Helping Men Lead Their Families with Grace

Ice skating is considered one of the most graceful of sports. Skaters appear to jump and twirl effortlessly, to the delight of the audience. But the grace with which they perform requires great strength and sacrifice of time and energy. Grace, therefore, while beautiful to behold, is not weakness. The same is true for husbands leading their families. Like a skater, leading your family with grace requires great strength of faith and a willingness toward personal sacrifice.

Peter writes, “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way” (1 Peter 3:7). While few men would disagree with Peter’s charge, why is it so many homes lack the grace Peter describes? Many men do desire to show honor and understanding toward their wives and children and start with good intentions. But, while we are fellow heirs of the grace of life, we are also fellow sinners who disappoint, disrespect, and disregard. Bitterness can sprout, discouragement sets in, and guys who come to the end of their patience forget Peter’s charge.

Shaped by Christ

Where can we find the perseverance we need as fathers and husbands to stay the course of grace? Like the skater, we must train hard to grow our strength and endurance. The key is found in the first word of Peter’s exhortation. As we travel through previous paragraphs, we see the same word, “likewise,” directed to wives. That “likewise” points still further back to Peter’s charge to servants. Peter directs servants who are treated unjustly to look to the example of Christ and calls husbands and wives to do likewise.

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

1 Peter 2:21–25

In looking to Christ’s example, we find strength, endurance, motivation, and courage to do “likewise.” Too often, a subtle quid pro quo (literally “something for something”) philosophy guides our behavior. In this case it would mean that a man might say to his wife and children, “I’ll live with you in an understanding way if you respect and honor me.” Then the moment we feel dishonored, we withdraw or lash out.

When it comes to loving our children and wives and living with understanding and honor, we are not to find our motivation in their behavior toward us, but rather in Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf. It is in Christ that we put to good use the philosophy of something for something. We love because Christ first loved us (1 John 4:19). We forgive because we are forgiven (Ephesians 4:32). We live with our wives in an understanding way, not because they first respect us or honor us but because they are fellow heirs of the grace that comes to us through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

Trained by Grace

It is in training our minds to remember the gospel grace we have received that we can endure and continue offering grace and understanding—even when we feel mistreated. Husbands trained at the foot of the cross of grace do not respond angrily toward their wife’s sins but rather in love through “the washing of water with the word” (Ephesians 5:26), loving them as Christ loved the church—by giving ourselves up for them.

We are to lead our children with the same grace and understanding. As Paul said, dads should not provoke their children and so discourage them (Colossians 3:21) but rather point them to Christ (Ephesians 6:4). There is no better way to train our children in the gospel than to demonstrate understanding, forgiveness, and love in the face of their sin against us.

So, when we, as husbands and fathers, become quick to anger, our remedy lies in returning to the gospel truths we’ve abandoned. When bitterness and anger burn against family members, let us remember the connecting word  “likewise”—and return to the cross.

As the writer of Hebrews exhorts us,

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Hebrews 4:14–16

A father’s gracious words in reply to a disrespectful comment from a child is a beautiful grace to behold. It is like the skater nailing his landing after a triple jump. But that kind of grace-filled behavior does not appear out of thin air. Just as the triple jump requires coaching and practice, so must dads spend time behind the scenes at the foot of the cross. Remember, “we love because he first loved us.” The cross is where we learn to lead with grace and discover the motivation to absorb an offense. So, let us remember the sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf and go and do likewise.

Brave and Bold Frontcover

Brave and Bold: 31 Devotions to Strengthen Men

What is the measure of a man? Is it athletic ability, strength, intelligence, or accomplishments? In Brave and Bold, Marty Machowski offers thirty-one daily devotions to encourage readers to become men whose strength comes from following Jesus and reflects him to a watching world. 

About the author

Marty Machowski

Marty Machowski is a Family Life Pastor at Covenant Fellowship Church in Glen Mills, PA, where he has served on the pastoral staff for over thirty years. He is the author of a number of family devotionals, curricula (including the Gospel Story for Kids), children’s books, and parenting titles. He and his wife, Lois, have six children and several grandchildren, and reside in West Chester, PA.

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