“I Wear the Cross in This House!” The Gospel Makes Good Husbands

So you want to know how to be a better husband? If you are not a Christian or are not looking for how to be a better husband, you might not find what you thought you were looking for, but will definitely find something you need. If you are a Christian asking this question, keep reading, because you will find the beginning of your answers, I hope. And if you are reading this because you are a man who one day hopes to be a husband, you will find something you will need. Finally if you found this article as a potential wife, or you are already a wife, perhaps you can find a creative wife way to point your husband towards this truth.
This is an actual letter I wrote recently to a good friend who was asking the question, “Help, I’m a Christian and my marriage is in trouble.” He found it very helpful. I hope you do too. Here it is, names edited for confidentiality and customized for you, reader. Take it in the loving manner in which I have written it.
Dear Husband,
In thinking of how to not open a fire hose and give too much info at once, and yet at the same time hurry and help. Here is the foundation all we as followers of Jesus have in common. I will challenge you bluntly, not blaming you for your marital problems (it takes two), but as men we lead in our marriage and in our families, no matter what the wife says. I have talked with many couples, many women, and they all without exception have agreed that if their husbands followed Jesus Christ and took a stand as a bold, fearless spiritual leader, they would follow him to their grave. Your wife most likely needs this from her point of view too. But this is a “one size fits all” that will apply generally, and I hope God will use this, Scripture, and speak through His Spirit to help you and your wife.
So as I humbly try to answer (knowing how much I respect you), the best place to start since I know you and haven’t had the privilege of knowing your wife is to review our foundation spiritually and ask questions to help you examine yourself. Also, as I share this, I am only one beggar telling another beggar where he has found bread. As someone smarter than me once said, “Sometimes the first order of business is to state the obvious.” As Christians, it is no different at the foundation of marriage than the foundation for the rest of our lives. The first place to check is that foundation, which is the foundation of Jesus Christ and what He has done. I challenge you, respectfully, to first examine yourself and see how much the Gospel has changed you, and if your wife is also a follower of Jesus share this with her to do the same. Without this regular transformation happening, our best attempts at goodness end in failure. When I say the Gospel I mean what the Scriptures say, and it is important to state that since 1) the Gospel has been stated as “the golden rule,” “Simeon’s prayer in Luke 2” and “The great Commission,” and a number of good and noble things that are not it, but are a product of it, but the Gospel is none of those things; they are a result of it; 2) The second reason for making sure we agree on what the Gospel is is because the Gospel is meant to be verbalized, and through reviewing it, speaking it (listening to the preaching and teaching of it as well), saying it, God has promised it has the power for salvation (Romans 1:16). 3) Third, you and I have not talked about this yet, so I want to make sure we’re on the same page.
Having said all that, the Bible says the Gospel is what Jesus did on the cross for us (what’s that have to do with marriage? Foundation makes or breaks a building). 1 Corinthians says, “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,” (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
To sum up the story of what Jesus has done for us: we were born sinners and still are by our nature, we could not save ourselves, sin causes God’s anger because it is an offense to Him, God is not only loving but just and right so demands payment for every offense, only God could have satisfied the necessary payment for mankind’s sin since He alone is perfect, God in His grace decided to do that for us, God became a man in Jesus Christ—fully God and fully man—was born of God (of a virgin), God the Son Jesus lived a perfect life, was tortured and died on the cross, suffered in hell the full anger of God for all the sin of the world (past, present, future), Jesus was raised up from the dead showing He was (and is) God, and He is coming back again.
How does all this “seminary level” theology relate to marriage? I hope it doesn’t come across like that—“seminary level,” because I am trying to help and not trying to sound like a smart a–. Here’s how a married man is a better husband because he is transformed by the above truth. God was gracious to me, and because of His grace (giving me what I don’t deserve) and mercy (not giving me hell like I do deserve, though sometimes we feel like we’re in hell) I am filled with His power to give that grace or mercy to my wife.
For example, sometimes as men we chase careers and have an adulterous affair with achieving our empire. If we understand that our identity in Jesus Christ means when God looks at you, He is completely satisfied. Not because of what I—Nate Whiteside—or you—Dear Husband—have or have not done. Not with anyone who claims to be Christian because of what they have done. He looks at us if we have received Christ (the Gospel again, “which you received” 1 Corinthians 15 above) as not our sinful nature—but when He looks at us He sees Jesus Christ. The Bible says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ He is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come,” 2 Corinthians 5:17. The Bible talks more about this in 1 Timothy 2:5, “for there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” This is our identity and it is “the hunger that satisfies.” I don’t need to be the best pastor, have the largest church, be the best at martial arts, make the most money, be the best author (though I’d love to be all those things!) My longing is satisfied only when I remember that in Jesus Christ I am already complete because of Him. I can be joyful, peaceful, kind, love everyone always, as long as I am focused on Him. My empire has already been built, because He stands tall and conquering, and one day will come back and prove that (Revelation 19-21).
Also, as husbands, we fall into dependencies. Many marriages suffer because of our desire to do “manly” things. We dabble in porn, flirt with women, drink like James Bond, smoke, put too much thought and effort into our appearance, and all of that becomes things we depend on for good feelings. If we can depend on God to save us from everlasting hell, and to give us peace, love, joy, patience, kindness, self-control, gentleness, and more, than we don’t need to depend on anything else. I fight this sometimes. Drinking is permissible, as is smoking an occasional cigar. In the past, even as a pastor, I have had an extra drink when stressed out or smoked a cigar for a buzz to forget about my stress, and it worked. For a while. (For the religious self-righteous saying “aha! I knew it!” Or “You’re not saved!” Those of us who have truly found Jesus truly need not exhaust ourselves with pseudo external identities). The point is, that became an idol and soon went from an extra to a dependent. Our sinful nature and Satan the temptor love to take blessings from God (enjoying alcoholic beverages like Jesus did, enjoying tobacco as Spurgeon and others have) and turn them into snaring idols. It could have ruined my marriage and family, not to mention my ministry. When I review the story of Jesus Christ (the Gospel) I find peace, remembering what God did for me. Only Jesus Christ should be the One we depend on. If you don’t feel that way, then think, say, write out the story of Jesus Christ’s birth, perfect life, death, and resurrection, and what that means (God’s grace, mercy, love, and Jesus as our mediator). This is the only and best solution I can offer, and I am proof that it works. Through “speaking the Gospel to yourself” (as my friend says) we experience the transforming, changing power of renewal.
Finally, in marriage, if a Jesus Christ follower does not have this sure foundation, he cannot love his wife with the high call the Bible calls us to. The Bible calls us to love her as Christ loved the church “and gave Himself up for her,” (Eph 5). That meant Jesus suffered in His body on the cross, Jesus suffered in hell, all for the “bride,” the church. I challenge you as I challenge myself daily how are you giving yourself up for your wife? Let her be right? Let her choose? Let her win? Let her have freedom? Sacrifice your desire for her’s? This takes discipline. God gives us the power and strength. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” Philippians 4:13.
I know, someone is reading this edited letter and saying, “What? You’re crazy!” Check yourself then. Is your confidence and “manhood” in “wearing the pants” or in “wearing the cross?” Instead of saying, “I wear the pants in this house,” you husbands should say “I wear the cross in this house! My wife won’t out serve me!” In all of this, we not only show our wives our unconditional love, but we show them they are more important than any other person or thing on the earth to us, and show them the fruit of Jesus Christ in us, hopefully helping them grow more.
It works. It takes time, but it works. As a wise man once said, “Growing a squash takes 70 days. Growing an oak tree takes 70 years.” A good marriage takes a real man, willing to go to bed with his hands dirty, having bled that day, having given up an earthly dream of his so his wife and family can have eternal dreams come true.
So, to summarize, review the Gospel (including reading the appropriate Scripture), let it transform you, God gave you grace, mercy, and new life, your identity should be fulfilled in Jesus Christ, and your dependency should be on Him alone. This is for the most part the foundation. From that your role as husband should flow (love, grace, mercy, acceptance, support, giving up yourself for her).
In writing this, part of my delay is that we have never talked at length, and never talked about our faith. I hesitated because I was not sure how this would come across (email can be so clumsy and cold sometimes), but if I do care about you and your marriage I need to tell the truth in love, and so I have. You and your wife are in my prayers, and I hope our paths cross again soon,
In Jesus,
Nate

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