FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Why Marital Roles Are Important

with Robert Lewis | January 8, 2015
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Are roles in marriage really necessary? Dr. Robert Lewis, pastor-at-large of Fellowship Bible Church and author of the best-seller Rocking the Roles, lists the various symptoms that result when marital roles are non-existent or poorly defined.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Are roles in marriage really necessary? Dr. Robert Lewis, pastor-at-large of Fellowship Bible Church and author of the best-seller Rocking the Roles, lists the various symptoms that result when marital roles are non-existent or poorly defined.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Are roles in marriage really necessary? Dr. Robert Lewis lists the various symptoms that result when marital roles are non-existent or poorly defined.

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Why Marital Roles Are Important

With Robert Lewis
January 08, 2015
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Bob:  There are a lot of people saying that men today need to be less passive—they need to take more responsibility / more initiative. Maybe men are ready—they just need to know better what to do. Here’s Dr. Robert Lewis.

Robert:  Men desperately need to know what’s expected of them, especially in their marriages. The worst thing that a culture—a society—a state can do for a man, especially in marriage, is tell them nothing—you have to make it up.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, January 8th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We’re going to hear today from Dr. Robert Lewis about what God wants us to do, as husbands. Stay with us. 

And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us.



You really like it when you go hear someone speak—and whoever the speaker is—just kind of cuts it straight; don’t you?

Dennis:  I do.

Bob:  You like it when they just kind of—

Dennis:  Well, you do too; don’t you?

Bob:  I do. You don’t want somebody who’s abrasive, or who’s hostile, or harsh.

Dennis:  Just say it like it is—no namby-pamby around—let’s just get to the Scripture. Let it say what it says, and then take me to application.

Bob:  We’re going to hear one of those kinds of messages this week on our program; aren’t we?

Dennis:  We are—Dr. Robert Lewis—who was, for a number of years, the lead pastor at Fellowship Bible Church of Little Rock, Arkansas. That means he was my pastor—more than 24 years. He has been in the pastorate over 28 years.

Bob:  A lot of our listeners, especially those who have gone through the Stepping Up® series know Robert Lewis. He was the designer of The Quest for Authentic Manhood.  Men’s Fraternity—he got that started—and then he helped us out with the Stepping Up series for men, offering guys a solid definition of what real, authentic biblical manhood looks like.



We’re going to hear today a portion of a message from Robert, taken from Ephesians 5, where he talks about our responsibility, as men and as husbands.

Dennis:  When I heard this message, I thought: “I can’t wait to get back to the office tomorrow and tell Bob: ‘We need to play this for our listeners—they need to hear this. This is a great message.’ Here’s Dr. Robert Lewis.

[Recorded Message]

Robert:  If you want to take your Bibles and turn over to Ephesians 5 there. Today, as you’re doing that, I just want you to know the passage that is before us in this practical section of Ephesians is a passage that I think we could call “exclusive” rather than “inclusive.” I say exclusive because it targets specifically one particular group here, in the congregation today—and that is us married men. How many of you guys have a ring on your left hand?—let me just see. Hold it up high—be proud of it. Yes, there you are. This is our passage, guys, here today.



Let me begin by looking at the first couple of verses there, starting in verse 22. It says: “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord, for the husband is the head of the wife as Christ also is head of the church, He himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.

Now, if this were 1950, those words would go down pretty smooth—they would not probably even cause a ripple in the congregation because the idea of a husband being the head of his wife was a no-brainer. That’s just the way it was. In fact, if I were preaching in 1950, most of you women would be in the congregation this morning, with hats on.



One of the reasons you would wear those hats is to make a symbolic social statement, as many women do on this Sunday in other parts of the world / in churches, making a strong social statement that you agree with this text—that you have a head covering / a head called a husband. Unfortunately, for me, today, it’s not 1950. [Laughter]

And in our day, even in a church like ours—a Bible-believing church—reading a text like this causes some unrest / some unease. I’m aware of that—some discomfort among some of you; right? You feel that because there are two hard spots in this passage. For us, the two hard spots are right up at the top of the passage—and that is these: First of all, it says—you can see them there—“the husband is the head of the wife.” And then that second statement: “Wives, submit to your husbands.”



John Stott, who today is one of our premier theologians in the world—he made this comment about this text. He said: “In a world of equality, freedom, and permissiveness, nothing is so out of fashion today than headship and submission.” And yet, here we are this morning—and for whatever reason these words have not been taken out of the Bible—they’re still in there. We can’t avoid them—we can’t go around them, or over them, or under them.

We’ve got to go through this text because I don’t think God intended for this text to be a minefield for us that blows us up. I think He intended it to be a gold mine, and I want to share with you why, especially for us husbands. So let me begin by offering you some what I call “starting perspectives.” Let me give them to you—here’s the first one.



Men need clear directions to do well in anything, especially marriage! We need maps when we’re driving through the countryside, and we need maps for our marriages. A number of years ago, I was in the Atlanta airport. I picked up the Atlanta Journal. There, on the front page, was an article that said, “Swiss Laws End the Reign of Men as Head of Their Homes.” I read it. What they did in Switzerland is—they passed a law that said men could no longer be considered the head of their home. From this point on, in Switzerland, marriage roles would be left undefined. I thought to myself, “From what I’ve learned about men, over the last 30 years, nothing could be so unnerving to a man than to enter marriage undefined—undefined—not clear about what he’s supposed to do!



He’s supposed to be in this partnership for life; but doing what?—he’s got to make it up? It was the great social anthropologist, Margaret Meade, who said this—listen very carefully—as she looked at cultures throughout human history, she made this concluding statement: “The chief responsibility of every society is to define appropriate roles for its men.” Men desperately need to know what’s expected of them, especially in their marriages. The worst thing that a culture—a society—a state can do for a man, especially in marriage, is tell them nothing—you have to make it up. Without social roadmaps, men become confused—they become lost / they become problematic, as we all know. For many of them, they become passive—



—they just hang around.

Husbands, without marital roadmaps, suffer the same fate, not—from what I’ve discovered—not because of a lack of desire to want to do well. That’s not why they fail. It’s just no one has spelled out the directions for them of how to do well, and how to define their life, and how to be called up to something with some specifics they can grab onto and pull themselves up to a more noble perch, both in life and in marriage. That’s why I like this text—because Paul spells it out clearly.

A second perspective is this—notice what words are linked with “head” in this passage—you might just peruse over the passage for just a moment. Let me tell you what’s not linked with “head” in this passage—words like boss, ruler, best one, chief, or master.



You know why you won’t find any words like that linked to “head” here or anywhere else in the Scripture? Because the Scripture is very clear that male domination is a personal moral failure in marriage—it’s very clear about that.

But the word that is linked to “head” in this passage—and the word is linked three times—you see it there in verses 23, 25, and 28—here’s the word that is linked to it: Christ—to be a head, as Christ; to love, as Christ; to nourish and cherish, as Christ. In other words, if you want a good definition of headship, it’s simply this—modeling Christ, as a man, in some specific ways to your wife—that’s headship.

Third, I want to say a word about submission since that’s a hot word today. I believe submission is the space a wife gives her husband to assume his God-given responsibilities, whether loving her, leading her, or serving her.



You see, it happens in practical ways—when it finally massages itself down into the social fabric of a marriage / the everyday of a marriage. Here’s what happens when young men grow up understanding what a head is and women understand what submission is. This is how it plays out in the social landscape of life:

Sherard and I are walking up to a door; okay? We walk up to a door. When we get to the door, my wife gives me space to do what?

We sit down at the dinner table with all our kids. We sit down / the dinner is served—it’s there. There’s a moment of silence, and my wife gives me space to do what?

We’re sleeping together—it’s 3:00 am. We hear some disturbances in the room next to ours. My wife gives me space to do what? [Laughter]



“Get up and get him! Protect me!”—that’s right.

Those are little things. Then the big things—when we’re determining the direction of our family: “What standards we’re going to hold that are going to make this family healthy?” My wife also gives me space to step forward. When we’re making a big financial decision or determining what amount of our income we’re going to give to the church, a lot of times, my wife will give me space to see: “Are you going to lead like Christ?” You see—submission is the space a wife gives for her husband to grow up, as a head, and not fill it for him. That’s what submission is.

A fourth perspective is this—the husband who doesn’t grow up, as a head /maybe neglects or shuns these responsibilities—here’s what you will do to your wife, guys. This is after 30 years of counseling—you’re going to force her into a fallback position.



 I can tell you what the fallback positions are—here’s what they are:

One, you’re going to force her to be a doormat, who has to submit to a dictator—which is awful.

Or you’re going to force her to become a manipulator to get her way—kind of like in the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

Remember the mom, Maria, and the daughter, Toula? Toula goes in to the daddy and says, “I want to go to college.” He tells her she can’t go to college—that’s not right for her and all that. She comes out crying. Maria, her mom, says to Toula, “What’s wrong?” She says, “Daddy says I can’t go to college, and he’s the head of the home.” Maria kind of laughs; and she goes: “Nonsense! The husband may be the head of the home, but the wife is the woman who is the neck that turns the head,”—that’s a manipulator.

Then there’s an enabler. That’s the wife who is always covering up and filling in for the irresponsibilities of her husband, like my mom did for 25 years.



I didn’t like it, and she didn’t like it.

Or she can become a warrior and fight with her husband for what’s right and keep trying to push him to do what’s right. It takes a terrible toll of wounds on both of them.

Or she can do what a lot of young women are doing today—growing up in our new, more liberated society—she can become the head herself—and take over the marriage and assume the responsibilities that her husband is ignoring.

It’s interesting—in 1950, most women under an irresponsible head would become a doormat; but today’s woman doesn’t take that. Most women today just simply take over; and if that doesn’t work, she leaves. That’s the world we live in.

Now we’re going to look at what Paul really wants to say—his focus, remember, is—husbands. He wants to give three of what I call “Best Practices for a Head.”



Here’s the first one: “A real head is a lover,”—very simple. Look at verse 25—he says, “Husbands, love your wives just as Christ also loved the church.” Now the comparison is to Christ. The question we have to ask is: “How did Christ love the church?” The answer is: “He loved the church by connecting with the church where it most needed Him.” It needed redemption, and Jesus stepped into that and redeemed His church.

Now the husband doesn’t redeem the wife; but it, at least, invites this question: “Where does the wife most need the husband to love her?” I believe it’s a very basic answer—it is this: “She needs to—in the dailyness of marriage—she needs to feel loved.” That’s so basic, but that’s the great connection.



She needs to feel, in an ongoing way, a positive, healthy, emotional connection of love with her husband. In other words, you’ve got to, as a man, show her your heart. Practically, that’s going to mean regularly opening up when you come home—talking to her, listening to her, caring about what she’s feeling in life, sharing with her where you’re going, what’s happening around you, understanding her, and moments of intimacy where you just kind of connect, soul to soul.

Can I hear an “Amen,” ladies? Is that right? Do you believe that? That’s what you most need. This is what it means to love a woman. Guys, it’s so easy just to forget that or miss that—like the guy who took his wife out to dinner. They went out, and the dinner was served. He immediately went to eating—there was very little talking or any kind of interaction.



They looked next to them, and there was this couple—this younger couple. They were having the same meal, but they were conversing. He was talking in kind of an animated fashion, and she was looking adoringly at him. Every so often, he would lean over and whisper something in her ear; and she would laugh and all that.

In the midst of that, the first woman, at the other table, said to her husband: “Look at how he talks to her. Wow! Why don’t you do something like that?” He looks up from his Caesar salad and says, “Honey, I don’t even know the woman!” [Laughter] Now, that’s a guy that doesn’t get it!—see? He’s missed the whole point of this text. Loving is connecting, at an emotional level, where a woman feels loved.

Husbands, here’s what I want you to know. One of the best ways to emotionally connect with your wife is by learning her love language. I love the fact—I’ve said this in Men’s Fraternity—



--but Gary Chapman has given men one of the best and easiest ways to emotionally connect with their wives by just simply learning their love language. Let me just give them to you.

Guys, by the way, if you would—this is the only thing I’m going to ask you to do—write these down because I have something for you at the end of the sermon. Here they are: First, affirming words. Some women love to be loved by affirming words—when you speak them, it just builds them up / lifts them up. Others: by physical touch—hugs or whatever. Some by quality time together—they want just you, undistracted. Some: by receiving gifts. You’re helping around the house, fixing certain things, stuff like that—the last one is acts of service.

Those are the love languages that women engage with. Here’s the thing that Chapman pointed out—every woman, here in this room, has a primary love language. She can look at that list and pretty much immediately choose the one that’s hers. She knows what her primary love language is—but here’s the question: “Do you?



Do you?” Even deeper, let me ask this question: “Even if you knew it, do you know the most meaningful ways / practical ways to speak that love language into her life?” See, that’s what a real head does—he takes the time to open up his heart—go in to his wife in a way that connects deeply into her heart—and they feel this deep emotional-love connection. A real head loves his wife / shows her his heart.


Bob:  Well, we’ve listened to Part One of a message from Dr. Robert Lewis on a husband’s responsibility to love his wife.



I know some of our listeners may say, “Haven’t we heard that message?” But you look around, and maybe we’ve heard it, but we need to move beyond hearing it and start doing a little more doing of it—do you know what I mean?

Dennis:  No doubt about it. In fact, what man doesn’t need to hear a message like that every few months? You know, Bob, we teach, here on FamilyLife Today, what the Apostle Paul taught in Ephesians 5—that the husband is the head of the wife. What that means is—he has a God-ordained responsibility to serve, love, lead, care for, nourish and cherish his wife. Being the head doesn’t let him off the hook to become a dictator.

Bob:  Right.

Dennis:  Being the head means he has the ultimate responsibility to care for his wife’s soul. What Robert was doing today was—he was just taking men into the practical workings of: “What does it mean for a man to truly love his wife?” 



Our wives want our hearts, as Robert said. They want to know we are on their team and we want to care for them like they need to be cared for. I don’t think we can hear that message too often.

Bob:  It’s interesting to me—whenever I get a chance to talk to the wives of guys who have gone through the Stepping Up® video series for men—they’re always smiling. They’re always saying: “I am so encouraged that (a) my husband wanted to go through this material / they stuck with it—and I can tell it’s making a difference in how he views his assignment, as a man, in our home, as my husband, as a father to our children.

Robert is one of the key contributors to the Stepping Up video series, along with guys like Matt Chandler and Crawford Loritts. Voddie Baucham is in this series. Stu Weber is in it. Of course, you’re in it, Dennis. It’s a ten-week study where guys get together with other guys and sharpen iron around what godly masculinity ought to look like.



Our team is hoping that, here, during the month of “Manuary,”—they’re calling it “Manuary” instead of January—that during the month of January, we’ll see 50,000 guys connect with other men and go through this ten-week study on what it means to be a godly man—which means some of you, who are listening, are going to need to step up. You’re going to need to say, “I will rally together with my friends, and we’ll go through this material together.”

If you sign up, this week, to do that—order the kit and the workbooks—there is a special offer that is available for FamilyLife Today listeners. You can go to our website to find out more about it. Go to Click the link in the upper left-hand corner that says, “GO DEEPER.” There’s information about the Stepping Up video series available there.

Let me tell you, though, the feedback we’re getting from guys—they love this material. It is really connecting with them, right where they are, as men.



If you want to see some samples from the video series, again, go to Click the link in the upper left-hand corner that says, “GO DEEPER.” Then click on the information about Stepping Up. Get a group of guys together and go through this material. It would be a great way to kick off the new year. Again, there’s a special offer available, right now, when you go to Or if you have any questions about the resource, give us a call at 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY.”

I have to tell you—we are pretty excited about what is ahead for us in the year 2015. We have a lot of plans / a lot of new resources we’re working on developing—events that we’re going to be hosting—of course, new radio programs that we are continually producing. Our goal is to provide you with practical biblical help for your marriage / for your family. We want to effectively develop godly families, who are changing the world, one home at a time.



We’re grateful for those of you who help make this all possible—those of you who support this ministry by making donations to help cover the cost for producing and syndicating this daily radio program. That’s where your money goes when you donate to FamilyLife Today. It goes right into producing and distributing this program, which is now being heard in more places around the world than ever before. So we’re grateful for your partnership with us, here at FamilyLife Today.

If you can make a donation, right now, we’d like to send you, as a thank-you gift, Dennis and Barbara Rainey’s book for couples called Moments with You. It’s a daily devotional guide—365 devotions. There’s a Scripture to read, there’s a devotion to go through together, there are discussion questions, and an opportunity to pray together at the end.

You can request the book when you make an online donation at Click the link in the upper right-hand corner of the screen that says, “I Care,” to make an online donation.



Or call 1-800-FL-TODAY—make your donation over the phone. You can also mail a donation when you request the book, Moments with You. Send your donation to FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; and our zip code is 72223.

Now, tomorrow, we’re going to hear Part Two of Dr. Robert Lewis’s message for husbands. It’s called “What Every Husband Needs to Know.” I hope you can tune in for Part Two of that message tomorrow.


I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.

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