Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Two Heads Aren't Better than One

Leslie Basham: Submission isn’t the same as passivity. Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: If a woman takes submission to mean that she never opens her mouth in her home, then the problems that result in that marriage are not the result of submitting. The problems that result in that marriage are a result of God’s plan not lived out God’s way, a distortion of God’s plan.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss. It’s Tuesday, January 29.

Yesterday we heard about the importance of understanding the difference between men and women. This issue reflects the character of God Himself. If you missed any of that program, I hope you’ll catch up at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Today we’ll find out how a belief in biblical roles gets played out practically in a home. Here’s Nancy.

Nancy: I’m told that in the San Diego Zoo there is a two-headed snake. It sounds really awful. I haven’t seen it with my own eyes, but I understand that there is a sign next to that snake that says, “The two-headed snake competes with itself for the gathering of food and for other necessary functions in life. It ultimately destroys itself. It cannot long survive.”

Is that a picture or what of what has happened in so many of our homes within even the evangelical culture today? Two, three, four-headed monsters competing with themselves, striving and ultimately destroying each other.

And of course when there’s that competition, Satan has a heyday. That’s exactly what he wants in your marriage, in your home, in your relationships, to have this disorder, this disorientation, this dysfunction. He wants you to be at each other’s throats rather than complementing one another and benefiting from each other’s strengths and filling each other in areas of weakness.

We’ve been looking at God’s created purpose for men and for women, male and female. He created them in the image of God. We’ve talked about the fact that Scripture teaches equality between men and women. But it also teaches that there are differences between men and women and that within those differences there is to be unity. We are to complement one another.

But then there’s this question: How is that to be lived out? What does this look like, this complementarian perspective that we’ve been talking about of male/female roles and functions? What does it look like in the home? What does it look like in the church? What does it look like in other spheres and relationships? That’s what we want to talk about over these next several sessions.

Let me remind you that we have a special link on our website ReviveOurHearts.com. If you’ll go there and click on "Topics," and then click on “Biblical Womanhood.” You’ll find there are lots of resources, tools, things to help you understand this better. Some of the terms that we’re talking about that as you’ve been taking notes you’ve been thinking, “How do you spell that? I didn’t catch that Scripture reference,” you can go back. You can actually read the transcripts of each of these programs. These things will help you to get more of a grasp of what we’re talking about.

Biblical womanhood and also biblical manhood in the home and in the church in particular are not defined by a set of behaviors and roles as much as they are defined by a disposition, an inclination of the heart. It’s a way of thinking. It’s a way of viewing yourself. It’s a way of viewing God. It’s a way of viewing members of the opposite sex. It’s an inclination before it is a set of behaviors.

That inclination, that disposition, is expressed in thousands of different ways in everyday life circumstances and situations. I want to focus today on how that disposition, that inclination is expressed within marriage. What has God designed in terms of the differences, the distinctions between men and women in marriage?

We took a poll a few moments ago and found out that at least half the women in this room are not married. Do not go to sleep on me. Do not tune out. Do not turn off your radio. If you are not married, you still need to know what God’s Word teaches about marriage.

First of all, most of you who are single will some day be married. And second, all of you have friends who are married and you have family members who are married who need to understand God’s way of thinking. So this is something that all of us need to understand, whether we’re married or single.

Speaking of couples complementing each other, I read about a couple who on their 50th wedding anniversary talked about the reason that they had had such a long and happy marriage. The husband said, “Here’s what sums it up. I’ve tried never to be selfish. After all, there’s no “i” in the word marriage.” To which the wife said, “For my part I have never corrected my husband’s spelling, and that’s how we made this marriage work for 50 years.”

The Scripture says in 1 Corinthians 11, verse 3, the apostle Paul says, “I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.” Without going into a whole lot of detail on this, I think it’s clear from the Scripture that there is order.

There is order within the Trinity and there is order within our homes as God designed them to function. The Scripture says the head of Christ is God. That means that within the Trinity, though they are equal in deity and they are equal in importance, there are different roles and functions.

The Father has authority over the Son. And in the Scripture you see that the Son gladly submits to the authority of His Father. You never see the Son giving direction or headship to the Father in the Trinity.

You say, “Does that mean the Son is inferior to the Father because the Son is under the Father’s authority?” No, it just means they have different roles.

And so it is in marriage as God designed it to be that there is an order. The head of the man is Christ. That means the husband is not the head of the home. Christ is the head of the home. The husband is responsible to report to Christ as his direct authority. The head of a wife is her husband. It’s important that he be getting his direction from the Lord so he knows how to provide the leadership his family needs.

The head of Christ is God. So there is an order here. And when we follow this order, when we function as we were designed, then there is peace. There is harmony and there is blessing. We read this concept in the classic passage on order in the home and you see how it connects with order in the church as well in Ephesians 5 in several verses. You’re familiar with them.

“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior” (verses 22 and 23).

Right off the bat you see that this headship is not a dictatorial or an abusive or autocratic role. Christ demonstrates His headship for the church by laying down His life for it. He is the Savior of the church.

As the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. It says in verse 25,

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.

Now again, this is not a series on submission. But don’t you see in that passage this beautiful picture of complementary roles and relationships as God designed it to be? I have to say we fall far short of what God designed and that’s why we have trouble in marriage; that’s why we have conflicts. That’s why we have divorce, because we don’t fulfill those complementary roles.

But when things are done as God designed, we avoid the extremes on either side or the pitfalls on either side of aggressiveness at one end and passivity on the other end. And in the middle we have this beautiful complementary relationship.

Let me show you what I mean by that. For example, the husband is given the responsibility to provide for his wife loving, humble, thoughtful leadership, headship, direction, authority. But on the one end he’s not to be harsh or abusive or domineering. On the other end he’s not to be passive or lazy. He’s to be actively involved in providing loving, humble, thoughtful leadership to his wife and family.

And then we have the wife. She is called to give active, intelligent, joyful submission to her husband’s leadership. That steers clear of both of the extremes on either side. It doesn’t mean that she, on one side, has the sins of aggressiveness by domineering or belittling her husband or usurping his authority. Those would be sins of aggressiveness that wives might commit.

On the other end she isn’t guilty of sins of passivity. What would those be? She’s not a passive robot who never speaks up, never participates in the decision-making process, never challenges her husband if he is wrong. “Yes dear. Whatever you say, dear.” That’s not what we’re talking about here.

We’re talking about an active, intelligent, joyful submission to her husband as unto the Lord. On either side we need to steer clear of these errors of aggressiveness or passivity. That’s what the complementarian vision, the biblical vision as I understand it, calls us to.

This vision for submission of the wife doesn’t mean that her husband directs every detail of her life. In her book, Does Christianity Squash Women? Rebecca Jones says,

Radical, positive obedience is not merely a grudging passivity. A wife doesn’t just become silent and go into neutral.

To obey Christ’s command to submit, a wife must work actively to know and honor the heart desires of her husband. She conforms herself to its joy, her husband’s heart’s joys, its instincts and its passions. And she encourages the children to do the same.

Submitting to her husband is far more than avoiding the temptation to belittle him. It involves lifting him up, honoring him actively in her heart and before others and verbally encouraging him.

You can apply the same concept of distinct roles, not just in marriage but also more broadly in the family, where we see that the husband is given the primary responsibility to lead, to provide for, and to protect his family. As we look through the whole of Scripture and if you pull together all the verses that have anything to do with the role of the husband, the role of the man, you would see them falling into these categories—to lead, to provide for, and to protect his family.

Then you’d see that the wife is primarily responsible to help her husband by managing the household and nurturing the children. That doesn’t mean that they don’t both participate in both aspects. Both will often help the other in his or her primary area of responsibility. It simply addresses who has the primary responsibility and accountability before God.

This complementarian vision for manhood and womanhood within the home doesn’t specify who does what activities—who takes out the trash, who washes the dishes, who balances the checkbook. It just says that the husband is held responsible for the overall direction of the home and the woman responsible to support that direction.

Now I’d be quick to say that there is potential for abuses. We’re all aware of situations where there have been abuses, where men are autocratic or abusive on one end or passive on the other end. We’ve seen women who’ve fallen to those sins of aggressiveness or passivity and women who’ve been wounded and wronged as a result of their husbands’ sins and men who’ve been wounded and wronged as a result of their wives’ sins.

But we need to recognize that those abuses are not the result of God’s plan. They are distortions of God’s created plan. If a woman takes submission to mean that she never opens her mouth in her home, then the problems that result in that marriage are not the result of submitting. The problem that result in that marriage are a result of God’s plan not lived out God’s way, a distortion of God’s plan.

The solution is not to throw out God's plan because there have been some abuses. The solution is to understand God’s plan, to embrace it, and to allow Him to redeem our broken, fallen manhood and womanhood.

I want to read to you a couple of testimonies I’ve received from women that I think just illustrate better than I can as a single woman some of what we’re talking about here.

A friend of mine wrote and said,

I believe that the greatest cry among Christian women today is the hesitancy of men to be leaders. This was my greatest struggle as a young wife. I wanted my husband to lead me, but he was content to let me take the lead. [Now a lot of this has to do with personality. I know this couple. He’s a quiet man, and she’s very vivacious and outgoing. Nothing wrong with that.]

As I waited for his leadership there were sometimes awkward periods of inactivity. Yet as I committed myself to wait on the Lord by waiting on my husband, I saw him begin to lead me in surprising and powerful ways.

I learned that a leader really is defined as being a person who has someone following him. I needed to just follow Dave no matter what.

Now the “no matter what” doesn’t mean that you follow him into sin, but it does mean you follow him even if it’s not quite the way you would lead. Because God didn’t call you to lead, God called him to lead.

I can honestly say that few things bring me as much joy and peace as watching how the Lord has made Dave such a wise and wonderful leader. Frankly, as I look back, perhaps the greater challenge in our marriage was for the Lord to humble me so that Dave could become the man that God always designed him to be.

You see the complementarian vision being fulfilled day by day, step by step in that marriage? Now I want to read to you another story, a testimony. Someone posted this on the comment blog at ReviveOurHearts.com.

This woman said,

I am 50 years old and have been essentially alone for 21 years. I never thought this would be my life. At no time did it cross my mind that my husband would ever leave me. As I look back now, I know that I made many mistakes in my relationship with my husband. I cannot answer for my husband’s failures. Who was most to blame doesn’t matter now. If I had known then what I know now about God’s commands to wives, what a man needs, and what I could do to fill those needs, it may have made all the difference.

When my husband acted selfishly at home, allowed his temper to flare and then went to church and acted spiritual, I withdrew from him emotionally, letting him see my cynicism and lack of confidence. I wish I had prayed positively for him, trusting God, openly showed love and acceptance of him for himself, not waited until he acted right.

When he failed our child, failed to have devotions, failed to be spiritual, failed to lead like he should, I was privately disappointed but he knew it. I wish I had completely trusted God and maintained unity, honor, reverence, and submission with a glad and trusting heart.

When he made a statement about someone or something, I often countered, putting his opinion down, letting him know he was wrong. I wish I had understood about chaste behavior as described in 1 Peter.

He tried to make up to me for some failure. I wish I had not been so cool, waiting for him to be more intense and sincere about it. When he spent money I thought we didn’t have, it caused me anxiety and he knew it. I wish I had shown continued confidence in him regardless of his decisions.

When he wanted me to do something and I didn’t want to do it, I wish that I had cheerfully complied instead of making him sorry he asked. Hard-headedness is not a trait to endear any woman to a man.

He needed someone to believe in him, admire him, approve of him, accept him, regardless of his failures. I wish I had been the one to give him those things. Maybe he would not have left and found another woman to take my place.

When I thought that keeping his faults before him, small things he did and said, and keeping myself a little standoffish in my approval of him was the only way he would change, I wish someone would have taken me aside and told me how badly mistaken I was to think it was my place to apply and keep the pressure on.

When he did not know how to show love and I felt a void emotionally, I gave up, turning to friends and family for my emotional support and needs. I wish I had borne all things and hoped all things, loved him steadily and fully, unconditionally. I never saw the need to endear myself to him. I took for granted that he would fulfill the husband’s moral obligation to love me. I wish I had gone to God’s beauty school for the whole woman—spirit, soul, and body.

Time passed. I never knew my marriage was being strangled to death. Separation and divorce came. I was shocked, terribly scared, and ashamed. I was one of those women who thought it would never happen to me. I felt like a failure. As someone so aptly stated, "Divorce is like a death except that no one comes to bring food or comfort you."

When my husband left we were plunged into near poverty. He no longer felt the natural desire to protect and support his family.

She goes on to describe many of the hardships that she and her child went through together. And then she says,

In good time God gave me a family in the church that stepped in and were there when I needed them for the long term. They will never know what an enormous impact that had on our lives. They were a gift from God. But the loneliness at home, the feelings of rejection and abandonment, the financial struggle were all still there every day.

And then she quotes from Isaiah 48:18, “Oh that you had paid attention to my commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea.”

I want to be quick to say that we have a great redeeming God. And God has redeemed and restored that woman’s life, but there are still regrets. Why not choose now the pathway of humility, longsuffering, genuine selfless love, perseverance, and faith?

Some of you are in a place where it’s not too late. Some of you aren’t even married yet. As you look ahead and as you think about the marriage God has put you in, perhaps the difficult marriage that you’re in right now, this woman would like for her testimony to be a word of challenge to you to say, “Don’t go where I did. There’s a better way. There’s God’s way, the husband and wife complementing each other.”

You say, “Well, my husband’s not there. He won’t do that.” You know what? You can’t do it for your husband. But by God’s grace you can do it for you. You can choose that pathway. And watch God provide for you a way though the river, a way through the wilderness, a way over that mountain.

I’m not saying that if you fulfill this vision and your part in it that your husband will automatically or necessarily become this great spiritual giant. He may; he may not. But you will be right with God. You will have that peace like a river that she talks about from Isaiah 48.

Let’s pray. How many times in this account did this woman say “I wish, I wish, I wish”? “I wish I had known; I wish I had done something differently.” My prayer for you is that you would not have to look back on your life and say, “I wish I had done it differently,” but that you’ll be able to look back and say with joy, “By God’s grace I embraced His vision for my life as a woman. By God’s grace I fulfilled it. And my peace is like a river.”

Lord I pray that You would encourage hearts that are hurting, that people who are living with regret who’ve just listened to this story and said, “That’s my story;” I pray that You would remind them that You are a redeeming God who is able to make us new, to make us complete.

And, Lord, I pray for those who are not yet where they have those regrets that they will hear this caution, hear these words and choose Your way. I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Leslie: That’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss on the joy and peace that comes from embracing His calling to women. Remember the listener Nancy quoted from? She wrote, “I have missed the best God had to offer.” She wished she had known God’s plan for wives early in marriage.

Imagine what would happen if wives today did understand and did model a biblical model of femininity? The effects would be far reaching on our families, on our world and on future generations. That’s why I hope you’ll join Nancy in Chicago this October for the True Woman ‘08: National Women’s Conference.

You’ll learn from speakers like Nancy, Joni Eareckson Tada, and John Piper. You’ll be encouraged by other women joining with you to affirm the value of biblical womanhood, and you’ll encourage other women.

We believe the time is now for a revival of our homes, our communities and the entire culture for God’s glory. That’s what True Woman 08 is about. For details visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

Applying biblical principles at home isn’t always easy, but it can have amazing results. That’s what one of our listeners has discovered. She’s a very strong woman who has been learning the value of femininity, and we’ll hear from her tomorrow. I hope you can be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.

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