In John 10:1-5 we learn from Jesus, the Good Shepherd, lessons that help husbands and fathers as they seek to shepherd their families. Jesus says:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger the will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” (ESV)
A second lesson that we learn from these verses is that a faithful shepherd does not coerce, but is followed voluntarily.
Jesus, as the Good Shepherd, does not abuse His sheep or beat them into submission. Rather, by His love and care, He has won the trust and love of the sheep. Verse 5 tells us that the sheep will not follow a stranger, someone they do not know or trust. But Christ comes to His sheep, calls them by name, and they come to Him. We are told that the follow Him, for they know His voice.
This is how it was at the beginning of our Christian lives. We were living our lives our own way, walking in darkness, when Christ spoke to us through the gospel. It may have been the first time or the thousandth time we had heard the gospel message, but this was the time it truly clicked. Maybe we were reading the Bible ourselves, hearing a preacher, or maybe a friend was talking to us. There was an external call to follow Jesus. The words of the Bible were calling us to follow Jesus, or the preacher was calling us to follow Jesus, or our friend was encouraging us to follow Jesus. But that wasn’t the only call we were hearing. Deep down there was another call coming to our souls. This was the call of Christ Himself. As the gospel was beginning to sink into our hearts, we could hear Christ saying, “Come to me. Follow me.” To this point, Christ had been a stranger to us. Now, He was no longer a stranger. We were beginning to see how He gave His life for us. We were beginning to understand the great price He paid, and how through Him our sins could be forgiven. For the first time, the love of Jesus for sinners like us flooded our souls. Christ said, “Come”, and we willingly chose to come. The Spirit made us willing. It was our desire to follow Jesus, to know Him, to be His. How could we not follow a Savior like this!?
Husbands and fathers, this is how we are to lead. Take special notice of this. Sometimes a husband will read in the Bible that he is to lead his family, and that his wife and children are to submit to him, and he takes it upon himself to make them submit. He uses his authority in a harsh way, full of demands with little love and tenderness. There is a kind of masculinity that is a perversion of the real thing. It is all about using our strength not to serve our families, but to make our families serve us. Think of the man who treats his wife like a door mat and provokes his children to anger.
Men, this is not the example of Christ. It is not our duty to force submission upon our wife and children. Yes, there is a place for proper discipline. Children especially need to be taught the importance of obeying their parents and honoring their father and mother. But nothing will frustrate and provoke children more than being taught to honor and obey parents who treat them selfishly and harshly. Fathers, be the kind of man that your wife and children will want to follow. Be respectable, so that you do not make it difficult for them to respect you. Lavish them with your love, and make sure that they feel your love for them. For some, receiving a gift is what causes them to feel your love. For another, an encouraging compliment at just the right time can mean the world. Get to know the love languages of your wife and children, what you can do to help them know how much you care for them. Let your love win the hearts of your family as you seek to lead them well.