Texts: Eph 5:25 – 29; Col 3:19,21
The Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, fifth edition, defines responsibility as “a duty to be in charge of someone or something so that you make decisions and can be blamed if something bad happens”. On the other hand, the husband is that man who has taken the bold step to leave his father and mother to marry, and thus be joined to his wife as one flesh or person Gen 2:24. The church sees marriage as properly constituted when both the man and woman involved have fulfilled the traditional obligations and have themselves formally joined in wedlock in the church. Traditionally, after marriage, the newly married couple expect to be blessed with children. When this happens, the husband has transformed into a father. It is this man that is in focus in this homily.
Clearly, the man is a special specie, compared to God’s other creatures. He remains the first and only one being to be created in the image of God Gen 2:7,8. This man would be adopted as sons of God, of which you and I are part of (if you are truly born again). This man was further invested with power and authority became manifested when he, single-handedly, named all other creatures that God made Gen 2:19,20. This man shares fatherhood and lordship with God Col 3:21; 1Peter 3:6.
To whom much is given, much is expected. Usually, power and authority go with responsibility, because they can never be exercised in a vacuum. The power and authority the man has received must be matched with corresponding responsibilities. This is the crux of the matter. Where authority and responsibility are operational, by implication, accountability follows. This husband and father, who voluntarily or otherwise assumed this role, must be ready to give account of his decisions and actions to God when the time for this comes.
What are the responsibilities of a husband and father? The texts under reference have outline some of these. For instance, the books of Ephesians and Colossians enjoin the husband to love the wife and care for her, as Christ did and do so. When children come, the same love and care should be extended to them. Col 3:21 further asks the father not to provoke his children to wrath. These are just few of the many responsibilities in this short piece. An attempt will however, be made to do so no matter how brief. This we hope to do by looking at the life of a very quiet and unassuming but powerful personality in the scriptures, namely, Joseph the husband of Mary and earthly father Jesus.
While nothing much is said of him in the scriptures, yet there is much to learn from him as a quintessential husband and father. Sometimes, we try to access an individual by his speech. Ironically, nowhere in the scriptures was this man Joseph quoted to have said anything. No doubt, this can be reckoned as strength to him. The first and only description of him in the scriptures is found in Matt 1:19. He is here described as a righteous man. From the rest of that verse, one may say that he was not only righteous but meek, humble, peaceful and unable to hurt a fly. Humanly speaking, Mary had betrayed him and broken his heart by becoming pregnant outside wedlock, and under what could then be described as inexplicable circumstances. In spite of this, he was not willing to make any fuss out of it, report Mary officially for possible punishment or have her disgraced. He wanted to have the matter rest without hurting anyone. The scripture describes this kind of spirit and attitude in Joseph as something of a great price in the sight of God 1 Peter 3:4.
The person of Joseph should further come to the fore when we try consider why of all eligible men in Israel at that time, God decided to choose him to provide cover as the earthly father of his son, Jesus. As Joseph’s Maker, God must have discovered some rare qualities in him before making that choice. Of these qualities, his meek, humble, peaceful and selfless disposition has been noted.
What are the other things that we could learn from him? He was not given to many words. Nowhere in the scriptures was he quoted as having said anything. Yet this did not becloud his sense of responsibility as a husband and father. Furthermore, Joseph was quite caring. He accepted Mary as his wife, even with the pregnancy, and extended to her all the love, care and protection due to her as a result. This was evident even till the point that Jesus was born. The swiftness with which he moved away his family, when to do so, in the midst of danger, bears great testimony to the affection to the welfare of the family.
The major key role to family peace, progress and welfare is obedience to the word of God. Joseph demonstrated a rare example of how this should work. He processed the kind of spirit of obedience which God wants in all His Children – swift and unquestionable obedience. When he was he warned to take Mary as his wife as his wife and also flee with the family to safety, he woke up and did exactly all that he was told. No questions, no reservations, no doubts, no consultations. He obeyed every divine instruction sheepishly. Remember that Jesus called His followers “sheep” and sheep are known for sheepish following and obedience. Joseph has set the precedent for that husband and father. who desires to succeed. The word and obedience to it are the keys to family well-being. As a carpenter, Joseph was hardworking and provided for his family. We have no record of Mary doing any work. Yet, there was no suggestion that the family lacked that Joseph learnt to live within his means. In Luke 2:24, at the presentation of the child Jesus in the temple, Joseph brought only two pigeons or turtle doves which his family could afford. Though he knew of the uniqueness of his supposed first son, Jesus, he refused to stretch his family by coming with higher offerings in order to impress anyone. A good husband father should learn how to live within his means.
In addition, Joseph was clearly a patient and responsible man. He was willing to accept responsibility as a husband and father. When the little Child Jesus went missing after their trip to Jerusalem, Joseph took responsibility and patiently accompanied his wife to find Jesus after three stressful days of search. Even after they found Jesus, it was Mary who did the talking. The blame game must not be part of the lifestyle of a good husband and father. As the family head, he must be ready to accept responsibility that accompanies leadership. Of course, there are other qualities that are not covered here. While we ponder on the outlined above, others may be continued some other time. As a husband and father or would-be one, be alive to your responsibilities and prove yourself a model one. You cannot afford to fail.