Is there a more vilified, denounced and disparaged concept in our current culture than what immediately springs to mind when the average citizen, Christian or not, hears the word “patriarchy?” To this person, the word is synonymous with selfishness, tyranny, subjugation, and abuse, but the word means simply the “rule” of the father in the family, and the Bible teaches that patriarchy is the only model for a kingdom family (1 Timothy 3:4, 5).
This kingdom model is an historical one, first followed in the Garden of Eden by Adam and Eve; there is no other way to have biblical family life, if the father is present in the home. The trick, of course is the way he rules. Some fathers are selfish. tyrannical, subjugating abusers. But the answer is not to change the patriarchal model, but discover how to be a better follower of it!
What does the job of being a family patriarch (which is what all father’s are) entail? His task can be summarized in two words: Love and Lead, and all problems in the family arise when these two concepts, either one or both, are ignored or misapplied by the father. I want to spend the next few weeks carefully and thoroughly investigating what the Bible says about how they are applied properly. The Lord’s Prayer, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on the earth…,” is answered when they are.
The first thing a man is called to do when he marries is to love his wife. You may say, “Don’t all men do that, or at least think they do?” and you would be right 95% of the time. What man on his wedding day does not think or say, “I love my wife.”? But Paul’s statement of what that means might give some grooms second thoughts when they fully understand Paul’s defining phrase: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her . . .” (Ephesians 5:25) second thoughts.
So, Jesus Christ shows a husband what loving his wife means by how He loved His bride, the church. As husbands, we are to see how Jesus did that and then love our wives in exactly the same way. How did Jesus love us? Is not this where we must start if we are ever to love our wives in the way we are commanded to do? He loved us with agape love, a special love that does not originate in man. It is unique to God, so we must discover a way to get it from Him. Here is what this kind of love means:
First, agape love is unconditional. This means that it is a “love without reason,” not conditioned on any behavior or quality of the loved-one. Did not Jesus show His love for His church by dying for us while we were still lost (Romans 5:8)? Were we not dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1), totally depraved, with nothing to commend us, no reason for God to love us within ourselves, and with no salvage value whatsoever (Romans 7:18)? And yet because of God’s great love for us, He saved us by His grace (Ephesians 2:4-8). That is the way Christ loved the church, and that is the way men are to love their wives.
This love is not, “I love you if…(if you are sweet, if you are nice to me, if you are responsive to my attention, if you are faithful to me, if you do what I say),” nor is it, “I love you because…(because you are pretty, because you are intelligent, because you are thin, because you are pure).” Those types of love are not love at all, but indicate a selfishness that is really saying, not, “I love you,” but “I love me and want you!”
No, agape love is “I love you in spite of…(in spite of your selfishness, in spite of your deceit, in spite of your manipulations, in spite of your resistance to my leadership, in spite of your independence, in spite of your unfaithfulness, in spite of your lack of love for me). I love you, and my love is so strong that you cannot resist it, nor can you do anything to cause me to withdraw it, and it will capture your heart!”
“All this sounds so sweet, but let’s get practical,” you say. “You don’t know my wife. You don’t know how hard, aggressive and competitive she can be. She can put me down at every turn and make me feel like a nobody. She can be a class A bitch.”
Or maybe this is your response. “My wife is so manipulative you can’t believe it. She always manages to get her way by pouting or whining, and I feel guilty if I don’t give in. She acts so sweet that I was taken in before we were married, but she is really very selfish and controlling.”
Could this be you? “My wife doesn’t respond to me sexually. She was a hot potato before we were married, but now she’s like a cold fish. She makes me feel really unattractive sexually.”
All of us as husbands face situations similar to these after the new wears off in our marriages, because our wives are sinners, just like we are. It’s easy to love someone who is lovely, but sinners are not always lovely. Agape loves right through the sin. It loves her when she seems to be unlovely, with nothing to commend her. It does not pout, or get its feelings hurt when the loved-one does not respond in a way the husband feels she should, when she does not seem to appreciate all of the wonderful qualities her husband possesses. It does not even seem to notice whether there is a response of not, because it doesn’t matter. Agape is selfless. It never changes, no matter what. Its needle never moves!
That is the love God commands a man to extend to his wife. Most of us feel we deserve better, don’t we? We certainly deserve at least a wife who appreciates all we’re doing to try to be biblical husbands. But let me remind you that Jesus loved you when you cared nothing about Him, when you shoved His love right back in His face and wanted nothing to do with Him. He loved you through that rebellion, and He commands you to do the same toward your wife.
You say, “That’s impossible!” and it is! Ironically, you can never love your wife as you are commanded to do—until you realize that you never have and never will, because deep inside you only love yourself. You are too busy meeting your own needs to think about hers—to be loved unconditionally by her husband.
When you see this and fully embrace it, your heart will be filled with this agape love. The first step in establishing a biblical patriarchy has been achieved. If it is not, cry out to God to open your eyes to your sin of not loving your wife, because you have not seen it yet. Next week we will look at two other features of agape love.