Monday, August 23, 2010

Real Men of Jesus (Mandates for Godly Men) - 1 Peter 3:7

In 1999, the Anheuser-Busch corporation launched a radio advertising campaign called “Real Men of Genius.” If you’ve listened to much talk radio over the last ten years or so, you have surely heard one of these ads. The campaign has received over 100 advertising awards, making it one of the most successful radio ad series in history. In these ads, a stereotypical “regular guy” is saluted for his contribution to society. Some of these “real men of genius” have included, Mr. Fantasy Football Manager Guy, Mr. Forgot Her Birthday Man, Mr. Bathroom Stall Dirty Joke Writer, Mr. Nosebleed Section Ticket Holder Guy, Mr. All You Can Eat Buffet Inventor, and Mr. Hollywood Plastic Surgeon. While the creators of this series of ads would say that they are tongue-in-cheek satire, the ads intentionally highlight certain stereotypes of men and aim at getting cheap laughs from a male audience who finds something familiar to themselves or other men they know in the bizarre descriptions. While poking fun at a stereotype, the ads also unveil realities that are far too common, and subliminally instill ideas in the heads of men that these are the ways we are expected to behave. We have in our society today a generation or two of men who believe that their masculinity is demonstrated by their memorization of meaningless sports statistics, the amount of food or drink they can stomach, their mastery of video games, the vulgarity of their vocabulary, and the volume of their burps. Adolescence has become synonymous with the glory days of life, and thus men find it hard to leave childish things behind. After all, those childish things are often the only commonality they find with other men. They might be considered real men of genius by the standards of beer advertisers, but the real men of Jesus are radically different according to the standards of God’s Word.

In 1 Corinthians 13, the great passage which defines Christian love in its most godly form, the Apostle Paul says, “When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.” This tells us several things: 1) There are some things that are appropriate for children that are not appropriate for men; 2) There comes a point in a man’s life when he is expected to put those things away; and 3) A real man knows when that day has come. For thousands of years, in many cultures, the transition from childhood to adulthood has been marked by a rite of passage. In Jewish culture, this occurs in the bar mitzvah around the age of 12 or 13. Of course, today in America, this is more symbolic than real, because no one is sending their sons out at that age to get a job and start a family. But overwhelmingly in America, we have abandoned rites of passage like this, and the reality upon which they are based, and therefore have blurred the lines between childhood and adulthood. Nowhere is this more evident than in the process of boys becoming men. Our society has made it possible simultaneously for boys to grow older faster and for men to stay younger longer. It is hard to know which is the greater tragedy.

What is needed in our day is a return to the biblical idea manhood. Men in our day need to grow up, frankly, and put away childish things and take responsibility for themselves, their families, their careers, and for the spiritual matters of the Church of Jesus Christ. Parents ought to insist on it rather than enabling perpetual adolescence. Wives ought to demand it instead of taking on the role of raising a grown-up toddler. Young women need to set high standards for themselves, seeking out young men who are ready to live as real men – real men of Jesus – rather than settling for Peter Pans who never want to grow up. It is this idea of being a real man that Peter is addressing in our text today as he speaks to husbands. If your idea of being a husband is that you will have a big chair, a big television, and a little wife to cook and clean up after you and submit to your demands, society might celebrate you as a real man of genius; but the great need of our time is for real men of Jesus to rise up and fulfill their God-given responsibilities. So, let’s look carefully at our text and find here some mandates for godly men.

I. Godly men live with their wives in an understanding way

Among the thousands of books in my library is a little paperback book someone gave me a long time ago. The price of it was $2.95 when it was first published in 1992. I wanted to get a copy of it for someone recently and I looked it up online and found that it is now out of print, and so rare that used copies of it sell for $99. The book is by Dr. Alan Francis, and it is called Everything Christian Men Know About Their Wives. The blurb on the cover says that it “fully reveals the shocking truth!” The back cover says that Dr. Francis has written “a landmark book”, “based on years of research and interviews”, which “presents the most complete picture ever revealed of men’s knowledge of the women they have committed themselves to.” It’s about 150 pages in length, and here’s the thing … every single page, from the first to the last, is completely blank. When I received the book, I thought it was a mistake. But then I got it. That’s everything Christian men know about their wives. And that’s a shame. It’s funny, but it’s a shame.

The mandate for godly men is based on a much higher standard than what we often find in marriage. Peter tells the men of the first century churches in Asia Minor to “live with your wives in an understanding way.” Notice the phrase, “live with your wives.” The idea here is not just that they will be roommates. They will be partners in a union that God Himself has established and which God is developing for their good, the good of their children and community, and for the glory of God. So, how does a Christian husband move beyond being merely a roommate to his wife? He must live with her in an understanding way. Literally, we might translate it this way, “live with your wives according to knowledge.” A husband first of all must have a knowledge of God’s purposes and principles in marriage. The Bible speaks repeatedly about how godly men and godly women create a godly marriage. Husbands need to devote themselves to the study of Scriptures so as to be experts on this subject. Husbands, you need to be an advanced scholar, a theologian, if you will, of godly marriage, not so that you can preach to your wife, but so that you can practice what God has declared to you about establishing a home and family that honors Him. Men, we need to wear out the pages of our Bibles, especially around passages like this one and the parallel passage in Ephesians 5, among other places.

But in addition, a husband needs to invest the time and effort into knowing his wife. Throughout Scripture, the language of a man knowing his wife is sometimes used as a euphemism for sexual intimacy, and that is certainly one way that a man will know his wife: he will know her physically. But that is not to be the limit of his knowledge of her. Unfortunately, in too many marriages, this is the extent of knowledge between husbands and wives, but there needs to be more. Men, do you know your wife’s desires, her goals, her needs? Do you know her fears and frustrations? Do you know her strengths and weaknesses? Do you know her interests and concerns? Do you know her giftedness? Do you know what temptations she is especially vulnerable to? Do know what delights her and what she finds joy in?

Men are typically pretty simple creatures. You want to know something about us, ask us and we’ll tell you. We tend not to be too complicated. But, God has designed women to be more complex. A man might say, “If my wife wanted me to know those things, she would tell me.” Ah, but it is very likely that she wouldn’t tell you; there are some things you have to earn the right to discover. Donia and I have been married 13 years, and we were engaged for three years before that. Over those 16 years, I have come to know when something is bothering her; I can see it on her face; I can hear it in her voice. And I will say, “What’s the matter?” And you know what she says every time? “Oh, nothing.” It’s never nothing. And I have learned that if I will invest the time and energy to talk to her, or better to listen to her, to let her know that she matters to me and that she has my undivided attention, then the layers will begin to peel away and I will discover something there I never knew before. And this still happens after 13 years of marriage! I imagine it will continue for the rest of our lives.

Many times, women suffer in silence, and men ignore the indicators that something is eating away at her, and their marriage will collapse. The man will say, “Oh if something was bothering her, she never told me.” Right. Because it is your God-given responsibility to invest in her life, to shepherd her lovingly, and to know her intimately. So if there is a communication breakdown, if there is difficulty understanding one another, it is the husband who has the mandate to be understanding of his wife. She needs to know that he cares enough, that he is listening, that she has his undivided attention and unrivaled affection; in a word, she must TRUST him completely before she will begin to reveal the deep matters of her soul. If it isn’t happening, most often it is because her husband is not obeying God’s mandate to live with her in an understanding way. She has become a roommate, or worse a cook and maid, to an unsympathetic man, and that man will never understand his wife the way God has called him to know her. So, a godly man is one who, for the sake of Christ and in submission to God’s authority, lives with his wife in an understanding way.

II. Godly men protect and defend their wives

Peter says that husbands are to live with their wives … “as with someone weaker, since she is a woman.” Now, I am well aware that this statement offends many women. And I have known some women who are stronger in every way imaginable than many men I know. We have spoken much about the equality of men and women in the eyes of God. They are equally created in His image, and thus of equal worth to God. They are equally loved by God, who calls us all to salvation through the Gospel of Jesus Christ, whether Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female. So the issue here is NOT one of equality.

The first thing we should notice here is that Peter does not say that women are weaker than men. He says that the husband must live with her as with someone weaker. In other words, the husband must think of her, must consider her, as being weaker, even if she is not. But, because she is a woman, if for no other reason than on the basis of her feminine nature, the man is to consider her weaker.

This is not to suggest that he has the right to push her around. There is much truth to the playground moral we learned as children: “Pick on someone your own size!” As Karen Jobes says here of this text, “Peter’s exhortation indirectly addresses the issue of physical abuse.” It is not the main point, but it is implied. If the man considers his wife to be weaker, then pushing her around cannot be considered virtuous. It is shameful. No real man, much less a man of God, can ever do such a thing. This kind of man is a coward who is afraid to stand toe-to-toe with someone of equal physical strength, and he is a perverted bully who gets some kind of twisted kick out of abusing someone more vulnerable.

Rather, the idea of considering her weaker on the basis of her femininity has to do with an ancient but long-since forgotten virtue of chivalry. Though the concept is as old as creation, the most vivid image of chivalry comes from Medieval times. This was a word that was used to summarize the virtues of noble knighthood. A knight was trained over many years, beginning in his childhood, that his duties as a man included defending the faith, defending his country, and defending women and children. Today, all of these have nearly vanished, though the need for them has never been greater. Postmodernism has threatened us to abandon defending the faith, because if we are all on the same spiritual journey, as they say, then there is no use in defending your beliefs against another’s. Individualism has undermined a man’s responsibility to defend his country, because after all, they say, if everything is OK for me, it really doesn’t matter about anyone else. And, subtly, feminism has all but eliminated the notion of a men protecting and defending women for the sake of their womanhood. Because of our sinful nature, men will regularly succumb to the path of least resistance, and if a woman says, “I don’t need a man to defend or protect me,” men will oblige. But men, we must not do this. If a woman does not want us to protect or defend them because they are women, we must do so anyway because we are men. This is what God has called us to do.

What does chivalry look like in marriage? It means that men stand guard over their homes and their families, physically, spiritually, emotionally, and in every other way. It means that if someone or something threatens to bring danger, dishonor or devastation, upon our wives or children, then it must be done over our dead bodies. We must be militant against others, vigilant against Satan, and disciplined against ourselves. Men, if we are to be chivalrous, then we must watch our words and our actions in speaking about our wives, or any other women for that matter. How often do we hear men belittle their wives in public? It may be intended in humor, but the wife is often deeply hurt by those words, though she may keep it inside. How often do we hear men talk down to their wives, or see them resting lazily while the wife exhausts herself to protect, provide for, and defend the home and family? These are not the marks of the man of God!

I have a good Christian friend, a genuinely godly man, who raised three daughters. He would say, “Tonight, I am taking my daughter on a date.” Once I asked him why he did this, and he said, “Because I want to take them out and show them how a real man is supposed to treat them. That way, when someone else takes them out on a date, they will know what to look for.” I overheard him say to one of his girls once, “Make sure he opens the door for you.” She said, “Daddy, I don’t need him to do that just because I am a girl.” He said, “Sweetheart, he doesn’t need to do it because you are a girl; he needs to do it because he is a man.” I will never forget that.

When a Christian man is marked by chivalry, he will earn the trust and respect of his wife; he will demonstrate to his sons how they are to treat their mother and their future wife; he demonstrates to his daughters how they are to be treated by their future husbands. And all the while, he is also earning the respect of his children, earning the respect of other men, and demonstrating the glory of God. Douglas Wilson has written, “A man rarely stands taller than when he stands for a lady.” Godly men, real men of Jesus, protect and defend their wives, not necessarily because they need it, but because God has called them to do it. He is a man, she is a woman, and God has instructed him how to treat her.

III. Godly men honor their wives as sisters in the Lord Jesus

“Show her honor,” Peter says, “as a fellow heir of the grace of life.” When a Christian man and a Christian woman are married to one another, there is a blessed and glorious union. I often tell people that of all the attractive qualities my wife possesses, the one thing I found most irresistible in her was her desire to walk with the Lord. God brought our lives together at a time when each of us were ready to get more serious about living for Christ, and I believe that we have helped one another along in spiritual maturity, pushing each other upward, and challenging one another to love Christ more deeply, obey Him more consistently, and serve Him more faithfully. Before she is my wife, before she is my children’s mother, before she is anything else, she is a child of God because of her faith in Jesus Christ. Even more important than her calling as my wife is her standing as my sister in the Lord. As we bow before the throne of God, we do so on a level ground. I have certain responsibilities as a husband, as does she as a wife. I am called to lead; she to submit, both in loving and Christlike ways; but neither is more spiritually superior to the other. The blessings I have as a child of God are the same as hers; she is a fellow heir of the grace of life. And on that grounds she is worthy of honor, and most especially from me.

Men, if you have raised daughters, you know how seriously you take it when something threatens or endangers your daughter. I dare say that if you want to see the fighting side of a man, come at him by the way of his daughter. Men, I hope you realize, if you have a Christian wife, God has entrusted His daughter to you. Do you think you will neglect her, mistreat her, dishonor or abuse her and not have to deal with Her Father for it? A friend once told me that when he gave his daughter away at her wedding he felt like he was putting a Stradivarius violin into the hands of a gorilla. God has entrusted His daughters to us. How do you think He would have us to regard this gift? With honor. The Greek word here for honor is one that means “worth, evaluation, honor, value and price.” It is no coincidence that Proverbs 31:10 says that the worth of an excellent wife is far greater than jewels. What do we do with things that we evaluate to be of great and costly worth? We prize them, we cherish them, we display them proudly, we speak highly of them, we protect them, we safeguard them, we cling to them, we consider all other things to be of far less appeal than them. Men, our wives deserve this and so much more. She is more than your chief cook and bottle washer. She is your sister in Christ, if she is a believing woman, and there is no other Christian who deserves so much honor as the one to whom you are married.

Now I want to point out a small but significant little word here in the text that we can easily miss. It is the word as. We are to treat our wives as fellow heirs of the grace of life. We have been speaking about how a Christian husband should treat his Christian wife. But what if a Christian man has an unbelieving wife? We said last time that the Scripture forbids a Christian from marrying a non-Christian. We are not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers. But in some cases, a husband will come to Christ, and his wife will not. Notice that there is no distinction given, just as there was no distinction given in how a Christian wife is to treat her unbelieving husband. Even if she is not a follower of Jesus, the husband is to treat her no different than if she was. He is to treat her as a fellow heir, whether or not she genuinely is. And as he treats her the way a real man of Jesus should, he must not be surprised when she finds herself irresistibly drawn to his Savior. I still remember sharing the gospel with a man some years ago – he was about as rough around the edges as any man I have ever known. He was a hard man, but the Holy Spirit broke him as the Gospel was shared, and he wept loudly as he gave his life to Jesus. He said, “Will you come talk to my wife?” And we did. And she didn’t want to have anything to do with Jesus. She was very unpleasant with us and her husband in that first encounter. But over the course of weeks and months, gradually she began to join him in church, and then one Sunday, as the invitation was given, she stepped out from her pew, tears in her eyes, and came to the altar and said, “I want to give my life to Jesus! He has changed my husband’s life so radically, that I want to know Him too.” And the two of them went on to have a glorious Christian marriage. Last time I saw them they were side by side, serving the Lord together in that same local church.

Well, in closing, Peter says here that if a godly man lives with his wife in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, showing her honor as a fellow heir of grace, that his prayers won’t be hindered. That means that if he doesn’t do this, then his prayers will be hindered. It is a vivid term that Peter uses here. It comes from a word that means “to cut.” It was used in military contexts to describe putting cuts into a road. A military commander, leading his army while being pursued by his enemies, would order his men to put a cut into the road. We might think of it the same way as blowing up a bridge. And that cut in the road would stop the pursuing army dead in their tracks. It is the word that Paul uses in Romans 15:22 when he says that he has been “prevented from coming” to Rome. There was a hindrance, a cut in the road, if you will. It was also used to describe chopping down a tree. Jesus used this word in Matthew 7:19 when he said, “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” That is the idea here. Men, if things are not well between you and your wife, then they are not well with you and your God. Our intimacy with God is cultivated through prayer; but if there is no intimacy being cultivated with our wives, then the bridge that our prayers travel to the throne of God has been blown up. God has taken the axe to our prayers and chopped them down before they ever reached His presence. So don’t think, “Well, things are not going well with the Mrs., but I still have this strong walk with Jesus.” No, no. If things aren’t right with your wife, your prayers are chopped down before they ever reach the ceiling. He has detonated the bridge. You can sit there and pray all you want, but most of the time we can’t, can we. No matter, if we could, we could pray all day and all night, and they never reach the Lord. The tree will only be replanted, the bridge is only rebuilt, when I take the responsibility to get things right with my wife.

God intends for the covenant of marriage to reflect His covenant relationship with His people. Paul said in Ephesians 5:25 that husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church. When people see a Christian man and a Christian woman in marriage, they are seeing a reflection of the love and grace of God. So if the marriage is sour, it is presenting a corrupted picture of Christ and His Church. And if the marriage is sour, more important than who is to blame is who is going to take responsibility to restore harmony in the home. And that responsibility falls squarely on the shoulders of the godly man.

Let the world sing its songs of its real men of genius. We are seeking a generation of real men of Jesus who, under the authority of God and for the sake of the Lord Jesus, will live with their wives in an understanding way, protecting and defending her as if she was weaker, valuing her feminine nature, honoring her as a sister in the Lord, so that their prayers will not be hindered. So, men, where do we begin? First by examining ourselves, as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 13:5, to see if we are in the faith. Have you given your life to Jesus and accepted Him as your Lord and Savior? Are you God’s man in the home? You cannot live out these mandates with your wife until you have entered into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. So today the Holy Spirit may be convicting of your need to be saved by turning to Christ. He died for your sins and is risen from the dead, and He will receive you as you turn to Him in faith and repentance. And wives, the same is true for you. You won’t have a good relationship with your husband until the greater relationship with God is settled by faith in Christ. Maybe one or the other, or both of you, need to take that step today as God reaches His saving hands out to you in His grace. And men, if your faith is secure in Christ, then you have the enabling power of the Holy Spirit within you, and by His power, you can love your wife in this way, and demonstrate God’s glory through your life and through your marriage.

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