Both the Old and New Testaments summarize the Ten Commandments into just two. “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” [Matthew 22:37-40; Deuteronomy 6:5; Leviticus 19:18 NIV] Both commandments represent ultimate love characterized by extreme giving. The first is a vertical love of God; the second is a horizontal love of others.
Consider how those two commandments uniquely apply to marriage. Scripture explains the marriage relationship:
Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear (reverence, awe) of God. Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the savior of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. [Ephesians 5:21-28 KJV (emphasis added)]
A husband must give himself for his family so they may become as perfect and blameless as is humanly possible. In essence, the husband and wife are mutual givers, but there is more, much more.
The earthly marriage is a representation of an eternal relationship with God. The Lord is illustrated scripturally as the bridegroom coming for his bride, the worldwide body of believers. “Let us rejoice and be glad and give him (Messiah) glory! For the wedding of the Lamb (Y’shua; Jesus) has come, and his bride has made herself ready…blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb…These are the true words of God.” [Revelation 19:7&9 NIV] The Bible further clarifies that the apostle John, “saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” [Revelation 21:2 KJV]
Scripturally, the order of the universe is that the Lord is the bridegroom and the body of believers is the bride. Of course, in any earthly marriage the man is the bridegroom and the bride is the beautiful woman spectacularly dressed in a white wedding gown walking down the aisle to meet her man. But in a larger sense, the bride is not just the woman at the ceremony, the bride is the woman and by extension the children she later produces, often referred to as the fruit of her womb. The husband is required to love the wholeness of his bride, i.e. the wholeness of his family, even as the Messiah also loved the church, to the point of the husband’s own death if necessary.
Fallows magnificently explains, “The husband is the ‘house band,’ the earthly giver of life, uniting the divine with the human in the supreme function of fatherhood.” The wife is ‘the weaver,’ shaping and coloring in the prenatal and postnatal influences of sacred motherhood the destinies of her offspring.” “As the “earthly giver of life, uniting the divine with the human,” the husband/father becomes the role model for “the first and greatest commandment” to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”
As the “weaver,” the wife/mother is the connection between the past and future generations of her family, but also the past and future generations of the culture. She is the role model for the second summary commandment to ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Shannon clarifies,
Mothers constitute the only universal agent of civilization. Nature has placed in her hands both infancy and youth. The vital interest of America hang largely upon the influence of mothers.” The queen that sits upon the throne of home, crowned and sceptered as none other ever can be, is—mother. Her enthronement is complete, her reign unrivaled, and the moral issues of her empire are eternal. “Her children rise up, and call her blessed.” Rebellious at times, as the subjects of her government may be, she rules them with marvelous patience, winning tenderness and undying love. She so presents and exemplifies divine truth, that it reproduces itself in the happiest development of childhood—character and life…An ounce of mother is worth more than a pound of clergy.
The complementary responsibilities of the husband/father and the wife/mother are awesome and readily illustrated by The Cross of Family Life, which of course resembles the iconic ancient cross used for crucifixion. Although the old Roman cross was a notorious instrument of extreme torture and ultimate sacrifice, for Christians it is also a symbol of incomparable love. The Lord’s amazing self-sacrifice was an expression of his infinite love for all mankind for all time. Similarly, The Cross of Family Life is a representation of the parents’ many daily sacrifices as an expression of their love. As an expression of God’s infinite love, Dad and Mom routinely set aside their own desires as an expression of love for each other, the children, and the larger culture.
Sadly, far too many dads in modern America fail to carry out their God-assigned, high- priority, family responsibilities, either due to a lack of holistic understanding, the powerful lure of excessive materialism or both. Far too many moms fall short by not being there and available for raising the children. Together, such parents effectively sacrifice their children on the altar of the false god of materialism. However, when Dad and Mom lovingly and enthusiastically bear The Cross of Family Life, the results can be deeply heartwarming and sometimes even breathtaking. When they do not, the results can range from troublesome to tragic.
Some time ago, I devoted seven years to meeting virtually all the needs and providing around-the-clock care for my terminally ill late wife. She endured a neurodegenerative condition similar to Alzheimer’s disease. After her passing, a well-wisher said. “You really sacrificed a lot during those years.” I thanked her and replied that it did not seem like I sacrificed anything. Providing total care was more important than anything else I could have been doing during that time. It was a monumentally life-changing experience that has had long-term impacts on me and those around me and will continue to do so far into the future.
Together, fueled by God’s infinite supply of love, Dad and Mom become virtual super heroes, an incredibly awesome team stabilizing God’s brilliantly designed family and the national culture as a whole. A child forms a vertical relationship with God, primarily, though not exclusively, through the role model of the father; a child forms horizontal relationships with others within and beyond the family primarily, though not exclusively, through the role model of the mother. The complementary combination produces godly character in the child. The actions of role modeling build character in the parents. The character of every family member extends outward to the community and the nation.
That is God’s grand design for Dad and Mom. What incredible superheroes!