Twenty-five years ago next month, my bride and I exchanged our wedding vows of lifelong commitment to one another. Over the past quarter century together (22 years of which I’ve been a pastor), we’ve watched with sadness as the marriages of many friends and acquaintances have hit the skids. While each couple is unique, I’ve noticed some common errors that have led to divorce.One of the most common problems is the passive (that’s a nice way of saying “wimp”) husband. He assumes that his marriage and family life will run on auto-pilot while he pursues his own career and other interests.He’s often a nice wimp. But he neglects his responsibility as a husband and father. His main goal when he’s at home is peace. When he gets home, he doesn’t want hassles. He wants supper, the evening paper, a couple of TV shows, and usually more sex than his tired wife is ready to give. If she complains about problems with the kids or with running the household, his standard reply is, “Do whatever you think is best, dear.” He thinks that this is an agreeable reply. He can’t understand why his wife is so unhappy.
Over the years, the wife’s frustration with the Wimp increases, along with her frequency in letting him know about it. He runs for cover—more time at the office, more time with his buddies, commiserating with other hen-pecked wimps who just don’t understand why women have to be that way. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to say, “Houston, we’ve got a problem here!”
The Wimp needs to dust off and follow the instruction manual on marriage: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). Biblical love isn’t a passive feeling that overwhelms you when you see a beautiful body. It’s not something you activate on wedding day and let run on auto-pilot. Biblical love is an active, self-sacrificing commitment to seek the highest good of the one loved. Because we are all self-centered by nature, such love requires careful thought and deliberate, determinative action.
Contrary to popular belief, the Bible never commands husbands to be the head of their homes. It flatly declares that the husband is the head of the wife (Eph. 5:23). It does command him to love his wife and to train his children in the things of God. A Wimp neglects these duties. A responsible husband actively pursues them. But the fact of headship means that the husband can’t blame his wife or kids if his home life is not pleasant. He is responsible.
What can a wimpish husband do to take responsibility for his home life? First and foremost, he himself must live daily in a genuine personal relationship with God. This begins with turning from sin and trusting in Jesus Christ as his Savior. It is fostered by spending time often reading the Bible and praying. It requires seeking to please God every minute, beginning on the thought level. A man can’t lead his family where he isn’t walking.
Next, a husband must establish and maintain a climate of love in his family. Any rivalry or competition between him and his wife must be set aside. He must work to build a team spirit with his wife. Sarcasm, put-downs, name-calling, and abusive words must stop, since they destroy caring, loving relationships. The husband’s job is to nourish and cherish his wife and to protect and build up her and the children.
At the heart of all of this is daily dying to self in order to follow Jesus Christ (Luke 9:23). Selfishness is at the core of most anger and conflict. Again, biblical love is by definition self-sacrificing, not self-serving: “Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.”
The main reason Christian husbands should shrug off passivity and actively love their wives and children is not so that everyone will be happy. Paul says that Christian marriage is a picture of Christ and the church. Our homes should reflect the sweet fragrance of the love of Jesus to those who come near. Our aim is to exalt Jesus Christ; happiness is a by-product.
Humorist Sam Levenson says, “Love at first sight is easy to understand. It’s when two people have been looking at each other for years that it becomes a miracle.” But it’s not really a miracle. It’s a result of the deliberate choice to live in obedience to God and actively to love your wife as He commands.