Thursday, January 31, 2019

Headship and Prayer (3) Variety

Some say that headship means that fathers have primary responsibility for discipline, (especially when husband and wife disagree). I am not sure about this. We need to be very careful when defining male and female roles that we don’t go beyond the scriptures. The New Testament seems to define attitudes and behaviours, but says very little about different roles for husbands and wives.

One reason seems to be that God has created both men and women with a huge variety in personality and character. So, when two people marry, there will not be a one-size-fits-all definition of roles that will work for them. We must be careful about assuming that what will work for the average couple will fit everyone.

For example, on average men are physically stronger than women. But there is a huge variation in strength between men, and also between women; and massive overlap. The result is that some men will be married to women who have much greater physical strength than they do. For these couples, it may not be practical to say that “the husband should cut the wood”.

The same applies to nurturing. I think it can be shown statistically that on average women are more nurturing than men. However, there is great variation in nurturing ability between men, and also between women, and huge overlap between men and women. This means that some men will be stronger on nurturing that their wives. These couples will need to think carefully about their roles to make sure that they take full advantage of their different giftings.

The same applies to the discipline of children. Many women find discipline difficult because they are kind and caring. On the other hand, some men are too harsh. That is why Paul warned fathers not to embitter their children or exasperate them (Col 3:21; Eph 6:4). Most couples will find that the discipline of children goes better when they do it together, using their complementary skills. However, it also depends on the personality and the character of the couple.

I know couples where the husband is quieter and gentle, so he finds the discipline of children hard. The wife tends to set the boundaries because she is emotionally tougher. This seems to work for some parents, so we should be careful about judging, just because they have different personalities.

There are two things that husbands cannot do: carry a pregnancy and breastfeed a baby, so women need to undertake these two roles, (although some cannot). However, if the wife is not very good at nurturing, and the husband is better at it, there is no reason why the man cannot care for the young children. Couples should work out what is best for them, giving their combination of personality and character.

Provision of income is an interesting case. The traditional view is that when their family is young, the father should be the provider, while the mother cares for the children. This works for many couples, but the personalities of some couples may be such that the traditional approach does not work.

If the husband is artistic, the couple might decide that he should concentrate on his art, even though it does not pay well, because that is his calling. If the wife is capable, she might be more effective as an income earner. The woman in Proverbs 31 seemed to be an astute manager of the family business. If she has the skills, it is good that she gets the opportunity to use them.

God is far more concerned that we achieve our full potential as people, than that we fit with preconceived roles.

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