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Who Makes the Final Decision When You Are Stalemated? Part 2

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In Part 1, I introduced a topic that many within the Christian community have discussed and debated about for centuries.  Who makes the final call in a marriage where both spouses are caught in a stalemate over a non-moral issue?

At the end of Part 1, I encouraged you to read and meditate on Ephesians 5:23 and 1 Timothy 3:4,5,12. Did you catch what the apostle Paul was--and was not--saying there?

God revealed to husbands and wives clear language: the husband is the head who must manage his household.

No such language is applied to the wife. In fact, there are warnings to the contrary about a wife ruling and exercising authority over her husband (Titus 2:5, Isaiah 3:12; 1 Timothy 2:12). No amount of hermeneutical gymnastics will persuade 95% of the Christ-followers around the world on these points.

However, as uncomfortable as you and I may be with an unloving husband who lords and abuses God’s calling on him to serve as Christ Jesus the Lord served, I won’t cease teaching the biblical truth for fear of what a limited number of people will do in twisting that truth.

God’s call on a husband--that is, his responsibility to manage his household as the head--must not be opposed on the basis of a wicked husband any more than partnerships generating billions of dollars a year to support the economy and help families must not be labeled as a bad idea just because some people take advantage of their partners.

However, let me send a warning to the husband who uses this information to his own advantage by unlovingly telling his wife he is in charge and making decisions his way without caring what she thinks or feels.

Do you not think that your attitude will be ignored by the very Lord you seek to follow? Is it unfair for me to think that, at some point, the Lord Himself will lovingly make a decision in relationship to you that will not be to the your liking?

For this reason, the goal for every husband is to make sure he reassures his wife of his love. As she feels reassured and as they discuss, debate and decide, they may differ. But she needs to know that he loves her and is humbly seeking Christ’s will on this matter. Few women I know will revolt against such a man even though she may strongly differ with him.

Her disagreement must not be interpreted as a lack of deference.

But what if the husband is a loving leader and his wife is a respectful follower, and yet they still find themselves in a stalemate? What should they do?

Even though the husband is the head manager, he knows that he can be wrong even if he feels he is right. Why not bring in a third set of eyes to the equation?

This will allow a wife to hear from others, and given the husband has wisdom, this can rejuvenate her confidence in his decision-making. It can also help the husband realize that his wife brings incredible depth of understanding, given her position receives the thumbs up.

Even heads of corporations welcome such input, because they recognize the need for a right decision far and above the need to be considered the one in the right.

Paul recognized this type of conflict and trouble in marriage (1 Corinthians 7:28). He addressed what two believers in serious disagreement should do. In 1 Corinthians 6:5 we read,

“I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not among you one wise man who will be able to decide between his brethren…?”  

This is a rhetorical question. In every assembly there are godly, wise people fully capable of weighing both sides of a disagreement and settling the dispute. A husband and wife ought to turn to them if the stalemate is threatening the survival of the marriage.

But here’s an important point: if a husband and wife wish to engage this wise person to help them with their dispute, a husband and wife must agree upfront that both will be humble and accepting in the face of that wise person’s decision.  

One spouse will not yell with condescending jubilation, “I told you that I was right! So there!”

And, the other party will defer without screaming, “You won this one, but I will get my revenge!”

These two attitudes only reveal why the couple has problems!

It has nothing to do with their specific disagreements. For some reason, they have become enemies with differences, not allies with differences. They are at war and their differences arise from their desire to win and make the other lose. They do not see their differences as an opportunity to discover a third and even better option which can deepen their alliance.

For the couple who desires to discover what God calls them to do, and for the husband who prefers not to make the final decision apart from outside input, they can contact a wise person among them who can decide between the two positions.  

-Dr. E

Emerson Eggerichs, Ph.D.
Author, Speaker, Pastor

Questions to Consider

  1. What are your thoughts about the husband being the head manager?
  2. What are your thoughts about getting help from a wise person?
  3. What if a husband seeks to lead but is unloving in the whole process, or what if a wife seeks to submit but is disrespectful in the whole process?
  4. How should a wife respond to a loving husband who humbly seeks the will of Christ but differs with her? Likewise, how should a husband respond to a respectful wife who humbly seeks the will of Christ but differs with him?