“So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.” John 10:7-15 (ESV)
A fourth principle for husbands and fathers is that a faithful shepherd is a protector. Unlike the hired hand who flees when the wolf comes, the Good Shepherd is there to protect the sheep from danger. Our Lord Jesus is the protector of His people. In fact, in John 10:27-28, Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” Those who belong to Jesus are eternally safe and secure.
Christ protects us by His providential power. We do not even know the dangers that would have come to us, body and soul, had Christ in His sovereignty not designed that we be spared. Christ protects us by His Spirit, who works in us to arouse holy desires that keep us from giving in to worldliness and a wasted life. Christ protects us from temptation and sin. He will never allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear, and always provides a way of escape, no matter what the situation. By His sacrifice on the cross, Christ has protected us from the law’s condemnation, and from the accusations of the devil. He is our refuge and strength, our ever-present help in trouble.
Men, if this what it looks like for Christ to shepherd our souls, what does that mean for the way you shepherd your wife and children? Should you not also be their protector?
Before we speak of spiritual dangers, understand that this includes protection from physical dangers as well. You are to protect your family from poverty by providing income for your family. You are to protect them from nakedness by providing clothes, from cold by providing a home, from hunger by providing food. As a general rule, the man is to be the bread-winner of the family. It was to Adam that God said, “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread” (Genesis 3:19).
In Luke 11, Jesus asks, “What father among you, if his sons asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you the, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Jesus’ point there is that our Heavenly Father, as our Father, loves to provide for His children. His argument is that this is the very nature of fatherhood. Fathers do not give their children serpents or scorpions, putting them in danger. They give their children food to eat, meeting their needs. Godly fathers provide for and meet the needs of their children.
1st Timothy 4:8 goes so far as to say that “if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” It is a serious, frightening statement about one’s soul for a man to refuse to do all he can to make sure his family is cared for.
Yet a man not only protects his family from poverty, but from those who would bring harm to them. In Nehemiah 4, when Nehemiah learned that Jerusalem was in danger, and the project of building the wall was still incomplete, he stationed soldiers all around the city limits. He stationed them by clans, with their swords, their spears, and their bows. Then, Nehemiah gave one of those rallying speeches that a general gives to the troops just before they face the mighty enemy. Here was Nehemiah’s brief but poignant speech to the soldiers: “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes.”
Notice, Nehemiah didn’t say anything about fighting for your husbands. The soldiers were the husbands. The idea of putting women on the front lines is contradictory to Scripture; men are to be the ones fighting for their families, and when women are forced to rise up and fight, it ought to bring shame to the men. Here were these men, called to duty by Nehemiah, and they were to fight for those they love. They were to fight for their brothers, both their follow soldiers and those men too feeble or disabled to fight. They were to fight for their children, and they were to fight for their wives and their households.
Joseph was a model of this when the angel came to him and told him to take Mary and the baby Jesus to Egypt for their protection. There was a reason God put Joseph in Mary’s life; he was God’s appointed protector and provider for Mary and the infant Son of God. “Women and children first!” is how men ought to respond when the ship is sinking. Let us die in service to our wives and children if we must, but we must do all we can to protect them. This is how Christ shepherds us; it’s how we should shepherd as well.
Of course, the most important kind of protection a husband or father can give is spiritual protection. Like the sheep who are in danger of wolves, so our families are in danger because of spiritual enemies. Satan, the world, the flesh – these are not small enemies. They are to be taken seriously, and if we are not sober-minded and alert, they will destroy our wife or children.
What dangers must we guard our family against? There is the danger of erroneous beliefs. We live in a society in which the majority of people believe false doctrines. If we simply allow our families to flow with the culture, it is very likely that our families too will begin to believe those false doctrines. False doctrine always leads to immoral living and the rejection of Christ.
There is the danger of idolatry. Christ is to be the chief love of our wife and children. He and He alone is worthy of their worship, their highest affections, their greatest love. Yet we live in a society that gives us a million other things to love. How easy it is for our children to believe that a video game or a new toy is now the greatest thing in the world! How easy it is for our wives to begin to set her highest love on the children themselves, or on something else. Before long, their love for Jesus is just a small part of their lives, and what they really want to talk about is something else. Something else has their heart. Take note of this. This very moment, every member of your family has something in their life that could become an idol for them. Do you, as the husband or father, know what this is for each of your family members? Husbands, do you know what it is in the life of your wife that she is most tempted to love more than Christ? What are you doing to help her with that struggle? Fathers, do you know what it is in the life of each of your children that is threatening to captivate more of his or her young heart than it ought?
Then there is the danger of your wife or children falling into patterns of sin that will do them harm. It is so easy for sin to become habitual, a pattern. When it does, it brings real consequences into our lives. Men, we are to be on the lookout for patterns of sin in our family members. When we see patterns of holiness, evidences of grace, we are to come with strong encouragement! We are to let our wife and our children know how thankful to God we are for what we see happening in their lives. When you see any degree of godliness in your wife or children, whether it be a moment of patience or a kind word you overheard them speak, let them know how much joy that brings you! But when you begin to notice a pattern of sin in their lives, you must take quick action and appropriately respond. Besetting sins, sins that entangle – the consequences of these can be catastrophic. We would not let our children play with matches. We would not our children play with sharp knives. We would not let our children play with a live grenade. Letting our family members go on comfortably in patterns of sin is worse than any of those examples, for sin unchecked will lead them farther away from Christ and into hell itself.
The greatest danger of all is that of remaining blind to the goodness and glory of Jesus. This is the greatest fear I have. Is it possible that my wife or children could go through life without ever having their eyes opened to see the goodness and glory of Jesus? It is possible that they could go through life without ever truly believing on Jesus, turning from their sins to follow Him? The answer is yes – it is possible. Only God can open their eyes to really see Jesus and love Him. But any man with any real measure of manhood in him should be willing to give his very life if it would cause his wife or children to believe and be saved. We must do everything we can each day to help our families see the wonders of Jesus, how great He is, how worthy He is to be loved and trusted.
So, how do we protect our families from these spiritual dangers? We protect through teaching. We help our wife and children to know these dangers. We teach our wives and children how to put on the armor of God, and how to wield the sword of His Word. We bring correction when false doctrine begins to show up in their lives.
We protect through discipline. If our children are caught in a pattern of sin, we do everything we can to show them how ugly sin is and how good God is, and why they shouldn’t sin. Then, as God’s instruments, we give them discipline – properly administered discipline. “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.” (Proverbs 22:15).
We also protect our families by using our authority to control in some degree the influences on the lives of our wives and children. In particular, we are careful to keep a close eye on the kinds of friends our children have. Proverbs 13:20 says, “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” We do not allow our children to choose who the main influencers in their lives will be. We choose. As they grow and become more trustworthy, we grant them a little more responsibility in these matters. Yet we have the final say. We also know from Titus 2 that our boys can gain great benefit from being around godly men, and our girls can benefit greatly from being around godly women. If we need our children to stay with someone for a couple of days, we don’t call up that ungodly relative just because they are family. We call up someone we know will be a good influence on our kids. We cannot nor should not completely isolate our children from ungodly people, but we should and must limit their exposure so that we can take time to teach them what is right and what is wrong.
We also protect our children by exercising authority over the content that they are putting into their minds and hearts. We have the final say over the books they read, the movies they watch, and the music they listen to. At times this means not allowing them to read that book, watch that movie, or listen to that song. At other times it might mean allowing some exposure but then taking time to discuss the content with your child to make sure they are discerning good from evil. This is part of protecting their hearts and minds.
Perhaps you are thinking, “Justin, my kids hate it when I tell them they cannot watch this or listen to that or go to that sleepover at so and so’s, etc.” Sir, man up. Perhaps one day your children will look back and see that you had their best interest at heart. Perhaps one day they will thank you for standing up and doing what was right. But even if they don’t – man up! God has given you a responsibility to do all you can to protect your children from sin, and to prepare them to stand before Him on the last day. You do not answer to your children – you answer to God. The account you must give is not to them, but to Him. You should strive to help them understand why you set the limits you do, but even if you cannot get them to understand and be thankful for those limits, you must set them. Protect your children.