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Thursday, June 21, 2012
If you read much around here, you already know that I’m not afraid of stepping on toes. Today I was given a writer’s challenge to write something controversial to provoke my readers, so I decided to write a post I’ve been putting off for a long time.So here goes.
Many of you have heard of, if not actually read, the popular book His Needs, Her Needs by Dr. Willard Harley. I highly recommend this book for couples, because it does a good job of explaining common differences between the needs of men and women.
I read something a while back by Dr. Harley that he calls his cardinal rule of marriage:
Never do anything without an enthusiastic agreement between you and your spouse.
Sounds reasonable, right? Seems fair and logical, doesn’t it?
Except it doesn’t really work.
Now before you start yelling, let me make it clear that I certainly think the best scenario is to gain agreement in all decisions. That said, however, I don’t see any scriptural basis for making agreement a universal “cardinal rule.” A worthy goal, yes. A doctrinal absolute, no.
At the Point of Impasse
In a healthy relationship, reaching the point of impasse, where agreement simply cannot be found, should be a rare thing. For most decisions, prayer, conversation and a willingness to serve and support each other will lead to agreement. That should be the 98% case.
But what do you do when you’ve both prayed and received different answers? What do you do when you genuinely disagree on the best way forward because a consensus could not be reached?
It seems to me there are several possible default approaches to such a situation:
1. Do nothing
2. Flip a coin
3. Wait for someone to change his or her mind
4. Somebody gives in just to keep the peace
And here is the point at which I provoke you:
5. The husband takes the responsibility to decide the matter by his convictions
Authority and Responsibility
As near as I can tell from my study of the scriptures, God ordained marriage as an ordered partnership, where husband and wife are equal in value, but each has differing roles. That means that the position of authority (call it headship or leadership if those words are easier for you) is assigned to a husband at the wedding, regardless of whether he recognizes it and regardless of his apparent worthiness to carry it out. Let me be clear; this position does not in any way lessen the value or worth of his wife or diminish her role or importance in the marriage. It’s just the way God chose to set it up. “The husband is head of his wife, as Christ is head of the church.” (Eph 5:23 NIV)
At the same time I believe that husbands are held accountable for walking out their authority in a Christ-like manner, with all love, strength and sacrifice that entails. The authority granted to husbands comes with an undeniable mandate. “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” (Eph 5:25 NIV)
(If you are new here, I would appreciate it if you would take the time to explore why I believe what I believe about the role of husbands and wives and the implications of those beliefs, which I don't have room to reiterate here. You can read more on the husband’s role in my posts “Husbands, Lead with Love” and “The Question of Authority.” For more on the wife’s role read “Love, Respect and Submission.”)
Getting to the point, what does this kind of ordered partnership mean in the very small minority of cases where you are unable to agree upon a decision? I believe the husband should man-up, take the responsibility, and make the call. Right or wrong, the consequences are on his shoulders. But read on!
Decisions like these should never be made lightly or without a careful eye to preserving the connection in the relationship. That means reassuring his wife that he has her best interest at heart and that of the family, that he has listened carefully to her input and understood it, and that he bares the responsibility of his decision. If he does not take care of her heart in a Christ-like fashion, then by default he has made the wrong decision, regardless of whether it turns out he made the right call for the situation or not.
My stance on this raises lots of questions, and I’ve got more to say on this controversial topic, which I will cover in my next post. But I will stop here and (hopefully) leave you provoked.
Let me hear your feedback in the comments.
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