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Posts Tagged ‘teamwork’

The question is: “Who steps first into the circle of love and respect: The husband or wife?”

It helps to remember who created that “circle.”

God did.  And, true to His design, there is order.  God created human beings in His image, but He did not make them to be the same.  They are equal, but different.  God did not create woman at the same time as man, in the same way, or for the same purpose.  In fact, God revealed to man that he was incomplete.  “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (Genesis 2:18).  “Fit for him” literally means: “Like his opposite.”  (Think of this!  Anatomically.  Hormonally.  Psychologically.)

Is it significant that woman was made for man?  To complete him?  Be his helper?  Yes.  The created order shows that man was to be the steward over all and she would help, assist, encourage, comfort, and be his advocate.  (The word “helper,” by the way, is not dissimilar to the word used by Jesus to describe the Holy Spirit [John 14:16,26).  In her privileged role, she is free to help without any initiative on his part.  She doesn’t wait for him to ask before she offers encouragement, comfort, or good counsel.

God’s created order is a reflection of Himself.  He is one God, yet three persons.  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are equal, but with different functions.  There is headship in this orderly structure… and there is submission.  The same is true with male and female.  Even after sin spoiled God’s perfect design, the order of creation remained in place for our benefit.  Sin broke man and woman’s relationship with each other and with God.  But, in mercy, God used the submission of the Son, Jesus Christ, to save His Bride, the Church, and serve with humility.  A woman might resent the created order.  A man might abuse it.  But, whenever it is honored, it continues to serve family and society well.

Doesn’t the created order beg the question from a leadership perspective?  Shouldn’t the man be the first to step into the Ephesians circle?  No, not necessarily.  Even if he is stepping out front to fight wolves at the door, she is fully engaged as his ally and encourager.  In God’s design, the man is responsible for bringing order out of chaos, but she helps that happen.  Regardless of their different functions, both husband and wife can practice loving and respecting at all times.

There is no measuring stick.  No fairness meter.  In a godly home, neither husband nor wife keep track of what the other does or doesn’t do.  Both have the same goal: To do all they do to God’s glory.  And, when they fail, they apologize and forgive.  Both take their sin baggage to the cross — and leave it there.

Visits to the Cross happen all the time even in the best of marriages.   Let me approach this from a woman’s perspective.  Helping is what I naturally do.  But, flawed by sin, this becomes difficult.  My husband might not think he needs help.  Might not invite help.  Might resent help.  Might interpret my help to mean he needs “fixing.”  So, how do I enter the “circle of love and respect” at such a time?  Hopefully, I haven’t disengaged from the “circle.”  Hopefully, I am faithful in offering encouragement.  If I need to help, but he’s too prideful to accept it, I need to take care.  Be sensitive.  I may need to move slowly.  Mary told Joseph that she had been visited by an angel with news of her pregnancy, but Joseph was of the mind to quietly divorce her.  In their “circle of love and respect,” Mary understood that it wasn’t up to her to convince Joseph.  She needed to wait on God.  In His time, God helped Joseph get his arms around the situation.  A woman is helping — in one way or the other — all the time.  She may be helping to good… or bad.  To build up… or tear down.  To encourage… or discourage.  To trust God’s plan… or shape her own.

Ultimately, two are better than one.  One may fall, the other lifts up.  One may be overwhelmed, a team of two stands firm.  One alone is cold, two together stay warm.  One might fall out of the “circle” momentarily, the other welcomes him/her back in.  Woven with God, both are able to engage in the “circle” freely and unconditionally.

The pure circle of love and respect is tainted on this earth.  We too easily think of ourselves first.  How we’re not being served… or how we’re doing all the serving.  But, challenged to “shine like lights” and “hold fast to the word of life,” we do what we do for Christ — even if it means being “poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of our faith” (Philippians 2:14-17).  Faith produces a sacrificial attitude for husbands and wives that frees us up to think less about self and more about other.

With this attitude, one might even forget who started, paused, stopped, or re-started the circle to go ’round.

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The New Testament book of Ephesians, in chapter 5, speaks to husbands and wives.  Someone recently told me that she understands God’s Word here to describe a “circle of love and respect.”  The husband is to love his wife and the wife is to respect her husband.  But, she wondered, who first steps into this “circle of love?”  The husband or the wife?

Is it one or the other?  No.  It is both.  Both, in response to God’s invitation, are responsible at all times: he to love, she to respect; he to lead, she to assist his leadership.  Both are to see each other as their neighbor and faithfully serve that neighbor in the way that glorifies God.  One does not wait for the other to serve. To love or respect.  To do something thoughtful or kind.  This might promote negative responses: “Because he doesn’t lead like I want him to, I can’t help him,” or, “Because she doesn’t respect me like I think she should, I can’t love her.”

Does the question, “Who steps first into the circle of love and respect” hint of fairness?  Who defines “fair?”  Who measures “fair?”  Behavior based on fairness also tends to slip negatively.  She could say, “Well, he didn’t do that, so I won’t do this.”  He could say, “Well, she didn’t do that, so I won’t do this.”  That isn’t how it works with God’s agape love.  We aren’t to be patient only if the other one is patient, kind only if the other one is kind, or selfless only if the other one is selfless.  Who should take the first step?  In a working relationship, there is no “first.”  Each is always trying to be patient, kind, and selfless.  He is responsible for his behavior.  She is responsible for hers.

It helps me to remember who created the “circle of love and respect.”  (I’ll return to this in my next post.)

In God’s language, a husband’s love for his wife and a wife’s respect for her husband are unconditional.   Not dependent on what the other does, or does not, do.  A husband’s love for his wife is actually how he serves God.  Should he wait to serve God until his wife respects him?  A wife’s respect for her husband is actually how she serves God.  Should she wait to serve God until her husband loves her?

To be sure, on occasion, one may feel like disengaging from the “circle of love and respect.”  The perfect “circle” is, after all, tainted on this earth.  We too easily think of ourselves first.  How we’re not being served… or how we’re doing all the serving.  But, with a growing faith in God’s Word for husbands and wives, we can practice doing what we do for the glory of God.  We can develop better habits.  God’s love in Jesus Christ was sacrificial.  Faith in the power of that love produces a sacrificial attitude for husbands and wives.  It frees us up to think less about self and more about the other.

With this attitude, one might even forget who started, paused, stopped, or re-started the circle to go ’round.

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