I know that the ideas we have discussed concerning the biblical roles of men and women in the kingdom of God are often jarring to many of today’s Christians. They have not heard them at church nor observed them in the culture. They sound as though they come from Mars, or at least they are a part of a bye-gone, outdated time and would be crippling and oppressive to today’s believers, so they are often ignored.
However, even though the culture has changed, men and women remain the same. How can we men fail to identify with Abraham’s lack of courage as he, at different times (Genesis 12, Genesis 20), gave his wife Sarah to two different kings (Pharaoh and Abimelech) to take into their harems. He pretended to be her brother to save his own skin! Isn’t Rebekah’s duplicity and manipulation in tricking Isaac into giving Esau’s rightful birthright to pass instead to Rebekah’s favorite son Jacob (Genesis 27), a type sin we still commit today?
Since we are still the same, God’s laws still very much apply to us, just as they applied to those in the Bible. Israel was told in the Bible to build railings around rooftops to safeguard those who walked around up there (Deuteronomy 22:8). We no longer live on our rooftops, so, for example, we keep that law by building fences around swimming pools to protect children from inadvertently falling in and drowning. The unchanging principle is “Land owners are responsible for what happens on their property.” That law forms one of the foundation stones of 21st century ownership of private property.
The same is true regarding how men and women fit in the kingdom of God, and the first issue to determine in any kingdom relationship, in any era, is: “Who is in charge?” Men, with their logical, rational, unemotional approach to issues and natural long-term vision are constructed to lead; to be “in charge,” as the Bible teaches they indeed are. Women are empathetic, compassionate, insightful, and sensitive and live in the reality of the present—so constructed to supplement or complete men.
Of course, these characteristics are not always true, but each gender has a propensity to have these proclivities. He is built to lead while she is built to contribute to those decisions with her wisdom. Wise men realize they generally have no clue of what they can’t see and must learn to draw on the wisdom of their wives before their decisions are made.
Men are undeniably given the authority in the Bible to be the “head” of their wives and families (1 Corinthians 11:3; Ephesians 5:22-24). Thayer’s Greek dictionary defines “head” in these verses as, metaphorically, “anything supreme, chief, prominent; of persons, master, lord: of a husband in relation to his wife.”
Church elders are to be the real-life models each man emulates in learning to rule . The elder is to “be one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence, for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?” (1 Timothy 3:4. 5).
In the kingdom of God, including the family, that final Authority always, without exception, comes with its two intimate, inseparable companions—Responsibility and Accountability. These three concepts are the tools God is using to answer the question in the title and the prayer Jesus exhorted us to pray: “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). Lord, do it now in my life!
I have authority from God to rule in the tasks He has given me in order to see “His kingdom come” in my family right now; I am responsible to God to exercise that rule; I will be accountable to God for how I did so. Without all three of God’s tools fully functioning, the kingdom of God has not yet come to that place. On the other hand, when all three are operative, the stage is set for the Lord’s prayer to be answered.
This means that if there are problems in the family (unruly, rebellious children or an unfaithful spouse) the responsibility for family failures lies directly at the husband’s doorstep. The difficulties in the family are his fault, no one else’s. Ultimate authority in the family carries ultimate responsibility, delegated by Jesus Himself. The buck stops at the husband’s doorstep.
How can that be true? We are all sinners and in the family there is certainly plenty of sin to go around. Notice I am saying it is the husband’s fault for the family’s struggles (he is responsible for the welfare of the corporate family). He is not responsible for the individual lives of each member, i.e., their walk with God. It is the two foundational pillars in kingdom life—unconditional love and firm, decisive leadership, mentioned last week in the conclusion—that solves that seeming contradiction. We will look at that question next week.