Summary: True manhood is marked by: 1. Sacrifice 2. Responsibility 3. Faithfulness
The Arrow shirt company ran an ad in magazines for Father’s Day. It used an acrostic using the word FATHER. It is a takeoff on the acrostic for mother: “M is for the miracle of Being. O is for its origin in love. T is for the tenderness of seeing. H is for a home no wind can move, and so on.” The ad, however, was not quite as tender toward dads. It read:
F is for your favorite occupation. (A man is pictured asleep in a chair.)
A is for the anniversaries you blew. (A woman is shown waiting in vain for her husband to come home for their anniversary dinner.)
T is for talk and your sparkling conversation. (A man is shown reading a newspaper while his children and wife are trying to talk to him.)
H is for the helpful things that you do. (A man pokes a ladder through a window.)
E is for each time you were forgetful. (A soon-to-be father is shown leaving his pregnant wife standing at the front of the house while he dashes off to the hospital.)
R is for the recitals that you attended. (A dad is shown literally being dragged to his child’s piano recital.)
The ad concludes by saying: “He may not be a perfect father, but he does deserve a perfect gift. Give him an Arrow shirt for Father’s Day.” This ad is not alone in the media’s portrayal of men as bumbling fools who never quite get it. The message is that usually men may mean well, but they rarely do well. They are either absent from the lives of those in their family, or you are made to wonder if the family would be better if they were absent. They just can’t help themselves. They are just big little boys. They need to be taken care of, and they cannot be relied on. The real problem with this portrayal of the American male is not that it is a not-so-subtle bashing of men, but that it allows us to live down to what the current culture expects of us. I suppose some men like this. It is comfortable not to have to live up to any expectations. We can just say, “Sorry, I can’t help myself and you will just have to live with it.”
But the Bible actually has high expectations of men and calls on them to be leaders in the home. Some have taken these high expectations and twisted them to mean that a man has the privilege of being some kind of despot. He can be ridiculous and unreasonable, and he still must be obeyed. He can be selfish and churlish and the little woman just has to get over it. He can make unreasonable demands and must be followed. They even claim biblical authority and quote verses like: “For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything” (Ephesians 5:23-24). Most Christian women I know do a sort of low growl as that scripture is read, while their husbands respond with a subtle smile — and if they are smart, keep quiet.
But what does it mean to be the head of the home as Christ is the head of the church? First, it means that true manhood is marked by: Sacrifice. Christ became the head of the church, not because of his authority and divine prerogatives, but because he loved the church. How did Christ love the church? He laid down his life for it. If you want to be the head of the home you have to be willing to do the same. You have to be willing to make sacrifices for your family. Being the head of the home is not about being right, it is grounded in sacrificial love. Some men are good at asking their families to make sacrifices, but not so good at making sacrifices which would provide for their needs, protect their safety and promote their well-being. These are the men who make demands, but who do not listen to their wives or children. They unilaterally forbid some things, while disregarding the welfare of those God has given them to care for and protect.
Marriage is not about the wife making the husband happy, but about the husband taking on the role of sacrificial, loving leadership which becomes a blessing to the family. That is a million miles from a man thinking only of getting his needs met, or taking on the role of tyrant.
Let me give a real example of someone who lived out this kind of sacrificial leadership in his home. An article in a Christian magazine tells the story of Dr. Robertson McQuilkin. The author says, “Recently I read a book called A Promise Kept. It turned out to be one of the best books I’ve ever read. . . . The author of the book is Dr. Robertson McQuilkin, who was the president of Columbia University in South Carolina for 22 years. In 1990, he decided to step down from his prestigious post in order to take care of his wife Julie. Julie had Alzheimer’s disease and required constant care 24 hours a day. Although he didn’t think much about his decision, the impact of his decision was tremendous around many parts of the world. Some people lauded his “love with no regrets” for his wife, while others felt his decision was a great loss for the academic world. Dr. McQuilkin and his wife Julie were full-time missionaries in Japan for 12 years. Julie also worked in the academic field, public broadcasting and student counseling for many years. When Dr. McQuilkin walked away from his position as the University president, he was at the peak of his career. Nevertheless, he chose to give up his fame, accomplishments, job and wealth solely to take care of his wife 24 hours a day. Some people suggested that he should get a caretaker to do the job. Or consider placing her in a nursing home to free him up. But he refused to do either. It is simply because he made a promise before God at his wedding many years ago. That ‘For richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, and for better or for worse, he will love her, take care and protect her, for as long as they both shall live.’ ‘My wife needs me to accompany her and walk by her side to complete the final stage of her life,’ he added. According to research, when a wife is struck with a terminal disease, 90% of the husbands in that situation will choose to leave. So what power helped Dr. McQuilkin to win the battles against the tragedies in his life? In a short span of time, the life of his eldest son was lost in an accident, then his wife developed Alzheimer’s disease. That led him to walk away from a glorious career with unlimited potential. He could choose to grumble and regret, but instead he chose to continue loving his wife and keep his vow before God.” That is sacrificial, loving leadership.