Trusting the Lord and His Design
About the Guest
What is God's design for a man? A woman? Andreas and Margaret Kostenberger, professors at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, share how they came to faith in Christ while living in different parts of the world. Their paths crossed while attending seminary in the States, and later they married. Together they discuss God's design for marriage.
What is God’s design for man and woman? Andreas and Margaret Kostenberger share their story, and discuss God’s design for marriage.
Bob: Margaret Köstenberger says ultimately deciding to embrace God’s design for her, as a woman, comes down to trusting and obeying.
Margaret: I don’t think so much in terms: “Is it fair? Is this unfair that I don’t get a leadership role?” or “…I don’t have the authority in this particular relationship?” Everybody has to be put under authority in different ways; but I think it comes down to trusting how God has designed us, as a couple—as man and woman together.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, December 31st. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. Do you think there is any controversy around what we’re talking about this week? Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us.
Dennis: Bob, when’s the last time we had a resident of Vienna, Austria, on our broadcast?
Bob: That would be—that was never.
Bob: I don’t think we’ve ever had anybody from Vienna.
Dennis: No, I don’t think so; but we’re having a guest today from there. Both he and his wife are from—well, he’s from Vienna / she’s from Canada—
Dennis: —which doesn’t sound nearly as exciting as Vienna, Austria. [Laughter] I’m sorry—nothing against Canada. I love Canada—been there many times.
We have Andreas and Margaret Köstenberger joining us on FamilyLife Today. Welcome to the broadcast.
Margaret: Thank you.
Andreas: Great to be here.
Dennis: Andreas is from Vienna. He has his PhD from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. You and Margaret have written a book called God’s Design for Man and Woman. You both are professors at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina. You have four children who live with you, there in North Carolina, as well.
Before we dive into what we want to talk about today, I just want to turn to our listening audience and say, “It is game time.”
Bob: Yes, this is the last day of the year; isn’t it?
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Dennis: And I just want you to know, as a listener—it is a privilege to serve you and your family, and equip you to do marriage and family and life according to the Scriptures, and also to raise your children to be image-bearers of Christ, moving forward.
And this subject today we’re about to talk about—the whole issue of roles in marriage / what it means to be a man and a woman in this culture—you’re not hearing a lot of clarity from the Bible today on this, but that’s what you can count on from FamilyLife Today.
I just want you to know these are not minor issues—these are the bedrock of our nation. I just believe we must win the battle over the family today because it’s a competing worldview. Are you going to build your family according to God’s view of marriage and family or the world’s view? If you believe we need to do it God’s way, pick up a phone, or go online, or fill out an envelope with our address and give generously, here at yearend.
Now, let’s talk about God’s Design for Man and Woman. That’s the title of the book you wrote. In the book, you actually go back to a time when you’d been traveling throughout Europe and you came back home. You were—what?—17/18 years old coming back home?
Andreas: That’s right.
Dennis: Tell that story—what happened when you arrived home.
Andreas: Well, it’s quite common in Austria and in Europe to take Eurail pass—at least, it was when I was that age—and just travel Europe for a month or two, staying in some of those youth hostels.
This is a great way to see the continent of Europe. So, I came back from that trip—it was kind of the end of summer. I opened the door. I saw that, in the hallway—that a lot of drawers were pulled out and clothes were kind of hanging out. I was thinking, “Somebody broke in!” Then, at second thought, I realized my dad had moved out.
Dennis: So, you hadn’t been robbed.
Andreas: That’s right.
Dennis: You called your dad. What did he say?
Andreas: That’s right. He said, “Andreas, I don’t live at home anymore.” I was just shocked. I didn’t see it coming, even though maybe I should have; but still, I—I guess, sometimes, as a teenager, you’re caught up in yourself and in your own world. So, it was very jarring to have him tell me that over the phone.
Dennis: How did that impact you, as a young man?
Andreas: Well, I tried to continue meeting with him as I went off to college. Usually, we’d meet once a month at a restaurant. He would tell me about his new life with a new partner he’d had and building a house with her. I always felt kind of cheated because—you know, I was thinking: “Well, what about us?” My mother had been married to him for 25 years. So, it was very hard to respect him for the choices that he made.
Bob: At this point in your life, there was no solid spiritual foundation for you; right?
Andreas: No. I was probably a fairly typical European university student. I was into existentialism. I thought that life really didn’t have meaning. At the same time, I’d occasionally wake up at night and just be terrified of what would happen to me when I died. So, it was a really difficult time in my life.
Dennis: That ultimately kind of kick-started you on a spiritual journey, though—
—this situation at home. Share with our listeners how you came to come to have faith in Jesus Christ.
Andreas: I met an American opera student on a train from Vienna to Venice. She shared a passage from Galatians 5 with me on the fruit of the Spirit—and the love, and the joy, and the peace that God can give to people. That began about a six-month journey, where I read through the entire Bible twice—just really out of incredible pent-up spiritual hunger because I’d never read the Bible before.
Gradually, it dawned on me that it’s not just everybody around me having problems; but that I was a sinner, needing a Savior. I desperately cried out to God for help and trusted Christ for my salvation.
Dennis: At the same time, Margaret—well, it wasn’t quite the same time because you’re a little younger than Andreas; but you were growing up in Canada near Toronto. You didn’t grow up in a Christian home either.
Margaret: That’s correct. I didn’t have that opportunity to grow up in a Christian home—no.
Dennis: So, what kicked off your journey toward, ultimately, becoming a follower of Christ?
Margaret: Well, I was invited to go on a retreat with a college group; and I was 17. They were a little older than me. I was just really amazed by the lives of the people that I met on that retreat. They actually guided me to a church, back in my hometown, which was three hours away from where we had been meeting. There was a great pastor there who led me in understanding the truth.
Bob: The two of you met when you were students together at seminary at Columbia International University and Seminary. Was the issue of marriage and gender, in particular—from a theological standpoint—was that something that was on your mind back then? Or has that blossomed out of your marriage and your family experience?
Margaret: I would say—Andreas, it was on your mind because you were asking me questions about those matters and what I thought about them.
Why don’t you go ahead?
Andreas: Yes, I remember hearing about, I think, the founding of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood in the late-80s or so. Then, I remember it deeply resonated with me; but even before then, I was already interested in it, possibly, because I’m a pretty deep thinker. The experience I’d had with my parents’ divorce kind of set me on a course to reflect on what it means to be a man and a woman. It’s been on my mind ever since I can remember.
Bob: Marney, how about for you? Was—I guess growing up in Canada, in a home that was not a Christian home, I’m assuming that the cultural ideas about gender and about feminism were probably—that was probably just the water you were drinking; wasn’t it?
Margaret: Yes, I guess I didn’t really realize what I was coming out of. In my home, I think my parents / my mother would have taught me to be anything I wanted to be—
—well, that’s all good. I never had any instruction about God’s design for me, as a woman. When I went to nursing school at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, there was a strong feminist presence in the teaching.
Dennis: How much did you understand, biblically, of what God was calling you to do and be, as a wife, in this new relationship with Christ and in a Christian marriage?
Margaret: I guess it was—it was new to me. Andreas and I were discussing these questions about what the role of a man and a woman should be. So, it was—we were exploring / it was new to us.
Dennis: What about you, Andreas?
Andreas: I think we were especially making sure that each other were disciples of Christ. I remember going for long walks and just getting to know each other—and also, just kind of gauging the depth of commitment. We were both at a school that was very serious about discipleship and about missions.
I took a long-term view in terms of being married and being, really, on mission together for God and partnering together. Columbia was a great environment for that because, you know, a lot of people were there for the same reason.
Dennis: One of the points you make, repeatedly, in your book is that to be called the head of your home—or the husband of your family and your wife—is less about power and more about responsibility. Unpack that, if you would, please.
Andreas: Absolutely. You know, the word, patriarchy, is often given a bad connotation in our culture today; but really, when you think about it, the patriarchs were providers of their families. They protected them—often the extended household. They were basically the people through whom God’s channel of blessing flowed to those around them.
So, people would have looked at the role of a patriarch—not so much as one who wielded authority or power over them—but ones who were a source of great blessing for them.
Dennis: —and goodness.
Andreas: —and goodness.
Dennis: Yes. I think some men view the authority that’s given to them through a wrong lens and can become dominant and abusive. Speak to that just real briefly, if you would.
Andreas: Yes—for them to be Christ-like, and to be servants of their wives / to care for them spiritually, and physically, and emotionally—and the same with their family/their children. I think the idea that—you know, you hear, sometimes, about servant-leadership. I don’t like the term very much because, sometimes, people use it as if it were drained of all authority.
I rather think that husbands ought to be servant-leaders, but not in the sense that they completely shirk their responsibility and their authority; but they use their God-given authority in their role to serve out of a position of strength and character.
Bob: I’m glad you bring that up because I think, early in my marriage—I’d heard about servant-leadership—I wanted to be that kind of a husband. I think what I fell into was the idea that, “As long as I am serving my wife / pleasing her, then, I’m doing what God requires of me.”
It was a number of years in—that I thought: “I’m not really leading. I’m really just looking around and saying: ‘How can I help?’ Then, I’m trying to help.” But I wasn’t really taking on the responsibility that comes with saying, “I need to be providing leadership here.”
Andreas: That’s so true. I think—in our study of Scripture, we see this strong pattern of male leadership, all the way from Adam to the Book of Revelation, where you have the 24 elders—
—your 12 tribes of Israel / the 12 apostles. So, there’s no denying that God’s plan, before the fall and after the fall, is one of strong male leaders. And of course, in Christ, we see a perfect example of how—
Andreas: —that leadership is to be carried out.
Bob: Marney, isn’t there anything inside of you—hearing us talk about strong male leadership and men doing this—that causes you to go: “Hang on! Wait! I’ve got something to say about this too. I think I should be an equal partner in this,”?
Margaret: Well, I think I’ve come to trust the Lord and His design for men and women where we are of equal worth but distinct in roles—that we’re complementary—I can accept that. I know, maybe, at some point, it might have been harder for me; but just moving on in life and trusting the Lord in this way was a gradual thing for me.
Bob: I will hear people, today, say, “I know you affirm equal worth / equal value of men and women,”; but they’ll just say, ‘Honestly, if the man’s got the authority, it’s kind of—you’re just playing semantic games to say equal value and equal worth because, if he’s got the authority, he’s got to have a little more value than the people who don’t have the authority.’”
Margaret: Right; I know that’s a logical way of thinking. Maybe, people struggle with that in terms of understanding whether they really are equal. I think it comes down to trusting how God has designed us, as a couple / as man and woman together. Also, it’s a matter of just obedience.
Bob: So, when you hear the phrase, “You are under your husband’s authority,” isn’t there something that causes you to flinch at that idea?
Margaret: Maybe, it does in my sinful nature—yes, it probably does. And as I was starting to say before, we don’t live out our lives perfectly, even now, because I’m still a sinner—
Margaret: —the same sinner I was when we first got married—
—hopefully, more mature—
Margaret: —hopefully more understanding of my husband and who he is / his strengths and weaknesses as—you know, just—we’re gradually becoming more and more like Christ and living out the design, hopefully, more perfectly.
Dennis: Your husband is nodding his head right now. [Laughter] He’s agreeing with what you are saying.
Dennis: So, I’m catching the fact you’ve grown a good bit in your marriage.
Bob: Andreas, I’m wondering, from you: “What is the wrong way to think about a husband having authority over his wife?” and “What’s the right way to think about that?”
Andreas: Well, I think sometimes—when people stereotype authority as this kind of self-seeking and using it for your own purposes—they may not adequately realize that there is, sometimes, a burden that comes with being responsible and being a leader. I think, if a man seeks to follow Christ and provide for his wife and his family, it’s a serious responsibility; and you need God’s help / you need His strength.
I’m often exhausted and drained, just from making sure that everybody’s needs in my family are met. Certainly, right now, we have four children. One is just out of college, one in college, one about to go into college, and then, a middle-schooler. You know, they are growing; and their needs are growing as well. So, as a dad / as a husband, you feel like—it’s a fulltime job—
Margaret: It’s a huge responsibility,—
Andreas: —to care for everyone.
Margaret: —and I’m aware of that too. I’m aware of that. I enjoy when he takes leadership and assumes authority in a godly, loving way.
Dennis: Abusive husbands ignore the needs of their wife. They are not really listening and valuing their wife’s opinion—what her perspective is / what her needs are in the situation. That’s what I heard you just saying.
Andreas: Yes, we do everything together. I—Marney has a real gift of wisdom, and I know that. If I don’t listen to her, I’ll regret it later.
We make our decisions together, but the truth is that there are occasions when I feel strongly led by the Lord to move a certain direction. After we discuss different pros and cons, I tell Marney that “I really think we should do this.” At that moment, she defers to me. I think that’s what we’re talking about—that ultimately, God has assigned that leadership role to the man.
Dennis: Marney, do you remember a recent “discussion” where, maybe, you both didn’t have the same opinion; but ultimately, Andreas had to decide, and you went with him?
Margaret: You know, I can think of one. Okay—and this is related to media and the children’s use of media. Andreas made the decision when the boys were going to be allowed to get emails—I mean, email accounts—at least, David / Timothy doesn’t yet—he is 13 / he doesn’t have an email account yet—
—but to get involved in different / the many different aspects of social media. I am more conservative. I wanted to wait until the longest time. Andreas just felt: “This is the time. He needs to get it.”
Dennis: So, why did you decide to go ahead and press forward?
Andreas: Well, I think, sometimes, for parents—I’ve seen that—when I grew up, as a young man—it’s time to let go and to allow our children to even fail if that’s what it takes to learn some lessons. Better for that to happen at a time when we are still there to guide them and to give them feedback.
Dennis: That’s hard for a mother to hear; isn’t it, Marney?
Margaret: Yes; yes. I just have to trust Andreas’s—I don’t know if instinct is the right word—but the timing was right for him to guide his son in that area of life.
Dennis: I mean, it’s your little boy, for goodness sakes!
Margaret: I wanted to just keep him in a little protective shell—and that nobody hurt him, or guide him, or mislead him.
Bob: But you knew, before any decision was made, that your husband had heard you—
Bob: —that he’d prayed—that he was seeking to follow the Lord in all of this. That makes it easier for you, even in the hard decision, to go, “Okay, I’m going to trust you here.”
Margaret: Yes, it’s true—it does make it easier / doesn’t make it easy—but yet, that was something. I think it is easier, over time, the more you do that because you just surrender to God’s leadership in your life through your husband’s leadership.
Margaret: You realize: “This is God’s work. It’s not my work—protecting my son from something,”—just leaving it to Him.
Andreas: It’s a learning experience. We’ve been married for over 25 years. We look back—I think the first 7/10 years were just—we were still trying to figure things out. I’m very slow. Even as a husband/as a father, it’s taken me a long, long time to not even get all that far.
Bob: Well, the hard thing or, at least, it has been for me—
—you make some of these decisions, as a man, and then, you look back and you go: “My wife was right. [Laughter] I should have listened to her.”
Bob: You’re not going to bat a thousand, as a husband. Even though you have a responsibility for leadership, you’re going to make some wrong decisions.
Dennis: It may not always be easy. I was just thinking of your list you went through—you said: “First of all, I was single / came to faith in Christ—learned about self-denial. Then, I got married, and—Wow!—there was a whole new level of self-denial.”
Dennis: Then, came a child, then, two, three, four—and then, came teenagers.
Andreas: That’s right.
Dennis: Every step of the way, it demands self-denial. I’ve got another one for you—another stage—is when the nest is empty and your kids have made enough money that they can give you dancing lessons, as a couple, because that will move you to a whole new level. I speak from experience.
Margaret: Right; okay.
Dennis: Barbara and I thought we had this dance called marriage all figured out until we got the dancing lessons. Then, we found out: “You know what? There’s a whole new level of learning to trust,”—[Laughter]
Margaret: Right; yes.
Dennis: —because the man is supposed to form this cradle, where a woman can follow—okay?—as he leads. I just want you to know—and if any of their kids are listening right now, make sure you give them dancing lessons when the nest is empty. [Laughter]
Bob: This is a good book to read before you go take dance lessons; wouldn’t you think?
Dennis: I think it is too!
Bob: The book is God’s Design for Man and Woman. It really does lay out the beauty / the glory of God’s great design in making us male and female. We’ve got copies of the book, God’s Design for Man and Woman, in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can order your copy from us, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY and request the book over the phone.
Again, the toll-free number to call is 1-800-358-6329—1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.” Or go online to FamilyLifeToday.com and order the book from us, online. Again, the title is God’s Design for Man and Woman by Andreas and Margaret Köstenberger.
And just before we wrap up, a reminder of what Dennis shared earlier here—we just have hours to go before the end of 2015. If you’d like to make a yearend contribution to FamilyLife and help ensure that we are able to take full advantage of the matching-gift opportunity that has been presented to us, we need to hear from you today. Go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, to make a yearend contribution; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY and make your donation over the phone.
As long as we hear from you before midnight, your donation will qualify for the matching-gift funds.
You’ll be able to take advantage of the yearend tax deduction as well. So, again, we hope to hear from you, and hope you are able to help with a yearend gift.
And we hope you can join us back tomorrow when we’ll continue our conversation with Andreas and Margaret Köstenberger about God’s glorious design for us, as men and women. Hope you can tune in for that.
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 next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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