OF RULERS AND RULERS*
By R. C. Sproul Jr.
We have rules in the Sproul house, some more important than others. My wife Denise has two rules. Rule 1: Peace in my house. And rule 2 is like unto the first, Speak to me with respect. Darby our daughter also has to basic rules, obey Mommy and Daddy, and be sweet to Campbell. Campbell so far has only one rule, don't spit your food all over the place.
Some of these rules, you will note, reflect fundamental principles. All children, for instance, are to obey their parents, (Ephesians 6:1). Other rules are more specific, raised in importance by particular weaknesses we might exhibit. These rules serve a purpose. The Bible tells us that there is a "love which covers a multitude of sins." This seems to suggest that we are not to pick at each other over every little thing. This is a part of what it means to be patient, to be long suffering, to not be easily angered. The rules, however, draw a clear and distinct line. They set apart those things which are not to be tolerated. Darby knows that disobeying Mommy is not something Daddy will overlook. My intolerance on this issue works itself out in a stung fanny.
Patience, however, is not merely overlooking lesser offenses, but not getting uptight that full compliance on the important issues has not yet been reached. Darby still disobeys. Tolerance would have me overlook it. Patience, on the other hand, says calmly, peacefully, "This will not be tolerated" and, when repentance is shown, "I forgive you."
As sinners though, our temptation is to try to muddy this distinction when we are caught having broken the rules. When I confront Denise with a violation of rule #2, she is tempted to say something like, "But I've come such a long way. I've gotten so much better." And she has. She is a marvel of respect for me considering the strikes against her, first that the culture scoffs at respecting husbands, and the second that her husband isn't as respectable as some. But the implication in such an appeal is that, given her growth, patience should have led me to overlook the offense. That is to say I should have tolerate being spoken to disrespectfully.
But such would lead me to break my rule, the one that stand above all the other household rules, "Lead your family into righteousness." This is a burden, a heavy burden. And tolerance beckons like a false Christ saying, "Come unto me all you weary fathers and I will give you rest." Tolerance is nothing more than an abdication of my God given obligations. It is throwing up my hands, and declaring with prideful humility, " Well, what are you gonna do? Wives will be wives, and children will be children."
This, husbands, is sacrificial love, to take up the burden of our family's sanctification. It may mean pulling the car over to administer discipline when what you really want to do is get to where you're going. It may mean staying up until all hours of the night before an important meeting, so that you can explain to your wife for the hundredth time that being called an idiot fails to reach the mark of respectful speech (N.B. I have not had this specific experience. Denise does a good job with the rule, as I mentioned). And here is where we so desperately need patience. This job, like taking out the trash, is one that is never done. We find ourselves repeating the same rules over and over again. Our frustration gets the best of us when we want the job to be completed, to be behind us. We face a never-ending temptation either to ditch patience and blow our top, or to take off the mantle of leadership and exchange it for the passive mantle of tolerance.
Play the man.
*Reprinted by permission of Every Thought Captive, the newsletter of the Highlands Study Center directed by R.C. Sproul Jr.