Transcript of presentation made at Abundant Life Christian Fellowship, October 2008
TITUS 2:4a: “that they may train the younger women to love their husbands, . . . “
I’m particularly happy to be here this morning because the theology of marriage has always been a subject dear to my heart, despite the fact that as a wife and mother, I've certainly made my share of mistakes over the years. If blind spots were dollars, I would be very rich by now. In fact, if you were able to unzip my body to see through into the real me, you would see a woman who has been healed and restored - - but you would also notice scars and marks from my past, and some missing toes from all the times I’ve shot myself in the foot! Nevertheless, and despite me, through the Lord's lovingkindness I have experienced more miracles, rescues, and provision than I could ever tell you and any wisdom I may possess has been given to me straight from the Word of God.
I give the glory to God for our 38 years of marriage, and I dedicate this talk to Steve - my wonderful, patient husband, Steve - on whom I have leaned and learned the whole time.
A few weeks ago, our oldest son was telling me how he had described Steve and I to his new girlfriend, so I thought I would share his comments with you for the benefit of the insights they contain. He said to her, "You have to understand that my dad thinks in perfect squares and my mom thinks in swooping arcs - - and every once in awhile, their lines touch."
You may be looking a little puzzled, (as his girlfriend probably did, too), but since I speak dyslexic fluently, I understood that he was simply expressing a truism about our marriage, and most others, too. Opposites attract. A "do" usually marries a "don't" no matter what the topic. And since this is Earth, the fallen planet, yen just doesn’t tend to complete yang, it just manages to irritate the heck out it. Steve and I consider our own marriage to be an inter-species union.
Marital love is complicated. It involves both the spiritual and the physical, and therefore, instruction on how to love your husband could easily fill a two-day seminar, so fasten your seat belts, I'm going to try to talk very fast.
Our text, instructs the older women to “train” the younger women “to love their husbands.” The meaning has a tone of “wise them up” about their responsibilities as wives - - And since the command is specifically given so that outsiders will not disparage the Gospel, the main idea is for wives, young and old, to adorn the Gospel with their conduct. Like all of the good works that the Lord has set before us to walk in, loving our husbands should be an act of worship offered to God.
The spousal love the Lord desires is a committed love that you choose to have for your husband. There are no conditions or qualifiers to it. It involves a devotedness and friendship on your part that is strong and deep, and that is not dependent upon your husband’s behavior.
Loving your husband is so very important because every Christian wife is called upon to model the Bride of Christ, the Church, to the world; so to a greater or lesser degree, every one of us is telling a truth, or a lie, about the relationship between the Son and the Bride.
Therefore, loving your husband is not about you. Nor is it even about him. The love within a marriage is a major part of our testimony to the world about the character of our Savior God.
With so much riding on it, loving our husbands sounds quite daunting! Personally, I view this command as an absolutely heroic calling! It requires a great deal of courage and passion from me, but I also think it’s fundamentally very romantic. We are in a spiritual war, and the Christian wife is to be a bit of a Marine in the battle. The Marines' motto is “Semper Fidelis” - always faithful. We need to be “always faithful” to the Lord’s command to love our husbands.
Besides being a bit of a romantic, I’m also a practical person, so when I originally contemplated the content of Titus 2:4, I began asking God, “How am I supposed to do this? Where do I even start?” Sadly, I’d already been married for about 7 years when I began to get the picture. As a young wife, I was a little like someone driving without a license. I was incredibly grateful when our oh-so-faithful Lord showed me the key to that knowledge. It is to be found in Galatians 5:14.
“The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’"
If you have ever given this verse much thought, perhaps you noticed its mathematical symmetry. It is a stunningly simple formula. Once you realize that Law = the commandments of God, and, the commandments of God = Love”, the meaning unfolds. Paraphrased, the verse says:
LAW OBEYED = LOVE DISPLAYED
So, if you want to know the Lord’s perfect way to love your husband - - and your husband IS your very closest neighbor - - you just search the Word for His commandments (these are simply His openly discernable will for us) - then make a particular application to your husband - and voila! - The love door unlocks, and you may walk through.
Example 1: Command: “Thou shalt not bear false witness.” Application: Purpose to always tell the truth to your husband and you will have shown him love by being a wife whose word he can trust.
Example 2: Command: “Thou shalt not covet . . .” Application: Purpose to be content with your husband, and you will be exhibiting to him the rarest of godly traits, unconditional love.
For the next 20 minutes, we will be making particular application of some selected scripture to help you to vigilantly nurture your marriage and love your husband. Everything I am going to tell you can be verified in the Bible, but please do check me out from the sheet of scripture references that has been placed on your table. (See below.)
God says He loves marriage and hates divorce, so we need to determine to be the best lover, friend, respecter, and spiritual mate we can be to our man.
The very definition of a “husband” is one who oversees a garden, so I would like you to step back and consider the metaphoric garden of your personality.
1. As his wife, you are your husband’s garden, so you can love him by making his garden a pleasant place for him to visit.
His garden should be a lovely place, fragrant with the blossoms of kind words, contentment, and gentleness. There should be no ugly weeds of nagging, complaint, or the most invasive of all weeds, bitterness.
You can further elevate your personal garden to an earthly paradise by adding the sweet flowing stream of wisdom that springs from the Bible. In fact, unless you frequently water your heart with the Word of God, your garden will be more like a dry, abandoned lot, and your personality-fruit will be like the grumpy fruit on the ground below a fruit tree.
2. If you truly want to speak love to your husband in a language that he can understand, speak to him with respect.
We know every man (and woman) is a mixture: things to respect, things to disrespect; thinks to like, things to dislike; things to be happy about, things to be irritated over; things that are fulfilling, things that are disappointing; etc., etc. It’s what we do with these negatives that makes the difference.
When God says that we are to “see to it” that we respect our husbands, it implies some effort on our part; perhaps also implying that they are not worthy of our respect in some areas. But we are to “see to it” that we show them respect anyway! - Definitely hard, but definitely doable in the power of the Holy Spirit.
And do make a particular point of verbally respecting him in front of your children. Never, ever talk smack about him to them. Your children need their father now and will need him even more in the future. If they can’t respect him because of things you have said, you will have destroyed one of their most valuable resources.
3. My next point is related. Actively and openly appreciate him. Focus on his good points and gloss over the bad. If God’s “love covers a multitude of sins,” your love should let a few go by, too.
Just to highlight the point I’m trying to make, here’s a brief peek into the average Christian Joe’s daily spiritual warfare:
Every single day, his worth as a man will be specifically attacked (hopefully, not by you), and every single day, some woman (other than you) will admire and appreciate him, (or at minimum, just give the poor guy a smile on the freeway). Trust me on this, the Evil One is very attentive to making sure all men get their daily dose of this ritual abuse. It is one of his best ploys to destroy marriages. Affairs are rarely about sex alone, they are far more often about being appreciated.
Help your man withstand the attacks!
4. Respect his earnings. Express gratitude to him openly, and encourage the children to appreciate what he does for them. Protect his provision by stewarding the family expenses well, and do this openly before the children, too. The process will teach your children how to live within their means when it's their turn.
5. Love your husband by helping him to build and retain the respect of others. Because of his wife, the husband of the Proverbs 31 woman is respected in the gates as he sits among the elders of the land. Apparently, she is so well regarded by others that her very association with him has elevated him, too! Rather like a moon, he seems to bask in the reflected glow of her sun.
If you speak well of your husband, others will think well of him. It is decidedly unloving to criticize him in front of others - even, and perhaps most particularly, when he isn’t present.
In fact, no male bashing ever. The war of the sexes is for the World. The Bible knows of no such thing.
6. Love your husband by helping him to love you. Don’t do the little things that “kill” his love. You know what I’m talking about -- those annoying little ticks we all have. Among my personal repertoire of “love busters” (that I’m actively trying to squelch!) are randomly begging for a dog/cat/bird/ferret/or duck, missing his cell phone calls, acting like I’m the children’s personal attorney, and chewing on my nails. (Steve says the chewing is like lying next to a trapped animal trying to gnaw off its paw.)
7. Faithfulness is deep love. Both physical and emotional faithfulness are wanted from us, Men seem to have the biggest struggle with physical faithfulness, but the emotional kind of unfaithfulness is the main pitfall for women.
I encourage you to be like Joseph, and flee from all temptations to be discontented with your husband. Whether it’s a Brad Pitt movie, a romance novel, or chatting with that helpful man next door that incites your discontent, just don’t invest your time in it. The church would never think that Zeus is better looking than Jesus, or prefer Buddha’s company to the presence of the Lord God. Your commitment to your husband should reflect the Church’s committed bond with Christ.
8. Returning for a moment to our garden metaphor, you, your husband’s garden, also exist on the physical plane for him, and of course, I mean your body. You need to love him with your body.
This is the one way to love him that he understands best. It’s his favorite way, too, and the primary way that he can recognize the acceptance and approval he desires from you.
You, his physical garden, must be open and accessible for him. The Lord commands this. Access must never, ever, be withheld to manipulate him. You should be a ready and willing partner whenever possible. Your sexual life together is God’s gift to both of you, and it is too precious and powerful to be debased to a mere tool for manipulation.
The lovemaking with your husband is also the main protection the Lord has provided to protect your husband (and you) from the ravages of lust.
Show your husband love with your body. Your body belongs to him, not to the children. Manage your home and life so that you have the necessary energy and time for him. Your husband is comes first.
In the same vein, make your bedroom an adults-only sanctuary. It should be an attractive and calm place - the one room in your house that is just about you and him. I don’t mean the children can’t ever enter, it just shouldn’t be part of their realm - no pictures of the children here, tidy, and most of all private.
9. Our first mother, Eve, was created as a helpmate for Adam, and this is still our unchanging Lord’s intention for us as wives. When we fulfill that role, we will assuredly be loving wives. As your husband’s helpmate, ask God, the Fountain of All Wisdom, to give you wisdom to share with your man. The Lord says He will grant wisdom to all who ask, and so He will. I honestly believe any husband who doesn’t consider his wife’s counsel seriously to be quite foolish. Woman was made to be man’s best counselor, which means we have a serious obligation to seek the very best wisdom from the Lord for our husbands.
10. My brother attended Dallas Seminary, and before Steve and I married, his wife shared some advice with me that was given to all the seminary wives. They were told, “Pray for your husband because no one else will.” Please take this to heart as you consider how to love your man. Think about how easy it is to say, “I’ll pray for you,” and how difficult it is to carry through.
Pray for him. No one else will.
11. Love your man by not usurping, or protecting him from his God-given responsibilities.
Men have a tough time balancing the pressures of their profession with the needs of their family. Even the best dads struggle to be as accessible as they should be, yet scripture clearly reveals that a husband is meant to be the main warrior against the spiritual warfare waged against his wife and children.
A man can’t be this if he invests his every resource in his profession.
-- I made quite a whooper of a mistake in this way by protecting my painfully arthritic husband from his responsibilities as husband and father. I thought I was being loving to him by taking on his burdens and protecting his energy, but I really set him up for a bad consequence later. His lack of childhood involvement fostered some bitterness in a few of our sons. We learned the hard way that with children, you may have a reason (e.g., a debilitating illness), but you never have an excuse.
12. My husband’s father left the family when Steve was eleven years old after a very desultory stint as a dis-involved dad. He certainly didn’t leave my Steve with any “tips” for life, marriage, or fatherhood. Many men find themselves walking in the same shoes as my husband as they try to invent the parental-equivalent of fire and the wheel! Love your husband by helping him blossom as a father. Gently and with subtlety, help him to acquire parenting skills just as diligently as you do for yourself. (I know you are “diligently” doing this for yourselves because you are here!)
By now, some of you are probably thinking, “But you don’t know my husband!”
Some of you are married to very difficult men. Some of you, like Abigail in the Bible, are married to a foolish man, and a few of your men are absentees. In the flesh, these men are very hard to love; but I hope it is clear by now that treating your husband with love is not about his worthiness as an object of love.
Consider often that God loves marriage and He hates divorce. If you no longer feel emotional love for your husband, ask the Lord to supernaturally supply the love you need to have for him. Believe me, He wants to do this, and He will answer this prayer request with “Yes,” -- over and over again, as often as you need to ask it.
So love your man by fulfilling your creation mandate and help him to succeed as a father, husband, and servant of God. Be a “safe” person for him, and create a home for him where joy and peace abound. Love him by extending to him the same mercy and consideration we desire for ourselves. Your husband is your closest neighbor.
Most of all, be absolutely promiscuous with the love of Jesus! Throw it all over him, all over your home, and indiscriminately sprinkle it everywhere.
And best of all - You will reap what you sow.
Proverbs.= 31:11-12 The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not evil all the days of her life.
Titus 2:4 - train
Matt. 5:46 - unqualified love
Ephesians 5:32 - mystery
Ephesians 6:7 - semper fidelis
I Peter 2:12 - witness
I Peter 2:11 - spiritual warfare
Galatians 5:14 - law = love
Romans 13:8 - law = love
Malachi 2:16 - loves marriage
Song of Solomon 5:1a - garden
James 1:5 - wisdom
Proverbs 1:3 - trained in wisdom
Song of Solomon 1:12 - fragrance
Isaiah 58:11 - watered garden
Proverbs 25:11 - fit speech
Song of Solomon 2:15 - spoiled garden
Ephesians 5:33 - respect
I Corinthians 13:5 - focus on good
I Peter 4:8 - cover sin
Ephesians 6:11 - wiles of Devil
James 4:7 - wiles of Devil
Luke 12:42 - prudent
I Thessalonians 5:18 - give thanks
I Timothy 5:4 - children’s gratitude
Proverbs 31:23 - respected
James 4:11 - slander
2 Corinthians 11:2 - faithful bride
Genesis 38:12 - Joseph
II Timothy 2:22 - flee temptaion
Psalm 101:3 - don’t look
Song of Solomon 2:14 - private bedroom
Song of Solomon 6:2 - physical garden
I Thessalonians 5:17 - pray
Genesis 2:18 - mate’s helper
Galatians 6:2 - help each other
Matthew 5:46 - love and hate
Romans 8:32 - God’s love
James 2:8 - law of queens
Luke 10:29 - who is neighbor
Genesis 2:24 - one flesh
Matthew 5:7 - mercy
Ephesians 6:8 - goodness repaid
Phil. 2:2-4 Make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than herself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.