THE Scripture tells us plainly that “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus”.

(Galatians 3:28)

This cannot mean that there are no such things as Jews and Gentiles, slaves and freemen, men and women, for that would be ridiculous. It is telling us that those things are of no significance in looking at our standing in Christ. All of us, whoever we are and whatever our supposed worldly status or sex, have been mightily elevated in Christ to make all such other things of no account as saints.

Therefore, spiritually, husbands and wives are one in Christ. Nevertheless they are male and female, husband and wife, just as there were indeed Jews and Greeks, and slaves and masters in Paul’s day. It is for this reason that Paul by the Spirit gives separate instructions on obligations and responsibilities for husbands and wives.

Especially for Husbands

Husbands are to provide strength, leadership, initiative, the wherewithal for everyday living, and the authority for the spiritual tone of the home. They are to be consistent, tender, loyal, filled with respect, giving honour to a wife as to the “weaker vessel”, dwelling with her according to knowledge of what God has revealed concerning his partner and his responsibilities towards her.

A man must exercise his leadership and not let it go by default. Leadership does not just happen. Leadership provides example as well as guidance, service as well as authority. A man must shoulder his responsibility for the character and stability of the home. He must protect it from untoward outside influences and undesirable developments within.

The friends we make, the company we keep, who shares our home and when, our responsibilities towards our brethren and sisters, the atmosphere of the home for husband and wife together and separately, and later for any children they may have, all come within the survey of the husband’s spiritual eye. He must ensure that what Christ commands has full opportunity to flower under his own care.

The loving things we are pleased to do before we come to marriage are to be carried on afterwards. We are not to subscribe to the cynical view that there is no point in running for the train once we have caught it! Tenderness, kindness, flowers, affectionate remembrances and constant solicitation are to be regularly evident because these provide needful reassurance and support, and bring joy and encouragement.

Time is not our own to do as we like with—neither in the spiritual sphere nor in everyday affairs. We need to control our own use of time and take care regarding the demands we make on our family. A husband with a time-consuming hobby, particularly one that takes him away from home, or with an unbalanced schedule of ecclesial duties can create a feeling of loneliness or neglect, or a disproportionate burden of responsibility for his partner.

We need to find the point of balance and of spiritual reasonableness in all parts of our life together.

The Good Wife

The description of the virtuous wife in Proverbs 31:10-31 can, to say the least, be unnerving to any new wife. Have a look at it if you cannot easily recall its comprehensive and almost ceaseless activity. But, setting aside the extent and detail of her work as described, the essence of her service is one of totally unselfish concern for her household. Her care and compassion, her awareness and diligence run through all that she does.

Characteristically, Solomon, by the Spirit, sets up a wise marker for all wives: “Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised.”

(Proverbs 31:30)

Woman has marvellous gifts from God that excel those of man. Her instinctive sense of motherhood flows through her special kind of care, irrespective of the presence of children, to the benefit of all who come within the walls of her home. The nest-building urge transforms bricks and mortar into a warm and comforting haven set apart from the world outside.

In New Testament terms the good wife is the perfect blend of Mary and Martha.

Every gift has its temptations, its dark side as well as the light. The ability to make a home could, in unwise or selfish hands, turn into sheer materialism with undue demands on money and time, and a danger of pride in things rather than a deep thankfulness for home as home. Remember that keeping up with the Joneses is merely a race to the grave.

Every mother enjoys presiding at her own table. She loves to have her family about her sharing the things she has prepared. There is something gracious in woman’s giving of herself for others to share. This is not to be confused with extravagance or pandering or spoiling. Dignity and discipline, and a feeling of love and support for her husband who, normally, is the earthly provider, should guide her service.

Mealtimes should be devoted to the family. They are golden opportunities for all members to share the day’s activities with everyone else. We should deplore the habit of allowing the micro-wave oven to beguile us into serving meals in separate units to different members of the family when they feel like it or when TV schedules set them free. The discipline of table, like that of the daily readings should prevail above these disruptive and undesirable habits.

Motherhood brings its own particular joys. The satisfaction of bearing a living miracle is matched by the unspeakable privilege of being able to give the words of eternal life in simple form in the early years of childhood, before the influences of the world and of school crowd in upon the young life. What we are as mothers—the pace of life, the music we listen to, our fret and anxiety, our love and peace of mind, our attitude in everything that we are and do—is in some way experienced even by the unborn child, and how much more from babyhood onwards. Prayer, quiet reading, a sense of Christ in our lives and all spiritual exercises provide us with hidden strength and deep contentment.