This past week we read and discussed the second chapter of Feminine Appeal! Last week we laid the foundation of why we pursue these seven virtues (so that the gospel is made attractive in our lives to the lost around us), and this week begins our study of each individual quality. [Let me give the disclaimer here: This chapter is CHOCK FULL of goodness….I implore you to read it to yourself, over and over again, until it sinks in. This post, no matter how lengthy, is still a summary of what the chapter discusses, therefore it is vital to read it in order to have the full context of what we are talking about.]
“Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.” -Titus 2:3-5
The Delight of Loving My Husband
Before you were about to get married, did married women think your giddyness was cute, but then tell you that the “in love” phase would wear off? Carolyn talks about the multiple women who would continually tell her, “He’s Mr. Wonderful now, but that will all change when you get married.” She stated that they unanimously agreed that the fairy tale would end shortly after the honeymoon. Were you told the same thing? As we talked about this in our group, everyone nodded their head that they heard the exact same things before they got married. It’s sad, but it’s all too often true. Is this inevitable? Absolutely NOT! “God never intended for wives to abandon their passion and delight for their husbands.”
The interesting thing about this passage of Scripture that tells older women to teach the younger women to “love their husbands” lies in the Greek usage of the word “love.” So often we think of marital love as sacrificial and unconditional–that agape love that we hear about. While that is true of God’s commandment for husbands to love their wives as Christ loves the church, wives are never, not once, commanded to love their husbands in this way. The Greek word for love used in Titus 2:4 is phileo. Phileo love describes the love between very close friends: tender, affectionate, passionate. It emphasizes enjoyment and respect in a relationship. Talk about a new perspective on how we are supposed to love our husbands!
All too often, wives get caught up in agape loving their husbands, serving them and unconditionally loving them–being committed to them no matter the circumstances. But God calls us to ENJOY our husbands. Why do you think husbands are instructed to agape love their wives while wives are instructed to phileo love their husbands? Mahaney states, “I believe that Scripture’s specific commands to husbands and wives regarding their duties in marriage attest to our respective weaknesses.” Men generally have a harder time sacrificially loving their wives while wives generally have a harder time exhibiting an affectionate love for their husbands.
However, we MUST recognize that Scripture does not include a “contingency clause.” Page 35 says, “This verse does not say, ‘Have the older women teach the young women how to love their husbands–if they have godly character or if they are deserving of this kind of love or if they change.’ No. We are to love our husbands with a tender, affectionate love REGARDLESS of their response.” This is where many women begin to protest. But as believers, we must ask ourselves what will bring honor to the gospel. We must love our husbands. As we submit to God’s command, He will show us how to love, and He will make it possible!
Our culture inundates us with the idea that “falling in love” is some sort of outside force that we have no control over. But Paul makes it VERY clear that this kind of love is to be taught, therefore meaning it does not come naturally. Oftentimes, if we do what FEELS right, we will be wrong most of the time. Phileo “loving our husbands–as biblically defined–is a learned response through the grace of God” (37). And God is eager to teach us, if we are willing to learn!
All of this background begs the question though, if there were loving feelings in the beginning of our relationship and marriage, where do they go as time goes on? Mahaney explains the answer very simply: Sin destroys our tender love.
“If we find that our affection for our husbands is waning or has subsided altogether, then we do not need to look any further than our own hearts. Where sin is present, warm affection dissipates. Anger, bitterness, criticism, pride, selfishness, fear, laziness–all vigorously oppose tender love. This love cannot survive in a heart that harbors sin.”
Ouch. Ouch. Ouch. Is anyone else convicted by that? So often we jump to blaming our spouse, (just like Adam and Eve did in the garden might I add,) instead of taking responsibility for our own actions. Women especially, tend to get into the habit of blaming our emotions on a certain time of the month, or how our husbands aren’t meeting our needs or doing what they’re supposed to be doing. The list is lengthy of how many reasons we come up with to justify our disobedience, but it doesn’t change the reality that we are completely, 100% responsible to God for how we treat our husbands, no matter what they are or are not doing.
My favorite quote of the chapter lies on page 38 that says, “Our emotions are a warning system God graciously gave us to attract attention to the sin in our hearts.” When we aren’t experiencing loving feelings towards our husbands, that’s usually a good sign that there is some sin in our own hearts that needs attention. We know we have a sinful heart (Romans 3:23), so don’t tune out all this “sin-talk.” It is when we realize we are sinning that we can begin to experience the forgiveness of Christ and His power to change. And when we remember that just as we married a sinner, our husbands did too! “When we see our husbands as sinners like ourselves–sinners in need of God’s grace and mercy–it strips away any intolerant, critical, or demanding attitude we may be tempted to have.”
Matthew 7:5 states, “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”
So often we hear this verse in reference to our brothers and sisters in Christ without thinking about our husbands also being our brothers in Christ. The same applies! Before we try and blame our spouses, pointing out their flaws, we must first take a good hard look at our own hearts and ask God’s forgiveness for the sin in our lives.
With that being said, What does this look like practically?
1. TENDER THOUGHTS
- What is the nature of our thoughts about our husbands? Critical, nitpicky, nagging, annoyed, loving, tender? We MUST choose to focus on our husbands many commendable qualities. Ask yourself, what attracted you to your husband in the first place? Why did you marry him?
- Philippians 4:8 tells us, “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”
- Make a list of all the things you love and appreciate about your husband and practice thinking them. It may sound silly, but when you combine that with prayer, asking God to help you change your thought patterns, you’ll be amazed at the difference it will make in the way you view your husband.
2. TENDER BEHAVIOR
- Prize him above all others (children, siblings, friends, parents, nieces, nephews, etc.) Genesis 2:18 says, “Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good for man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” Women have to remember that God created us to be our husband’s helper, not our children’s mother. (I’m not a mom, but I see countless women put their children above their husband, and God NEVER intended for that to be the case.) Certainly moms are supposed to care for and nurture their children, but never as a replacement for their love for their husbands. Our husbands should always remain first in our hearts and in our care. In fact, one of the most loving things we can do for our children is to prize our husbands (43).
- Cherish him. Most of our wedding vows included the phrase, “to love and to cherish, from this day forward…” What does cherish mean? “To hold dear, to care for tenderly or to nurture, to cling fondly to, or to treat as precious.” Check out pages 44-45 for specific examples of what men described as how they knew their wives cherished them. What is one way we can cherish our husbands today? (Think Love Languages!)
- Enjoy him. -joy and delight. This simply means to prefer their company about all others. Take genuine pleasure in serving them. Take an interest in what they enjoy! Even if it’s not our preference, we should make an effort to enjoy those things that interest our husbands. We may not understand, but we must make this effort. It means the world to them ladies!
Remember, God delights to honor our obedience. The more we seek to prize, cherish, and enjoy our husbands, God will freely fill our hearts with love and affection for them. His grace provides all that we need to love our husbands!
Mahaney challenges us, and I extend the same challenge: “The next time we meet a woman who is getting married, let’s tell her about the wonderful grace of God that makes it possible to love her husband more and more with each passing year.” THIS is Titus 2 in action 🙂
Homework: (page 164)
1.) What is one way that you can “change your thought pattern” this week in order to cultivate tender thoughts toward your husband?
2.) Using the suggestions beginning on page 44 to spark our creativity, let’s find one way to cherish our husbands before our next meeting. Come prepared to share how it went!
Also, feel free to share in the comments section or on the iVow girls discussion group facebook page ways that you are cherishing your husband so that we can continue to spur one another on to love and good deeds! Love you all!