In The Pursuit of Pleasure in the Pleasure of Another: A Christian Hedonist Guide to a Happy Marriage, I argue that husbands are "leading lovers" who sacrificially strive to use their God-given status as husbands to benefit their wives rather than consume them. And wives are "submissive helpers" who submit to their husbands' loving leadership. These roles complement rather than compete with one another. Everyone is happy, and all is good and right with the world... until reality sets in.
The truth is, I know many wives who would say, "My husband isn't loving or a leader. How can I submit to him?" On the flipside, I know many husbands who would say, "My wife doesn't submit to anything, no matter how much I love her." I'm the first to admit that the vision I propose in the book is more an ideal to be attained rather than a reality to be enjoyed. But it's better to know God's view of marriage, and the role of husbands and wives in it, then it is to coast through with no goal other than immediate personal gratification.
I've been reading an excellent biography of John A Broadus. Broadus was a baptist preacher in the mid 1800's. He is regarded as one of the greatest American preachers ever. He was also one of the founders of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Charles Spurgeon, a renowned British preacher and contemporary of Broadus, called him the "greatest of living preachers." That is quite a compliment coming from someone as popular as Spurgeon. Why do I bring up John Broadus? Because he dealt with an issue that we are still dealing with today, and the excerpt I'm about to quote could have been written by any contemporary pastor.
Charlottesville Baptist Church, where Broadus was pastor, experienced a kind of revival while he was there. Reflecting on the revival, Broadus wrote this: "Sunrise prayer meetings were kept up for the next two weeks, and the members, especially the sisters, increased much in fervor of feeling; but most of the male members neglected the meetings, and could not be induced to do otherwise."
I want to chuckle and weep at that testimony. Chuckle because it sounds like something out of Why Men Hate Going to Church (which was published in 2004). And weep because the same dilemma that Broadus lamented has continued to this very day. Men don't like church. If Broadus, one of the greatest preachers of his day, in the middle of a mini-awakening in his community, lacked "most" of the male members at his meetings, how much more can I expect similar findings today?
I've been asked more than once by wives who long for their husbands to take the lead in their homes, "Why won't he lead?" They aren't talking about leading in where to eat or whether to get the extra 50 channels on the cable package. They're talking about in spiritual matters. They're wondering why their husbands seem to be intent on leading them away from God rather than toward him. I haven't come up with a good answer yet. And then I read a quote like the one above from Broadus and realize this has been going on for some time. I don't think it's because the carpet in the church is purple or the worship leader isn't masculine enough. I'm beginning to think many men don't lead in spiritual things because they don't care about spiritual things. They're more concerned with this world than the next and instant gratification rather than eternal.
Some Christians will take what I've written and say, "Yeah, that's exactly right. So if men aren't going to do it, then women should take the lead, like Deborah in the Old Testament." Some may use the obvious neglect of spiritual things by men to justify flipping the roles of husband and wife or ordaining women to be elders and preachers. In my next post, I'll explain why this isn't a good idea.