In a Christian discussion list, a lady asked recently what type of love toward husbands Paul referred to in Titus 2:4.
Considering what the world saw in the Mary Winkler trial, the question is very appropriate.
In verses 3-5 Paul wrote:
(3) Older women likewise are to exhibit behavior fitting for those who are holy, not slandering, not slaves to excessive drinking, but teaching what is good. (4) In this way they will train the younger women to love their husbands, to love their children, (5) to be self-controlled, pure, fulfilling their duties at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the message of God may not be discredited (NET).
The phrase, “to love their husbands,” comes from a single Greek word, philandros, or husband-lover./1 It’s common for words to be built off the phil- stem (meaning to love, have affection for). Also in verse 4, the phrase “to love their children,” is a compound word with the phil- stem.
Louw and Nida’s lexicon defines philandros as “pertaining to having affection for a husband –‘having love for one’s husband, having affection for one’s husband'”.
W.E. Vine says the word was common in epitaphs. A tomb inscription of third century read, “Julius Bassus to Otacilia Polla, his sweetest wife. Loving her husband (philandros) and loving her children (philoteknos), she lived with him unblameably for 30 years.”/2
In the NT, philandros is used only here in Titus 2:4.
The word calls to mind being “devoted” to one’s husband. Barclay so uses the word in this sense./3
The seventeenth century commentator, John Gill, understood the love for husbands to mean
… to help and assist them all they can; to seek their honour and interest; to endeavour to please them in all things; to secure peace, harmony, and union; to carry it affectionately to them, and sympathize with them in all afflictions and distresses; for this is not so much said in opposition to placing their affections on other men, and to the defilement of the marriage bed, as to moroseness and ill nature./4
In ancient society parents often arranged their children’s marriages. People did not marry because they fell in love. Notwithstanding, the Christian wife was called upon to love her husband and devote herself to him.
In our society, physical attraction and emotional feelings usually determine the choice of a mate. So the verse continues to be applicable to us, for this thin basis for marriage soon collapses, and when no deeper commitments have been developed, marriages break up.
A brother in Christ was in my office last Friday. His wife abandoned him because he wasn’t what she wanted him to be. Instead of loving, accepting, and supporting him, she diminished him and finally left him.
Even when some couples stay together, marriages may limp along for years, dominated by selfishness and competition.
Therefore, we still need Paul’s instruction today, when society’s values encourage the woman to satisfy her own desires and advance her career rather than her home.
This husband-love is something that can be learned and taught. Hence, Paul’s instruction to the older women to train the younger to love their husbands. It’s an acquired attitude, a mature mindset, a practiced posture.
As much of the Christian life, it’s an informed decision.
Paul says the wife should look upon her relationship and duties to her husband more as a calling than a chore. Her love for him is the luster which makes her duties a pleasure, not a pain, a delight rather than drudgery.
And it’s probably not insignificant that, of the seven items young wives need to learn, it comes first.
1/ It’s ironic that the English word “philander(er)” has this word as its Greek root.
3/ William Barclay, The Letters to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon, Daily Study Bible, rev. ed., p. 249.
What does Paul mean in Titus 2:4, when he tells young wives “to love their husbands”?