What's That Smell?

Dear Reading Friends, 
Please enjoy these posts by my friend and fellow Biblical Counselor, Pastor Bruce Roeder of Missio Dei Fellowship in Kenosha, Wisconsin. I am taking a few days "off" this week! 

Our condo association sits adjacent to a large park and field that the train tracks run through. We're not rural but there is enough woods and fields around to sometimes give the feel you are outside the city.

When the windows are open we get to listen to the sounds of the city and the country. We can listen to the trains headed to their far-away destinations or we can listen to the airplanes either landing or taking off from nearby Mitchell Field.

At night other sounds waft their way into the house. It's not infrequent for us to hear the coyotes fighting over something right around the time the 1:00 A.M. train rumbles through. Maybe they are irritated that the train woke them up.

These sounds can be minor irritations at 1:00 A.M. in the morning but there is something else that can come through the window that is not a sound at 1:00 A.M. and goes way beyond a minor irritation and that is the smell of a skunk coming through the window.

In his book Reforming Marriage Pastor Doug Wilson asks Christian husbands what the odor of their homes is. He uses the analogy of people visiting your home and asking what do they smell when entering; the pleasant odor of baking bread or does it smell like something crawled under the efrigerator and died (like one of those nasty skunk odors coming through the window).

He uses Ephesians 5:1-2 to make a spiritual point:

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Eph. 5:1-2, ESV

Wilson said that it's the husband's responsibility to account for whatever odor the house smells of. This doesn't mean the husband needs to be a baker although he certainly could be! What it means is that the husband as the head of home has the responsibility to be an example of Christ-like love. To walk in Christ is to walk in love and when that is done it sends up a fragrant aroma offering to God as well as
driving that nasty skunk from the premises.

The question of "how" usually comes to mind when we receive a command to walk in love. Men seem particularly clumsy with the idea since we sometimes simply identify love as some kind of touchy-feely thing we need to conjure up.

But biblical love is action oriented; it has more to do with doing than it does with feeling. Not surprisingly the Bible gives us action verses that help define what it means to walk in love.

Take for example Ephesians 4:15:

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, Eph. 4:15, ESV

What this means is that within the home the action of love looks like speaking the truth. The problem in many Christian marriages is that the husband knows little to no truth so how is he to speak truth to his wife and children? Why is it men that often it is our wives who attend the Bible studies and make the extra effort to learn truth? As head of the home men it is your responsibility to speak truth but you have
to know truth before you can speak it effectively.

Hebrews 6:10 shows us another action of love in action:

For God is not so unjust as to overlook your work and the love that you showed for his sake in serving the saints, as you still do.

Men often confuse leadership with command, as in pushing others around. This is not love. It's stupidity at best and destructive to relationships at worst. The husband loves by serving the saints and in the home this means serving the wife and the children with his leadership. Like his Savior's leadership his love in serving is not harsh, vindictive, mean-spirited or crabby. Like the Savior's yoke, the husband's
yoke is easy. Husbands, if your wife is not following nor your children obeying then first check the kind of yoke you've placed around their necks.

Love as an action also covers other people's faults:

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 1 Pe. 4:8, ESV

The love action of overlooking anther's sin can be abused as a husband abdicates his responsibility to lead his wife and children. Too many husbands take the path of least resistance when it comes to confronting their wives or children when serious sin needs to be confronted. This is not love; it's cowardice.

The verse does not relieve husbands of their responsibilities, rather it teaches the husband to hold his responsibilities with an eye of discernment. Not everything needs to be confronted. Some husbands are so confrontational about others faults their homes smell like gulags. To overlook anther's sin means to overlook sins against himself if possible and always be willing to be quick to forgive (Eph. 4:32).

1 Corinthians 3:7 speaks of the degree in which love is an action:

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Cor. 13:7, ESV

Let's face it; others can be annoying, even a wife or children can be annoying with their countless problems and quirkiness. Paul says that the action of love endures the countless problems and quirkiness of others. This of course is not always easy nor should the verse be taken to mean that chronic problems or quirkiness that is downright sinful be over looked.

What it does mean is that a husband must realize that he too is annoying and that he too has countless problems and that he, like the apostle ranks as the chief of sinners. The husband leads from the position of humility that understands that annoying does not necessarily mean sinful.

The husband leader is called to exemplify Christ and follow Him:
Greater love has no one than this that someone lays down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you.

Jesus laid down his life for his friends; he sacrificed himself on their behalf. This speaks to the degree of love expected of husbands to their wives. If laying down his life is that ultimate sacrifice then how much easier is it for the husband to endure all things, bear all things, believe all things and hope all things?

It is love in action that produces a fragrance that rises to heaven and pleases God. It's ignoring the how-to's of love in action that produces the smell of a skunk under your refrigerator.

Husbands, which are you providing?

Inspiration for this series comes from the Bible and from Pastor Doug Wilson who wrote Reforming Marriage, Canon Press, 1995. Further inspiration also comes from my own pastor and friend Matt Henry of Missio Dei Fellowship in Kenosha, WI who faithfully and tirelessly preaches the Word every week. http://www.sermonaudio.com/source_detail.asp?sourceid=tbckenosha