Who’s in Charge in Your Marriage?

New boy in the neighborhood

Lives downstairs and it’s understood.

He’s there just to take good care of me,

Like he’s one of the family.

Do you know these lyrics? If you grew up in the 80s, you might recognize them. Here’s the chorus:

Charles in Charge of our days and our nights

Charles in Charge of our wrongs and our rights

And I sing, I want, I want Charles in Charge of me.

Charles in Charge debuted on CBS in 1984. I was four years old. The star of the show was Scott Baio who played Charles. His best friend, Buddy Lembeck, was played by Willie Aames. According to Wikipedia:

Charles in Charge follows Charles . . . a college student working as a live-in babysitter. In the first season, Charles worked for the Pembroke family. In the second season, the Pembrokes sublet their house to the Powell family, for whom Charles then worked in the remaining seasons. [1]

The Pembrokes, a wealthy couple, and later the Powells, allowed Charles, a college student, to care for their three children and house. I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sound like a good idea. Anyway, the premise of the show is stated in the memorable theme song and show name: “Charles in Charge.” The children understood that Charles was there “just to take good care of [them].” He was in charge of “[their] days and [their] nights.” He was in charge of “[their] wrongs and [their] rights.” And the desire of the children was this: “I want Charles in Charge of me.”

Think about that intriguing line: “I want Charles in Charge of me.” Does anyone want anyone else to be in charge of them today? Despite its importance and relevance, authority is for many people a bad word today. But in marriage, it’s extremely important to know who’s in charge.

Though the topic of headship in marriage is controversial today, especially in our individualistic and egalitarian culture, I believe God has been clear on the subject of headship. Ephesians 5:23 says, “For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.” Also, check out 1 Corinthians 11:3. But this episode is not about male headship in the home. It’s about Christ’s headship in marriage.

Notice what Paul said about Jesus in Ephesians 5:23: “Christ is the head of the church.” The church is the body of Christ, and Christ is the church’s head. In the next verse, Paul said, “Now as the church submits to Christ.” James 4:7 says, “Submit yourselves therefore to God.” Jesus Christ is not only a human being just like you and me; he’s God. Jesus Christ is one glorious person with two distinct but non-isolable natures. As Christians, we are defined as “slaves of Christ” (Rom. 1:1; Gal. 1:10; Phil. 1:1; Col. 4:12; etc.). We belong to him; therefore, we must submit to Christ in everything including our marriage. Charles may have been in charge of the Pembroke and Powell children, but Christ is in charge of you and your spouse inside marriage, and the cry of your heart as a couple must be, at least if you want a God-glorifying and happy marriage:

Christ in Charge of our days and our nights

Christ in Charge of our wrongs and our rights

And I sing, I want, I want Christ in Charge of us.

Luke said in Acts 10:36, “[Jesus Christ] is Lord of all.” Paul said, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom. 10:9). Additionally, Paul also said, “no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:3). The joyful shout of the Christian couple is, “Jesus is Lord!” Even more, “Jesus is Lord of our marriage!”

It is important to understand the weight of saying, “Jesus is our Lord!” Heidelberg 34 asks, “Why do you call him ‘our Lord’?” See, in the Apostles’ Creed, we Christians confess together, “I believe in Jesus Christ . . . his only begotten Son, our Lord.” To truly believe and confess Jesus Christ, one must believe he is Lord and confess him as such rightly and sincerely. Why? Heidelberg 34 explains:

Because He has ransomed us, body and soul, from all our sins, not with silver or gold but with His precious blood and has freed us from all the power of the devil to make us His own possession.

Brothers and sisters, you and I confess “our Lord” because Jesus Christ bought each of us, body and soul, with his precious blood. He gave his own life to purchase you and me. We are no longer our own, no longer enslaved to sin and death; we belong to Christ. Paul made this clear in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20: “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” Before you think about what you want in marriage, you must think about what God wants from your marriage. Why? Because Christ bought you. Your duty and pleasure are now found in submitting to Christ.

Why did Jesus Christ set you and me free from the tyrannical reign and rule of the devil? Easy. To make us, his beloved bride, his own possession, to take us for himself, to place us under his headship.

Let’s apply this to life and marriage. Not only is it a great comfort for you to belong to Christ, body and soul, and not only is it a great comfort for you to be liberated from the devil’s power and control, but it’s also vital to your comfort, peace, joy, and well-being to belong to Christ to live under his supremacy, dominion, authority, reign, and rule. In this sense, his authority is a gift he gives you because you are his.

My question to you is this: Where does Jesus Christ offer you his marriage counseling? I’ll put it another way. How do you know what Christ intends you to do in your marriage? I’ll rephrase it one more time. How do you know how Christ wants you to treat your spouse? Isn’t that the most important question? You can read the 10 best-selling marriage books on Amazon, but none will compare to the authoritative voice of Jesus Christ speaking into your marriage. Where does Jesus speak? The answer is simple: his Word. The Word of Christ read, preached, studied, meditated upon, prayed, etc. is the means by which we hear the marriage counseling of Christ, and when we hear his Word, it comes to us with utmost authority, power, and helpfulness.

Is Jesus Christ your Lord? In one sense, he’s everyone’s Lord, but if you confess him as your Lord, you believe and confess that his Word is authoritative for your life and marriage and is the most helpful counsel for how you should treat your spouse.

Have you considered how your Lord’s 10 Commandments can help your marriage? Have you considered that Ephesians 5:22-33 and Colossians 3:18-19 are your Lord’s words of encouragement to you to help you flourish in marriage? If you’re an older woman, Titus 2:3-8 is your Lord calling you to mentor younger women, so they learn how to love their husbands. What about sex? Your Lord has some counsel in Proverbs 5, 1 Corinthians 7:1-5, the Song of Solomon, and other places. Wives, Proverbs 31 is your Lord encouraging you to be the wife he intends you to be. Husbands, the life of your Lord revealed in the gospels shows you how to be a selfless, sacrificial, patient, kind, gentle, and loving husband; just watch Jesus serve, and you’ll know how to be a husband.        

While her sister was busy with work, Mary sat at her Lord’s feet. She listened intently to his teaching because she knew his goodness. We need to sit quietly at the feet of our Lord to receive his teaching, his doctrine, his law, his gospel. As we receive his grace, we must trust and obey him. Whatever he says, if we believe and apply it, will better our marriage. Never forget who’s in charge of your marriage and why it’s best that he is.  

[1] See reference link HERE.

Quotes from the Heidelberg Catechism are taken from Zacharias Ursinus & Jonathan Shirk, The Heidelberg Catechism (Manheim: Small Town Theologian, 2021).

Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. May not copy or download more than 500 consecutive verses of the ESV Bible or more than one-half of any book of the ESV Bible.

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Jonathan Shirk

Welcome to the online home of Jonathan Shirk, family man, Reformed pastor, author, podcaster, and small town theologian. Whether you're from a small town or big city, may this website help you find deeper comfort and joy in the gospel.

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