The overwhelming answer to that question in today’s culture, and rarely challenged in the church is, “Of course not! You are not promoting demeaning, oppressive, abusive ‘patriarchy,’ are you?”
I am thrilled to be able to answer, “No, I’m certainly not promoting that!” However, I am fully committed to teaching what God is promoting, and yes, He is, without doubt, teaching very clearly in His law what the culture calls “patriarchy.”
A patriarchy is defined as “a form of social organization in which the father is the supreme authority in the family, clan, or tribe.“ If we are only referring to human authority, this is very much a biblical definition, but the father is never exercising that authority independently.
Yes, a woman is to submit to her husband’s rule just as if he were Jesus Himself (Ephesians 5:22-24), but Jesus Himself is the Head of her husband (1 Corinthians 11:3), and the husband rules his family just as Jesus Himself would if He were there. Miracle of miracles, He is there, ruling through the husband by His Holy Spirit! Was Jesus’ rule ever “demeaning, oppressive and abusive?”
No, of course not. His rule was based on unconditional love, as we saw last week, just as is ours. That love must come first, and It is impossible for kingdom rule to come to our families without it. Unconditional love is the first foundational pillar of the kingdom.
But the second pillar—firm, decisive leadership—is equally crucial to support our families. Love without leadership leaves a family with no insightful, decisive, productive direction, and leadership without love is tyrannical, abusive and destructive, and will choke out spiritual life in the family. Both are essential for a husband to “rule his household well” (1 Timothy 3:4).
What, then, is family leadership? Ultimately, family leadership is always decision-making. The one who makes final decisions is the family leader. Even though Eve was deceived by Satan and initially ate of the fruit, it is Adam, the head of his family, who did not decisively lead her.
He passively failed to confront his wife but joined her in her sin. God holds Adam accountable for the Fall and its consequences, not Eve! “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned…death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam (Romans 5:12, 14).
It would appear from Genesis 3:6 that Adam was present with Eve during her conversation with Satan and when she took her fateful snack. “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.”
What if Adam had told Eve, when she “took of its fruit”—”Eve, God told us not to eat that, and so we will have nothing to do with it. I want you to put it down.”
The Fall did not occur because Eve ate of the fruit. It occurred because a man did not have the personal strength to disagree with his wife and lead her by making the final decision as to the direction the family would take. If he had done that, and she ignored him and continued to eat in disobedience while he obeyed God’s command and did not eat himself, man would not have fallen! “For as in Adam all die” (1 Corinthians 15:22), not “in Eve.”
However, in our families a wise leader always gets the input of those he leads. He may have a wife who is smarter, more insightful, and more experienced in certain areas than he is. He is a fool if he does not make full use of her abilities in his family decision-making. He asks for her input whenever he recognizes that she may be helpful, or she may give it spontaneously on her own. He listens, asks her questions and mines whatever she may know. He may reply, “That’s great! We’ll do that,” or, “That’s great, but it’s not the answer for us.”
The input is hers; the final decision on its usage is his alone, for he alone will be held accountable by God, just as was Adam,
So, the biblical pattern for kingdom rule in the family (“patriarchy”) is clear. First, unconditional love by the husband for his wife (never leniency by ignoring God’s standard). Second, strong, firm, decisive decision-making (never harsh authoritarianism). This servant leadership is just that—leadership; never a demand for the wife to follow that leadership. Submission and compliance to the husband’s authority in her life is God’s job, never the husband’s.
Next week we will look at what happens when the kingdom of God comes to the church.