direct, and “care for” more than conquer because partnering and compassion are prominent in God’s revelation of himself (Ex 34:6), and we want to grow in both… To follow God, husbands are students of the kind of words that honor and bless others. We strive to be that childlike servant: a child who knows he is dependent and needs help. And a servant who has clarity in his mission to love, and who does not preoccupy himself with matters of personal reputation. And, of course, we learn to pray for others.
*If this very brief summary has been a help to you, I urge you to purchase the entire article here (only $1.99). Also, if you are not a JBC subscriber, consider making this investment in your growth in both grace and truth.