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The husband’s handbook: A call to covenant

The husband’s handbook: A call to covenant
Posted on August 6, 2021  - By Tobin Mattackal

August 6, 2021. Finally, my day had arrived. Just a few hours ago, I walked down the aisle to marry Binita, the love of my life. The journey here hasn’t been easy, but the Lord has been good. 

This is a day for much joy and celebration for both of us. And yet, amid the excitement, comes a solemn realisation that the covenant relationship I have entered into today is among the greatest callings in Scripture — one that holds serious responsibility for me.

Over the last few months, I have been preparing to be the kind of husband God would want me to be. The journey has been immensely humbling, as the Lord showed me that the road ahead is not going to be a stroll in the park. But praise be to Jesus, who has set an example we can follow and whose grace allows us to reflect the same love to our wives.

As I write this, I am not unaware that I have only begun this journey called marriage and have yet to practically experience these truths. But I am equally aware that I will be held accountable for them on the final day — because these are commands the Lord expects myself and everyone who is a husband to follow. 

Called to lead

Men, have you ever wondered why there are several commands for husbands in the Bible as compared to those for wives? I think the answer is simple. God has entrusted us with the responsibility to lead our families. If the leader fails to do his part, it is bound to affect everything else. 

God has entrusted men with the responsibility to lead the family

During my time in street and prison ministry in Texas, I came across many men who ended up where they were for lack of godly leadership in their lives. Across the board, a common pattern of brokenness involved dads who’d abandoned them, abused them, or lived immoral lives. Those decisions affected their upbringing. 

As per God’s design, the role of a husband or a father is meant to be impactful. But it is one that requires much grace, patience, and compassion that can only come about through Jesus who fulfilled that role perfectly. 

Let’s look at six reminders Scripture has for us as husbands, fathers and men in this world.

1. The Lord God brings ‘her’ to us.

Every time I read Genesis 2:22, I get chills just thinking about how Adam must’ve felt when God brought Eve to him. God designed Eve as a suitable help for Adam. We all know that God cannot make mistakes, so when God brings her to us, remember that He expects us to take care of His daughter. 

Today, when I watched Binita walk down the aisle with her father, I was keenly aware that when he gave his daughter’s hand to me in marriage, he did so expecting me to love and protect her at all costs. 

But the other thing that struck me is: it’s not just her dad who ‘brought’ Binita to me; it’s not just him I am accountable to — but also my heavenly Father. She is His daughter first and I better be faithful in how I take care of her.

2. Leaving and cleaving is not just a command for the wives.

The same text offers a second command for the husband: he is to leave his parents and cleave to his wife. In the Indian context, many times, the assumption is that the leaving and cleaving only applies to the bride. But the Word gives a direct command for the man to leave his father and mother and hold fast (cleave) to his wife. 

What does that mean? When God asked the man to leave his father and mother, He indicated a transfer in dependency and loyalty. The married man is no longer under his parents’ authority. The husband and wife become a new unit. 

Brothers, it is important that our priorities change after marriage. This does not mean we forsake our parents. But it does mean that our wives become our number one priority. This is not a transition that magically happens during our wedding ceremonies. It is one that every husband — and wife — has to intentionally make. 

It is important that our priorities change after marriage. Our wives must become our number one priority

The second half of the command for the man is to hold fast or cleave to his wife. This word means to stick to or join with. We cannot quit when things don’t work out. We cannot back out when we feel bored. We are bound to our spouse — and that is not a bad thing. Because when we stick together, we will be able to withstand tough times together. And that will only make our marriages more meaningful and beautiful — just as the Lord designed them to be.  

3. Our love for them must reflect Christ’s love for the Church.

One of the most-read passages on a wedding day is Ephesians 5. But I wonder if many of us realise that the commands mentioned in this chapter are not optional. You don’t read the words ‘If you can’ or ‘If you please’. Rather, the word used is ‘should’. 

Scripture does not command Christian men to love however they’d like to either. On the contrary, we are given an example that we ‘should’ follow: “Love your wives as Christ loved the church.” So, how exactly did Christ love the church? 

  • Christ’s love was sacrificial: He gave Himself up for His bride — people who were once “dead” in their sin (Ephesians 2). Being ‘dead in sin’ means being unable to love God or have any sort of relationship with a holy God. This benchmark that Christ laid down for us is significant.
    Paul doesn’t tell us to love our wives when they are at their best or when they achieve great things. We are called to love them even at their weakest and worst. Our love should be sacrificial in that we’d give up things close to our hearts to invest in her wellbeing. This is not to make her feel good but rather, as Paul says, these sacrifices have a bigger meaning. They are to present her “in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (v.27).
  • Christ’s love is sanctifying: The meaning of the word ‘sanctify’ is to set apart to serve God. Husbands, we are called to sanctify our wives. Tim Challies explains this verse in this way: “You need to understand that your wife doesn’t exist first for your pleasure, your joy, or your comfort,” he says. “She exists first for God. Yes, she has been set apart to you, but only so you can help her be ever-more set apart to God.”
    We have to make sure that we help our wives achieve what God wants for them. And that means constantly encouraging and motivating them to pursue godly things and to use their gifts for the glory of God.

Our love should be sacrificial in that we’d give up things close to our hearts to invest in her wellbeing

4. Teaching and living the Word is a duty.

Something else Christ did for the Church was to cleanse her by the washing of water with the Word. This means we teach and live the Word to our wives at all times. The Good News of God should be the centre of our marital union. The whole Bible points to the gospel of Jesus Christ. If that is the theme of the Word of God, naturally, that should be the foundation of our marriages too.

The gospel cleanses all kinds of sins in our families for it is the Word of God that has answers for everything we go through. But for this to happen, we need to soak ourselves in the gospel. It should be His Word that we speak and His Word that we live by. 

Today, many husbands fail in leadership because they don’t spend time studying the Word. How will our wives and children love the Lord if they don’t see us reflecting that passion for His Word? 

As mentioned earlier, the impact a father can make in the lives of a family is immense. Personally, I have many memories of watching my grandfather and father wake up every morning at 4.30am to pray and study the Word, regardless of how late they sleep. And their discipline continues to influence me today. 

I have heard many husbands jokingly say that their wives are far better versed in the Word than they are or that they are not as spiritual or capable as their wives. But what do they do about it? Nothing. 

Brothers, those are not helpful excuses nor do they align with God’s calling for us as husbands. We need to make every effort to study the Word and dig deep to equip, guide, teach and help our wives and children grow in Him.

Let us make it a point to build our family altars: to sit down with our wives and children, pray with them, read the Word with them, share what we’ve learned, and reflect its truths through our lives so they see, first hand, the power of His Word and its work in our lives. 

5. Live the way of love.

Another famous passage at wedding ceremonies is 1 Corinthians 13. Brothers, this is a chapter to memorise and practise. The first thing Paul notes is that no matter what ‘Christian’ acts we engage in or mind-blowing wonders we accomplish in faith, nothing matters if we do not have love. Love should be the foundation of our marriage. How can we ensure this?

Today, many husbands fail in leadership because they don’t spend time studying the Word

  • True love is patient: Perhaps we are not naturally given to patience. In my own life, I can honestly say it took me a long time to grow in that department. I know that I will need to grow yet more as I embark upon this marriage. But think about Jesus’ patient love for us. How much more should we reflect it in our lives? 
  • True love is kind, not jealous: Brothers, there should be no competition in marriage. We are called to be kind and respectful. If anything, doing so will make it easier for them to submit to our God-given authority too. 
  • True love does not insist on its way: Human nature demands that everything be done our way. But loving our wives means we let go when we need to. Over the last year, I have seen the beauty of letting go. There were perspectives I gained that I wouldn’t have if I’d insisted on being stubborn. 
  • True love mourns over unrighteousness and rejoices over truth: Brothers, don’t sit back and be quiet when you see sin in the family. It is our responsibility to lead the family on the right path. Again, this is most effective when we lead by example.
    When we sin, we must be quick to apologise and admit that we have sinned against the Lord. At the same time, let us rejoice in the right things. Rejoice when we see our wives loving the Lord and walking in truth. 
  • True love bears, believes, hopes and endures all things: Love can help us overcome any situation in life. When our marriage is full of love, we can endure whatever comes our way. 

Jesus lived the way of love for His Church. And we are called to reflect that love in our families.

6. Finally, be faithful. 

Men, this is no secret: our hearts are weak and quick to fall for temptation. History and surveys galore can attest to how many marriages have broken down due to unfaithfulness. If God has ‘brought her’ to our lives, she is the one who is fit and suitable for us — no one else. 

Jesus lived the way of love for His Church. And we are called to reflect that love in our families.

Ever considered what the very first line of our vows means? Look at this line with me: “I, Tobin, take you, Binita, to be my lawfully wedded wife.” What this means is: Binita, I not only love you, but out of all the girls out there whom I could enter into a marriage covenant relationship with, I’ve chosen you. 

Brothers, let us be faithful to the vows we make before God. When we struggle with temptation or any form of sin that might lead us to be unfaithful, let us be quick to cut it off by the head. And if it is already a situation you think you’ve lost control of, reach out to older men who can walk you through the process of redemption. We must be true to our wives. 

Where to find grace

Here’s the bottom line: to be a godly husband is not a ‘good gesture’, but rather a commandment from the Lord that we will be held accountable for. 

Having said that, the task we have as husbands cannot be achieved if God and His word are out of the picture. In His lovingkindness, God has blessed humanity with the gift of marriage to reflect the immeasurable patience, grace and mercy that He has demonstrated to His Church. We only need to go to Him to learn how to be godly husbands. 

Perhaps, some of you reading this may have failed to be the husband God has called you to be. Others may be doing well, while yet more — like me — are new. Regardless of where we are in this journey, we all need God and His grace every moment. 

Let us humbly approach the Father through His Son to teach us how to love like He loved and allow the Spirit to work in and through us as we sit with His Word to learn and live for the glory of His kingdom.

Tobin Mattackal

About Tobin Mattackal

Tobin Mattackal completed his Masters in Bible Studies at Criswell College in Dallas, Texas. Raised in the UAE, he spent his university days discipling youngsters and reading Scripture with them. He is currently serving at his local church in Bangalore, India, and is devoted to sharing the good news of salvation with the lost.



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