Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. (Ephesians 5:25 ,NIV)
Many men are willing to die; not enough are willing to truly live. Dying is easy; living is hard.
Dads, this one is for you in your role as fathers. Many fathers find it difficult to express genuine emotions or to emotionally support their families. And yet, they do feel genuine emotions. However, the difficulty men face is expressing authentic emotions effectively in a society that has conditioned them to hide their emotions.
Unfortunately, emotional expressions are usually stereotyped by gender. We condition girls to believe it’s okay to cry when hurt. For boys, it’s never okay to cry. When hurt, they must suck it up and play through the pain. We encourage girls to express emotional authenticity. Yet, we instruct boys to bottle everything up inside. Women are expected to be nurturing and emotional. Men are expected to be tough and stoic. Women talk nonstop with their friends, hug at every possible moment, and make group trips to the restroom for more talking. Most of these are unacceptable for men. Men grunt one or two words to each other, fist-bump or high-five, and make solo trips to the restroom – where talking is strictly forbidden.
Generally speaking, two emotional expressions are acceptable for men: anger and violence. These come in handy on the battlefield and in competitive sporting events. But not so much in interpersonal relationships that require healthy emotional expression.
When considering the verse, “Husbands love your wives like Christ loved the church,” we don’t look long enough to discover the how and what of Christ’s love for the church. Dads, listen up – marriage and leading a family entails so much more than simply having a death-sentence, sacrificial mentality. Christ didn’t just sacrifice His life. From Scripture we find He also:
- Rose from the dead to bring the church invigorating life
- Ever lives for the church and anticipates reunion with her
- Keeps the church always on His mind – her name is engraved on His hand
- Intercedes for her
- Meets the needs of the church by providing for her
- Graciously and mercifully forgives her
- Bestows His compassion, long-suffering, and love upon the church
- Infuses the church with life, peace, joy, goodness, even humor
Sadly, too many men are willing to die for their families and not enough are willing to live for them. We need more courageous dads who will challenge the gender stereotype and express authentic, positive, expressive emotional interaction. If men are to love like Christ loved the church, then consider how He interacted with people.
Since I have an intimate fondness for the Gospel of John, I use that in many examples. I figure if God can take a Son of Thunder and transform him into John the Beloved, then He can transform men into the loving husbands and dads they should be. Dads, to accept the challenge of living out a loving emotional expression, be just like Jesus. Imitate Him in His emotional expression. If Jesus expressed an emotion, it is acceptable for men to express it too.
Jesus’ Emotional Expressions
In looking at examples from the Gospel of John, we find Jesus modeled a wide variety of healthy emotional interactions:
- John 3 – Jesus met Nicodemus at his point of spiritual need. He listened attentively and asked engaging questions.
- John 4 – Jesus met the woman at the well at her point of emotional and spiritual need, but much differently than with Nicodemus. He was flexible, attentive, interested in her wellbeing, and wasn’t influenced or distracted by his male counterparts (disciples).
- John 5 – Jesus met the physical need of the lame man at the Bethesda Pool. He challenged him with “Do you want to be made whole?” Men need to be in tune with their families and ask questions to identify true needs.
- John 6 – Jesus met the physical needs of the masses by providing food. Men must provide for their families (food, shelter, protection, wellbeing, etc.). Many men proudly boast that they meet this need. However, providing for physical needs isn’t the only need wives and children have. Financial support doesn’t replace quality time or affectionate hugs.
- John 7 – Jesus challenged intellectual needs (“How did this man get such learning?”). Men, constantly improve your mental strength. This hones your integrity, decision-making process, and application of wisdom / experience. Children rely on this for their future.
- John 8 – With the adulterous woman, Jesus was just, yet compassionate, merciful, protective, and forgiving. He challenged the status quo by saying, “He who is without sin cast the first stone.” Men, it’s okay to be compassionate, loving, protective, and forgiving. The example you live is usually the image children project on their heavenly Father.
- Jesus was affectionate with children, emotional at Lazarus’ death, angry with the temple merchants, and patient with the disciples. Jesus consistently modeled healthy relational behavior. He was a man’s man.
Challenge to Dads
I could go on and on. The point is, the relationship between a dad and his family is much more than sacrificial death or self-denial. God intended it to be a living, vibrant, enjoyable, and fulfilling relationship. Thus, it is one that naturally expresses genuine, healthy emotions. And He gave us a wonderful example to follow. So, dads, just be like Jesus!
Some comments / quotes excerpted from Nate’s book “Matched 4 Life”