Torch, Summer 1991

------------------------~- submit. She also has the responsibility to cultivate his headship rather than resenting it, competing against him, or bartering for equal rights. The husband is to love his wife and honor her. The love is to be patterned after the sacrificial, unconditional ove demon– strated by Christ in His redemptive work (Ephesians 5:25-27). It is a love that is realistic, aware of the spots and wrinkles, resolved to the point of overcoming bitterness, and sanctifying so that he facilitates er growth in holiness. The godly husband recognizes that in ill using or ignoring his wife he hurts himself, for the two are one (Ephesians 5:28-29). He may wish his own physical body were better looking, stronger or healthier, but he nourishes and cherishes that body as if it were the best body a man ever had. The man who so nour– ishes and cherishes his wife will give her all the motivation she needs to respect him and support his loving leadership. The responsibility of the husband to honor his wife (I Peter 3:7) includes treating her as a fellow-heir of God ' s grace. In Peter's day it would be a unique honor for a woman to be a co-inheritor with a man, receiving equal possession of the family property. Such an extraordinary distinction would place her in high public esteem, beyond the recognition accorded almost all other women. The most valuable inheri– tance the husband has is the grace of everlasting life, and his redeemed wife has received that new life in the same manner. The husband also honors his wife by understanding that she is a weaker vessel because she is a woman. Viewing this statement through the lens of our culture leads to the conclu– sion that this is one of the most disrespectful and demeaning notions a husband can have towards his wife. A close examination of the biblical words, however, reveals that the statement in no way compliments or elevates the husband. Both the husband and wife are weak; she is simply the weaker of the two. Her greater weakness is related to the place of her role as a woman. In the structure of marriage she submits herself to a fallible head, one who will make mis– takes. Such a subjection makes her vulnerable to her hus– band 's flawed leadership. Life is full of these vulnerable submissions for both men and women, as they submit to governmental leaders, employers and pastors. Sinners in these positions of authority will make wrong and unwise deci– sions, even against the advice and warning of the "subjects." Those who have submitted to that authority will then suffer the consequences. In marriage the vulnerability of the wife is greater, even though both the husband and wife are weak. The point of Peter' s instruction is that the husband is to be aware of the risk his wife assumed when she submitted herself to his headship. He is to live with her in such a way as to reflect his sensitivity to her role with its accompanying liabil– ity. In so doing, he seeks her counsel and input for all aspects of family operat' on, and moves with the greatest of care if it is in opposition to her preferences. Thus, the husband honors his wife by understanding her weaker position in the marital union. Marriage is the permanent component of the family, while parenthood is the temporary side. At the point of marriage, an individual leaves father and mother to be joined to his or her own partner in marriage. Marriage is the necessary prerequi– site for parenthood in the plan of God (Psalm 128:1-4). Marriage is to provide a secure and stable shelter in which children can grow. Parents become a caring team who provide strength for each child. Since a couple finds in their union the companionship, sexual fulfillment, and love that each seeks, their attitude towards the children is not one of demanding affection or gratitude, but rather giving love and direction in the way God parents His children (Hebrews 12:5-11 ). The presence of two parents provides the child with close, continual contact with both sexes. The child observes and respects that union in order to mature from self-centeredness to communal living. If the marriage is a full union, then both parents bring up the child. The primary responsibility of the chi! ·s to obey and honor the parents (Ephesians 6:1-3), so as the child observes parents functioning as a one-flesh unit, equal obedience and honor are extended to both mother and father. Children will often exploit "cracks" in the union , even contributing to the destruction of the marriage which they wish to remain intact. When addressing parents, Paul specifies the father as the parent who is ultimately responsible for child-rearing (Ephesians 6:4). This is another aspect of male headship in the home, but one which does not detract from the child ' s obedience to or respect for the mother. New Testament writers assumed that their readers grew up in homes where the father was actively involved in parenting (1 Thessalonians 2: 11; Hebrews 12:9). Parents are entrusted by God with the responsibility of leading children into life; and as stewards, they help in the development of people made in God's image. The challenge is to raise children so that they recognize their principal destiny to be serving the Lord in the home, the church, and society. They will hear messages to the contrary, even from well-meaning persons who will counsel them to believe they are free to set their own aims and occupations in life accord– ing to their own inclinations. The authority of the parents is not rooted in society, based upon power, or a consequence of the child' s economic dependence upon adult providers. The parents' authority is founded in Scripture (Deuteronomy 6:6-9), so the parents are not a law unto themselves but are merely teaching a set of standards which are independent of them and to which they also are subject. In the maturation process, the child is not moving from dependence to independence. Rather, as the child becomes increasingly independent of parents, he or she is to grow in dependence upon the Word of God. The goal of the parent is to bring the will of the child into subjection to God. Parents must adhere to the standards they set, while making it clear to their children that mom and dad also do things that are wrong and need correction. Then there is no false optimism leading parents to believe their children will not sin nor is there pressure to assume ultimate responsibility for their children 's wrongdoings. Corrective discipline will be a normal part of loving upbringing (Prover5s 3:24). The sin nature will be evident in the child's words and deeds from birth (Psalm. 58 :3). Chil– dren often believe that freedom comes with unrestrained self– expression. Godly parents can demonstra e that doing what they want results in bondage, while submission to the author– ity of Scripture results in true liberty (Proverbs 22:15; salm 119:44-45; John 8:32,34). When the parents ' marriage is unsatisfactory, one or both may seek fulfillment in the relationship with their children. All too often this results in a failure to respect the children 's marriage. Children are to be reared to be released for mar– riage and the establishment of their own homes, for which they are directly accountable to the Lord. Families of every generation have been faced with the challenges of their own cultural and personal situations. Currently many families are struggling to survive finan– cially-a dilemma which stresses the fabric of family life. Middle-income parents find themselves faced with difficult financial decisions. For instance, should they have one wage earner and live in an area with poor schools and continued on page 12