This video segment is one of six lessons in the “Creating a Gospel-Centered Marriage: Foundations” seminar.
The GCM series are marriage preparation and marriage enrichment level resources. If your marriage needs restoration level care consider one of the other options available at summitchurch.com/counseling, or visit bradhambrick.com/findacounselor for help finding a counselor near you.
If you are interested in the pre-marital mentoring program built around these materials, you can find everything you need at www.bradhambrick.com/gcm.
NOTE: Many people have asked how they can get a copy of the GCM seminar notebooks. You can request a copy from Summit’s admin over counseling at email@example.com (please note this is an administrative account; no individual or family counsel is provided through e-mail).
Any time you enter a significant new role, you receive a job description. The two big roles that are an exception to this rule are: spouse and parent. Our goal in these remaining three lessons is to remedy one of these omissions.
These lessons are embedded in one big assumption – none of us really know what we’re doing when we get started. Even if we grew up in a healthy family, there is no guarantee that what worked for our parents will work for us. Even within the guidance of biblical parameters, there is much that must be tailored to our unique personalities, skills, and schedules.
In Lessons 5 and 6, we will consider what Scripture teaches about the unique role of a husband and wife in marriage. But in the discussion and debate about what is and isn’t supposed to be unique to a husband or wife, we often miss the shared competencies and qualities that Scripture says both a husband and wife should possess. That is what we’ll focus on in Lesson 4. We will consider three areas of a shared job description for a Christian husband (pages 33-34) and wife (pages 35-36).
(1) personal maturity as expressed by the fruit of the Spirit,
(2) ability to be a skilled friend as defined by the “one another” commands of the New Testament, and
(3) functional living marked by managing key life resources well and making wise choices.
One of the things you will find is that these job descriptions are not rooted in gender stereotypes. Too often Christians have equated cultural norms related to gender with biblical manhood and womanhood. There may be nothing wrong with a particular cultural norm; it may even be good. But we should be careful not to give cultural norms biblical weight.
“There is a conservative approach to marriage that puts a great deal of stress on traditional gender roles… There is a lot of emphasis on the differences between men and women. The problem is that an overemphasis could encourage selfishness, especially on the part of the husband (p. 66)… It is my experience that it is nearly impossible to come up with a single, detailed, and very specific set of ‘manly’ or ‘womanly’ characteristics that fits every temperament and culture (p. 200).” Tim Keller in The Meaning of Marriage
The Creating a Gospel-Centered Marriage series affirms that God created man and woman unique, in ways that intentionally complement one another within marriage. But we want to caution against giving timeless biblical weight to stereotypes or cultural norms that are rooted more in an era of history or preferences amongst a group of people than God’s design.
Area #1: Personal Maturity
The first part of the job description for a husband or wife is to be mature. There is no such thing as a “good” and “immature” spouse. Simply put, marriage is for adults not children. This is a neglected implication of the call to “leave and cleave.” It is assumed that when you leave home and start a family of your own, you are ready for the lifestyle of a mature adult.There is no such thing as a “good” and “immature” spouse. Simply put, marriage is for adults not children. Click To Tweet
How do we measure maturity? God gives us the defining marks of Christian maturity in Galatians 5:22-24.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”
To apply this passage well, we must realize that any virtue has two opposites. Too often we only think of the aggressive distortion of a virtue. For instance, when asked, “What is the opposite of love?” We answer, “Hate.” We fail to see the passive distortion of love; that is, apathy. If we only see one distortion of Christian maturity, we are likely to drift towards the opposite distortion we don’t see.
The table below is meant to help you see both types of distortions that exist for each of the Fruit of the Spirit. In Lesson 2, we discussed the “Celebrating Our Non-Moral Differences” tool. In that tool, there was no “Jesus side of the page.” In that tool, we were discussing personality, not morality. In the chart below, Christlikeness is represented in the virtues listed in the middle column. When we fall short (Romans 3:23) of that standard, Scripture calls us to repent to God and our spouse.
|Passive Distortions||Fruit of the Spirit||Aggressive Distortions|
|Neglect ◊ Apathy
|Love||Hateful ◊ Obsessive
Lusting / Perpetually Dissatisfied
|Gloomy ◊ Cold
Grandiose Thoughts or Expectations
|Living in Denial ◊ Always Neutral
|Peace||Critical ◊ Argumentative
Must Have the Last Word
|Quitter ◊ Short-Sighted
Lenient with God-Given Authority
|Patience||Overly Opinionated ◊ Slow to Listen
Condemning of Weakness
|Codependent ◊ Easily Manipulated
Lack of Personal Identity
|Kindness||Cruel ◊ Non-generous
|Lazy ◊ Lacking Moral Conviction
Lack of “Salt & Light” Impact
|Goodness||Without Mercy ◊ Legalistic
Entertained by Immorality
|Deceit by Concealing ◊ Undependable
View Faith as Irrelevant
|Faithfulness||Deceit by Lying ◊ Hyper-Spiritualizing
Actively Doubting God
|Soft ◊ Relationally Uninvolved
Giving False Hope
|Gentleness||Demanding ◊ Brutal Honesty
Giving No Hope
|Indulgent of Self or Others ◊ Other-Dependant
Lacking Life Structure
|Self-Control||Compulsive ◊ Rigid
Area #2: Healthy Friendship
If it is fair to say that college is high school on steroids, then it is equally fair to say that marriage is friendship on covenant. The same marks Scripture provides for a healthy friendship are the foundational relational commitments expected between a husband and wife. The primary difference is that the frequency of application and level of commitment is higher.
Too often, we hold marriage to a lesser standard than friendship. We expect our spouse to understand or accept things that we know would offend our friends. We think we can “make it up” to our spouse, when we would “make it a priority” with our friends. We must abandon this mindset.
Scripture gives us the marks of healthy friendship in the “one another” commands of the New Testament. These commands capture how one believer is to treat another believer and what our “reasonable expectations” of each other should be. These marks of healthy friendship should be most clearly enacted in a marriage.
On your marital job description, you are invited to consider 10 of the “one another” commands, which are representative of the 30-40 (depending on which translation of the Bible you use) in the New Testament. You will find three columns next to each command. These are meant to prompt conversation with your fiancé/spouse.
- My Strength – You have some strengths in each of these aspects of friendship. What are they?
- My Weakness – You have some weaknesses in each of these aspects of friendship. What are they?
- Important to Spouse – Some aspects of friendship are more important to your spouse than others. Ask you spouse what those are.
The goal of the job description is three-fold: (a) to help you grow in self-awareness about your strengths and weaknesses in the breadth of areas that marital life entails, (b) to help you grow in honest vulnerability about your weaknesses and (c) to help you learn what is most important to your spouse.
Area #3: Functional Living
A shared workable plan for functional living is necessary for healthy role definition between husband and wife. An incomplete or unworkable plan can result in distortions within biblical roles for a husband and wife. While it is the leadership responsibility of a husband to initiate conversations about the subjects discussed in “Area #3,” either spouse may bear the responsibility or primary oversight for these areas. Once these areas are agreed upon, the couple mutually submits to the God-honoring plans they’ve made (Eph. 5:21).
“Area #3” is built on the premise that Paul’s introduction to Ephesians 5:15-21 is essential for rightly applying this classic passage on marriage. The unique roles assigned in Ephesians 5:22-33 are an extension of the main verb in the passage to mutually submit (v. 21) to each other based on a commitment to living wisely (v. 15-20).
“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise, but as wise…” (v. 15)
Mutual submission begins with examination, not authority. Proverbs 29:18 makes it clear that leadership without vision (a clearly articulated, workable plan and method of implementation) is foolishness and leads to destruction. Paul calls on every Christian to examine their “walk” (i.e., approach to life) to make sure it is wise.
In the GCM seminars on finances and decision making you will create a financial budget and make sure that each of you have an approach to personal decision making that is rooted in the same values and life goals.
“Making the best use of the time, because the days are evil…” (v. 16)
Mutual submission ensures that expectations are sustainable and balanced. There are more good things to do than can fit into any given day, week, month, or year. In the GCM seminar on decision making you and your fiancé/spouse will create a time budget for a 168 week to make sure your expectations are reasonable and focused on what is most important to you as a couple.
“Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is…” (v. 17-18)
Mutual submission requires a shared definition of folly (to avoid) and a vision of God’s will (to pursue). Most of life is unplanned and impromptu, even for Type A planning people. Marriage requires the skill of mutually honoring spontaneity. These verses further substantiate the importance of maturity for a healthy marriage.
“Submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ” (v. 21)
Mutual submission voluntarily accepts the standards in this job description as a way to honor Christ. Your spouse should never have to enforce compliance with any part of this job description. When you accepted Christ as Lord, you accepted His standard for your life and committed to relying on His power to carry it out. Your spouse is simply the person you most want to bless with your obedience to Christ.
What did we learn in Lesson 4? We learned that for a marriage to thrive both husband and wife must display a mature character, be skilled friends to one another, and commit to living a functional life. These are not burdens placed on one another by the experience of being married. Instead, these are part of our calling as Christians. God expects us to be accurate and appealing examples of Christ to the world. Our spouse is merely the primary beneficiary of these qualities. We will now use these shared responsibilities of a Christian husband and wife as a foundation to consider unique roles Scripture gives to each.
When studying this lesson as a small group it is recommended that: (a) each participant read the lesson during the week, (b) watch the 15 minute lesson as a group, and then (c) discuss the following questions:
- When or how have you seen the unique responsibilities of husband and wife emphasized over the shared responsibilities? What are the unhealthy effects when this happens?
- What areas of personal maturity do you and your fiancé/spouse need to grow in next?
- What areas of skilled friendship do you and your fiancé/spouse need to grow in next?
- What areas of functional living do you and your fiancé/spouse need to grow in next?
- How does discussing and growing in Areas 1-3 of this job description set you up well for living out your unique roles within marriage?
- When is it easy to get upset with marriage or your spouse for the maturity that life requires?
- In light of this lesson, what changes do you need to begin making to experience more of what God intended marriage to be?