Beckett: The Table of Duties – My Familial Duty

“In the household, the family lives together according to God’s design. Husbands are to treat their wives with honor and love (1 Peter 3:7; Colossians 3:19). Wives are to submit to their husbands as to the Lord (Ephesians 5:22; 1 Peter 3:5-6). Parents are to be gentle with their children, instructing them in the Christian faith (Ephesians 6:4)” (SC, p. 350).

Marriage is only between a man and a woman, according to God’s design (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:5; Mark 10:7). Husbands are to love their wives as themselves and wives are to submit to and respect their husbands. As soon as the word “submit” is uttered, narcissistic feminists throw their hands in the air, exclaiming, “Why should I do everything my husband says? Where is my freedom of choice?” That is not what submission means, which they would know if they only shut their mouths for five seconds.

The Duty between Husband and Wife

For what does the text say? “Wives, submit to your husbands, as to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22). In Ephesians, she is only given two verbs to act toward her husband whereas her husband is given six verbs. First, she submits to her husband just as she would submit to Christ, who is the head of both of them. She submits to her husband because she knows he has her best interest at heart, just as Christ does for His Bride, the Church. She lays aside her selfish interests in obedience to her husband. This is assuming, of course, that her husband is a loving head and not a tyrannical one. If the husband loves his wife as Christ does, submission is easy and natural. As my wife once said, “It is really comforting to know that submitting to my husband means he will always protect me and take care of me.”

Let the husband worry about how he loves his wife as Christ loves the Church, and let the wife worry about how she submits to her husband. Consider also that the wife’s submission to her husband is supposed to imitate Christ’s submission to His Father. “But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God” (1 Corinthians 11:3). Consider how Christ submitted to the will of His Father; it was only for His good, so good that He rose Him from the dead. Since Christ’s own willing submission was not just for His good but also our good, so the wife’s submission is only supposed to be for her good, not for ill.

Her second verb is respect. “However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband” (Ephesians 5:33). Respect is a different kind of love than her husband’s. Interestingly, this is the same word for “fear” (φοβέω [phobeo]), meaning reverential respect and honour, just as one fears Christ the head. Anyone knows, man or woman, that if you don’t respect a man, you won’t get very far with him. Your relationship won’t last long.

Also according to my wife, “Women have it easy.” They have only two verbs whereas the husband has six verbs, and only the husband is called to die for the other, which we see in his first verb. “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her” (v. 25). This love is more than emotion, which waxes and wanes. It is αγάπη (agape)—a sacrificial and giving of oneself. He lives for her good. She will not always be worthy of his love, but he loves her nonetheless, just as Christ loves His Church precisely because she could never deserve it. If the situation comes that he must die for her, he does so willingly, just as Christ did for him and for her.

Second, he “sanctifies” her (v. 26). This means the husband is not in the fault-finding business. He claims her faults as his own and pays for her mistakes, just as Christ did with both their sins. Third, he “cleanses” her “by the washing of water with the Word” (v. 26). Assuming they’re Christians, both husband and wife are baptised children of God. As the “pastor” of his family, the husband speaks cleansing words of forgiveness to his wife—both his forgiveness and Christ’s forgiveness. He does not wait for contrition. He forgives her because she needs it, not because she deserves it. When he forgives her, he does not say, “It’s okay.” Rather, he says, “I will pay for it. I forgive you.” He always treats her as a baptised child of God, and nothing less than that.

Forth, he presents her “in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (v. 27). To present her as holy means he covers her faults with perfection. She is the most beautiful woman in his world, and he desires her alone. He has eyes only for her. He approves and accepts her. Just as Christ covers our faults with His own righteousness, so the husband, as the “pastor” of the family, covers her faults with Christ’s righteousness. As Solomon wrote of his wife, “You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you” (Song of Solomon 4:7). Such should be the mindset of the husband toward his wife.

Fifth, he “nourishes” her (v. 30). Husbands are to love their wives as the head loves its body, just as Christ the Head loves His Body, the Church. Head and bodies are not in competition. The head and body do not abuse each other. Neither do husband and wife. Heads do two things: nourish and cherish. Thus, this is what husbands do as the head. He provides for her physically—he is the breadwinner. And he also provides spiritual nourishment with Christ, the Bread of Life, in the Word of God and prayer.

Lastly, as the head of his wife, he “cherishes” her (v. 30). This means he is to care for her and comfort her. He re-orients his priorities so that she takes precedence. Most of his attention, time, devotion, and labour is given to her. He is her safe place—emotionally and materially, especially physical embracing, like how a mother hen broods her chicks, just as Christ does His Church (Matthew 23:37).

The Duty between Parent and Child

Finally, husband and wife raise their children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (6:4). Whereas worldly parents who care nothing for their child’s damned status before God say, “I won’t force Christianity upon them; I want them to choose their own path,” the Christian parents say, “I will train my child in the way he should go so that when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). A father and a mother do not leave their child in the courts of the angry Judge, but rather they bring him or her up into the lap and forbearance of their heavenly Father. This is why failing to baptise your children and teach them all Christ has commanded (Matthew 28:19-20) is the worst form of child neglect.

Notice this duty is given primarily to the father. As Luther said, the father regards his child “as nothing else but an eternal treasure God has commanded him to protect, and so prevent the world, the flesh, and the devil from stealing the child away and bringing him to destruction” (LW 44:13). The father, as a real man, does not want his child to choose his or her own path, for they will always choose destruction and the kingdom of the devil (toddlers are explicit evidence of this since they leave nothing but destruction in their wake guided by their self-centredness). Rather, he shelters his child within the fortress of Almighty God (Psalm 46), training him up in His Law and abiding with him in the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.


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