As I clicked on the link to my Twitter page, I noticed something that took me off guard. John Piper announced he would be taking a leave of absence from pastorate at Bethlehem Church until December 31, 2010. This brought on a big WHY?! Naturally my mind went to the worst possible reason, since it’s usually something really bad if a well-known pastor, like Piper, steps down from ministry for a while. But my mind was put to rest and even greatly encouraged as I read his reason:
“I (John Piper) asked the elders to consider this leave because of a growing sense that my soul, my marriage, my family, and my ministry-pattern need a reality check from the Holy Spirit….. I see several species of pride in my soul that, while they may not rise to the level of disqualifying me for ministry, grieve me, and have taken a toll on my relationship with Noël and others who are dear to me….Noël and I are rock solid in our commitment to each other, and there is no whiff of unfaithfulness on either side.”
While some may immediately use Piper’s vulnerability in acknowledging character flaws to attack him and say, “See! I told you he was this way, or that way,” there are some great lessons to be learned from this man who is “not making peace, but war, with my own sins.” Piper’s very vulnerability in telling the world that he does have faults, is letting the Holy Spirit convict him, and taking precautions for his marriage because “the precious garden of my home needs tending,” shows us exactly what a godly husband should do for his wife and family.
He Gives Up Himself for His Wife
“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.” ~Eph. 5:25-30
So many times when people read the Ephesians 5 passage on marriage, they focus on the wife’s submission to her husband, since he is head of them home. People tend to forget to read on to, what I feel is even tougher to obey, God’s command for husbands to sacrifice themselves for their wives. Paul’s address to husbands tells us exactly what kind of love husbands are to have for their wives. He even commands them twice to, “love their wives.” This love is expressed by giving of himself and this self-giving should be for his bride’s benefit.
As George W. Knight (Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood) states, “In his leadership role as head, he seeks to lead by giving of himself to his wife in ways analogous to how Christ gave Himself to His bride. Christ’s giving was personal and sacrificial. Just as Christ works to present His church to Himself as a glorious bride in a glorious marriage, should not the husband work to make his wife glorious and their marriage glorious?”
Piper recognized that his ministry and other things in his life are hurting his relationship with his wife, Noël and, therefore, he sacrificially gave up his ministry for this time to focus on making his marriage with Noël not only rock-solid, but glorious! Every Christian husband should examine his marriage to see if he is giving of himself so much that his wife and marriage are radiant.
He Recognizes They Are One Flesh
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” ~Eph. 5:31
The “one flesh” command goes all the way back to Gen.2:24, when God first instituted the union of marriage between a man and a woman. Husbands are to give up everything to be in union with their wives. “For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.” When Christ sacrificially gave Himself up for the Church, believers became members of His body. When a husband gives himself up for his wife, they became members of the same body and, therefore, one flesh.
This command is seen as a great mystery but Paul explains this mystery in Eph. 5:32, “I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” Marriage is meant to be a metaphor that serves as a picture of the relationship between Christ and the Church. Geoffrey Bromiley says, “As God made man in His own image, so He made earthly marriage in the image of His own eternal marriage with His people” (God and Marriage, p. 43). Christian marriage is just a metaphor, but Christ’s marriage to the Church is the reality.
When John Piper decided to give up his ministry for now, he made the decision to nourish and cherish his own flesh which was his wife. As he states, “I want to say to Noël that she is precious to me in a way that, at this point in our 41-year pilgrimage, can be said best by stepping back for a season from virtually all public commitments.” A godly husband recognizes that his character flaws will take a huge toll on his wife because they are one flesh. He will not hate his own flesh but do whatever it takes to nourish and cherish it, as an example of what Christ does for us.
His Family Comes Before His Ministry
“Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,…He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?”~ 1 Tim. 3:2, 4-5
As pastor of a Church, Piper is an overseer. He must follow the guidelines to be qualified for this position. This means managing his household well and if he cannot, then he is disqualified. God created the family first, and then the church. Not the other way around. If a husband does not lead his family towards glorifying God, how can he lead a church towards being godly followers of Christ? For if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?” Since the family is God’s basic unit in his self-revelation, if that unit is flawed, then how the world sees God will be marred. If anyone’s home is suffering spiritually, then the leader of the home (the husband) should make sure that he does what it takes to set his home right in the Lord’s eyes, even if that means stepping down from a very successful ministry, as Piper has done. God being glorified is the most important goal of a Christian and that means making sure your personal spiritual life is above-reproach, your home and family healthy and spiritually sound, and then your ministry life will follow in the same way.
You may be thinking, “This is nice and all but what does this have to do with me, as a woman?” Well, this actually has a lot to do with every woman, in every position in life. For the single ladies out there, you can pray that your future spouse will be a man who will sacrificially love you. You can also pray a man like this comes along for your single friends too. For the married ladies out there, you can pray that your husband exemplifies the biblical characteristics of a godly husband. You can also ask the Holy Spirit for a spiritual check to see if your family is at the top of your priority list and managed well.
For the women out there who’s husbands aren’t even close to being like the Eph. 5 husband, follow 1 Peter 3:1-2 advice:“Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, 2when they see your respectful and pure conduct.”
All women, no matter their situation or status, can pray and support the men in leadership in their churches. All deacons, elders, pastors, Sunday School teachers, etc, need support and prayer to become the godly leaders God desires them to be. It’s a tough world out there ladies, and our Christian brothers could use all the prayer they can get!