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Kathy Keller Explains Submission and Leadership in Marriage

Pastor Timothy Keller and his wife Kathy Keller wrote a book called The Meaning of Marriage. In it Kathy Keller gives an example of submission in a tough life choice:

In the late 1980s, our family was comfortably situated in a very livable suburb of Philadelphia where Tim held a full-time position as a professor. Then he got an offer to move to New York City to plant a new church. He was excited by the idea, but I was appalled. Raising our three wild boys in Manhattan was unthinkable! Not only that, but almost no one who knew anything about Manhattan thought that the project would be successful. I also knew that this would not be something that Tim would be able to do as a nine-to-five job. It would absorb the whole family and nearly all of our time.

It was clear to me that Tim wanted to take the call, but I had serious doubts that it was the right choice. I expressed my strong doubts to Tim, who responded, “Well, if you don’t want to go, then we won’t go.” However, I replied, “Oh, no, you don’t! You aren’t putting this decision on me. That’s abdication. If you think this is the right thing to do, then exercise your leadership and make the choice. It’s your job to break this logjam. It’s my job to wrestle with God until I can joyfully support your call.”

Tim made the decision to come to New York City and plant Redeemer Presbyterian Church. The whole family, my sons included, consider it one of the most truly “manly” things he ever did, because he was quite scared, but he felt a call from God. At that point, Tim and I were both submitting to roles that we were not perfectly comfortable with, but it is clear that God worked in us and through us when we accepted our gender roles as a gift from the designer of our hearts.

Possible Preaching Angle: Submission recognizes and affirms leadership. There’s a certain respectful and trusting quality about submission. A husband’s leadership in marriage should be self-sacrificial.

Tim Keller and Kathy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage (Penguin Books, 2013), pages 243-244

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