Part Five: The Husband and Father, Wife and Children
It was Mother’s Day, and I had stopped by the hospital after church to visit a parishioner.
We were talking about mothers and he shared with me some wisdom. He said, “The
greatest gift a father can give to his children is to love their mother.” Think of the beautiful
picture that St. Paul paints of the love of Christ for his church and the submission of the
church to Christ. This husband and wife relationship is not two people separated from the
world off somewhere on a perpetual honeymoon. The husband is a father and the wife is a
mother. Their relationship to each other is inseparable from their relationship to their
This is not always the case. God, in his wisdom, chooses to bless some married couples
with children while withholding that blessing from other married couples. We may not pry
into the hidden will of God to try to explain what he has not explained. We don’t know why
God blesses this couple and doesn’t bless that couple. The withholding of a particular
blessing does not mean he is withholding his love. He often blesses such couples in
different ways. Children are always a blessing. Human life is precious. When God gives us
what is precious it is a blessing. In the beginning, Moses records that God blessed them and
told them to be fruitful. Children are a blessing from God.
The government God has established for the raising of children is a government of a father
and a mother who are husband and wife. Nowadays, with the insistence that every
conceivable arrangement or configuration of sex, marriage, and family be given equal
consideration to every other arrangement, even to note that there is a normal way that
things are to be arranged meets with objections from the politically correct, that is, from
those whose morality changes with the changing moral standards of the world. God loves
the single mother and the single father. God watches over the orphans and the widows.
God governs us in a variety of ways. But there is a normal and what is normal is what is
reflected in the fourth and the sixth commandments God gave to Moses. The fourth
commandment teaches children to honor their father and their mother. The sixth
commandment teaches husbands and wives to be faithful to each other. Clearly, the fourth
commandment applies to us throughout our lives. Even when our parents no longer tell us
what to do, we honor them. And sexual fidelity to one’s spouse requires celibacy for single
men and women, boys and girls. Fornication, even when engaged in by single men and
women, is an assault on marriage. It steals from marriage what is proper to it.
According to God’s law, and according to the ordinary blessing of God, the husband is a
father and the wife is a mother. The husband has a relationship with his wife as husband.
He has a relationship with his children as father. What he does as husband a father is
doing. What he does as father a husband is doing. He can no more separate his husbandly
duties from his fatherly duties than he can become two men. The offices are distinct, but
since they are held by the same man, they cannot be separated. Sometimes, they cannot be
The way the husband treats his wife is the way the father treats the mother. How he treats
her is what he teaches his children to do. The same applies to the wife. How she treats her
husband is what she is telling her children to do. Actions speak louder than words.
The word iconic is probably overused, but it applies well to this topic. The father and
mother are icons. They are images of God. Much has been written and said about St. Paul’s
words in 1 Corinthians 11 about head-coverings for women. Since it is no longer required
for a woman to cover her head in church, it is assumed that the significance of the headcovering
no longer applies. But doctrine does not change, even if the customs by which we
express it do. St. Paul writes:
But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is
man, and the head of Christ is God. (1 Corinthians 11:3)
That this is true, whether or not Christians express this truth by what they wear or do not
wear on their heads, is brought out a few verses later where Paul writes:
He is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. For man is not
from woman, but woman from man. Nor was man created for the woman, but
woman for the man. (Verses 7-9)
Christ honors the Father who sent him. He is the image of the invisible God. The man
honors Christ. The woman honors her husband. Christ honors his Father by going to the
cross. “No one takes my life from me,” he says. He gave it up freely in obedience to his
Father. His obedience was out of love for the Father and out of love for those his Father
The husband honors Christ by imitating him. Even as Christ gave up his life for the church,
his bride, and thereby made her holy by his blood, just so the husband lives his life for his
wife, putting her needs above his own. He is willing to sacrifice himself, not for her
transient emotional gratification, but for her. It is for her as the holy bride, the spotless and
faultless bride, the bride without blemish, that he devotes himself. He is to be her pastor.
When Adam saw his wife being tempted by the father of lies and murderer of souls he
remained silent and by his silence acquiesced to her deception. That was his sin. He
listened to her instead of speaking to her the word of God. The husband serves his wife by
acting as her spiritual head. That’s his job.
The wife honors her husband by submitting to him. Her husband cannot impose
submission on her. She submits herself. This submission entails respect and trust. She
respects him for Christ’s sake. She doesn’t criticize him, insult him, complain about him to
her friends, and challenge his headship. Instead, she arranges her life in relationship to him
in such a way that it is obvious she regards him as the representative of the home. Jesus
said to Philip, “He who has seen me has seen the Father.” Just so, Christ is found in his
church. The church is identified as the church as she honors Christ. The wife who respects
her husband respects herself, just as the husband who loves his wife loves his own body.
This is what the children witness. The relationship between husband and wife is the
pattern of life from which they live their lives. It is how they learn what life is all about.
The father is the icon of Jesus. The mother is the icon of the church. The children learn at
home what Jesus and church are all about.
Adultery, desertion, pornography, violence, drunkenness, profligacy, and other assaults on
marriage are assaults on children. The very idea that the state can provide for children is
not only an absurdity easily disproved by any moderately competent social scientist; it is
also an attack on marriage. What children need is not government money for single
mothers. They need mothers who are married to their fathers.
The biblical teaching of the husband being the head of his wife and the wife being the body
of her husband is incomprehensible apart from understanding the gospel. A Christ-less
religion cannot establish a patriarchy that isn’t exploitative, domineering, and cruel. This is
why Islam cannot honor women. Where Jesus is but a prophet and not the Savior of
sinners, the people of God are not sanctified. There is no holy church. There are not dear
children of the dear Father. There is nothing but a legal relationship. Christian patriarchy
is grounded in the gospel, even as the Fatherhood of God is understood where the Son is
lifted up on the cross to take away our sins. Islam degrades women, not because men are in
charge, but because the blood of Jesus Christ is not there to cleanse anyone of sin, and there
is no washing of water by the word to make God’s people holy and blameless before him.
Patriarchy without Christ is poison mean. But I wonder if it is as cruel as the soulless
matriarchy of the welfare state where bureaucrats make decisions affecting millions of
fatherless children. They don’t know these children and they cannot know them. They
cannot love them. Even if these bureaucrats – who are overwhelmingly female – are filled
to the brim with maternal love and devotion, it doesn’t help the children one bit and it
certainly doesn’t make government functionaries apt substitutes for the children’s fathers.
Fathers and mothers who love each other as husbands and wives are best suited to raise
the children with which God blesses them. Hiring others to raise their children so that they
can enjoy whatever material benefits come from two incomes will not benefit the children.
Children need a mother in the home more than they need more stuff.
With the advent of effective birth control methods just over half a century ago, the church
lost her voice on the blessing of children. Oh, they were still a blessing, but not one a
married couple couldn’t do without if they had financial, educational, career, or other goals
that required more immediate attention. The domestic estate suffered. Now we are
hearing from various places about the demographic challenges facing the church in the
twenty first century. It is not difficult to understand that when the care of children and
their immortal souls is measured against accumulating more and more stuff that will perish
with this world and found wanting, that children will conclude that they aren’t worth as
much as the junk that replaced them. A generation or more of indoctrination in the gospel
of self-esteem will not give the children as much confidence in their worth as the gospel
will give them.
I do not choose the word indoctrination casually. That’s what it is. The false gospel of selfesteem
is being taught to our children and grandchildren, not only in the public schools, but
in many parochial schools as well. It ought not to be reinterpreted or modified. It needs to
be exposed and rejected for the lie it is. The gospel is for sinners who need a Savior from
their sin. It is in the home where the parents of the children are married to each other that
God’s law exposing our sins and God’s gospel forgiving our sins is most effectively taught.
What is a child worth? How can we teach our children that their true value is not measured
in silver or gold but by the precious blood of Jesus Christ? We can teach them this by
confessing in word and deed the truth that children are precious gifts from God and that
the fruitful womb is his reward.
At the heart of the Christian religion is the crucifixion of Jesus who saves his church, his
body, by giving up his life for her and washing her clean in Holy Baptism. That this is the
heart of our faith requires us to confess its necessity. It cannot be central if it isn’t
necessary. We need the forgiveness of sins because we are sinners. But it is precisely the
knowledge of sin that our culture denies. Professor Marquart used to talk about the unholy
trinity of the 19th century: Charles Darwin, Karl Marx, and Sigmund Freud. Darwin
attacked God the Father our Creator by his theories of how we could be what we are
without our heavenly Father making us what we are. Marx attacked God the Son our Savior
by making sin what’s wrong with the system and thus salvation becoming a social and
political process to overthrow the oppressive system rather than our personal deliverance
from sin, death, and the devil. Freud attacked God the Holy Spirit by defining away sin. If
the ego suffers because the superego cannot control the id, well then, pretend that the id
isn’t so bad after all and tell the superego to chill. It’s the conflict that’s bad. So there’s no
sin. There’s only dysfunction.
It looks like Christianity is on the ropes. So what else is new? It has always looked like
that. The same Jesus who told the seventy that he was sending them out as lambs before
wolves also said that he saw Satan fall from power. We Christians are not defenseless in
the face of cultural assaults against the gospel and the holy institutions God has established.
The gospel is its own power. It is what binds husbands and wives, fathers and mothers,
and their children together as God’s family. Jesus didn’t look almighty on the cross. But
that’s where he crushed the serpent’s head. The message of the cross remains for us the
wisdom of God and the power of God.Type text here.