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Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them (Colossians 3:19).

Divine revelation alerts husbands to their natural hindrance to loving their wives: bitterness. Bitterness is defined as “anger and disappointment at being treated unfairly; resentment” (Oxford); “a feeling of anger and unhappiness” (Cambridge).

Some husbands tell us that they can’t help the negative feelings that they have toward their wives. A husband may say that he can’t “help” having these feelings, but certainly one can “help” what is done about them. Negative “feelings” of bitterness or otherwise can’t be used as an excuse. Feelings are fickle. Feelings aren’t trustworthy. Feelings should never lead our way. Feelings are great servants, but dangerous masters. We must not allow ourselves to be dominated by our feelings.

In 1832 Adam Clarke writes concerning this passage,

Wherever bitterness is, there love is lacking. And where love is lacking in the married life, there is hell upon earth (Adam Clarke Commentary).

Jamieson, Fausset and Brown remind us that,

Many who are polite abroad, are rude and bitter at home (Commentary, 1871).

The divine, Pauline instruction, followed immediately after the directive to love our wives, is to “be not bitter against them.” A.T. Robertson tells us plainly that, “This is the sin of husbands,” and that it is in the “present middle imperative in prohibition: ‘Stop being bitter’” (Word Pictures of the New Testament).

Christ’s love was willingly self-sacrificial; yet ours is resentful? Does Christ resent the ecclesia for all that it puts Him through? Is He ever bitter and resentful toward us for all of His personal labors and loss sacrificed for us?

Negative feelings toward our wives should be for us an immediate indication of the hardness of our own hearts. We must ever look to the Savior for correction and encouragement of such sinful attitudes.

C2Pilkington-4Clyde L. Pilkington, Jr.
(Excerpted from his upcoming book, Wife Loving.)

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Husbands are often heard complaining, “All I want from my wife is for her to be … loving … giving … gracious … co-operative, etc.” While these are wonderful ideals, and undoubtedly we should endeavor to lead our wives on a spiritual journey that would have us grow together in these areas, our responsibilities as husbands are not lessened by our wives’ lack in any or all of them. Loving our wives is not at all contingent on their responses.

Husbands, be loving your wives according as Christ also loves the ecclesia, and gives Himself up for its sake.

This is a clear, stand-alone truth. Christ’s love and giving up of Himself for us was in no way contingent on our own level of love, grace or co-operation: it was unmerited. This is the Paul’ point regarding our role with our wives. No one in the Old Testament ever could have known such a remarkable truth as this – because they never could have imagined the extent of selfless love outpoured at Calvary.

Will we ever “get” what we long for from our wives? Perhaps to some degree, but that is beside the point. Husbands have a higher calling than merely to “receive”: they are called to selfless “giving.” Some husbands are busy stressing to their wives the word “subject” (“submit”) in Ephesians 5:22, all the while avoiding the “gives” in :25. Husbands who consume themselves with their wives’ shortcomings are usually the same ones who fail to look in the mirror to see their own. To adapt our Savior’s words,

Why do you notice the splinter in your wife’s eye and fail to see the plank in your own eye? How dare you say to your wife, ‘Let me take out the splinter that is in your eye,’ and you never notice the plank in your own eye? What a hypocrite! Take the plank out of your own eye first, and then you will see properly to take out the splinter in your wife’s eye (cf. Matthew 7:3-5).

Husbands’ standard excuse for not doing what God has called them to do is to follow Adam in shifting the blame to our wives. It is always somebody else’s fault. If our wives were just somehow different, we would love them more and give up ourselves for them. We as husbands must be done with our selfish victim mentality. God is behind all of our circumstances, including our marital ones, and all that we are going through is for our good.

The husband’s sacrificial love and giving to his wife are not merely petty matters; they are principles on which the divine structure of the universe is founded. The sooner we learn these grand truths, the further along we will be in our spiritual development. We will review the lessons of these divine principles over and over until Christ is formed in us. This life is the training and preparation for our celestial calling and responsibilities. Don’t waste its priceless lessons. Make the most of them. We will be thankful for every lesson learned at the appearing of Christ – and make no mistake about it: there will be a great surprise waiting for us, for many of those who have appeared to be great spiritual teachers and leaders here in this life will be dwarfed by those whom Father has privately taught the principles of divine love and self-sacrifice.

Yet now are remaining faith, expectation, love – these three. Yet the greatest of these is LOVE (I Corinthians 13:13).

One may excel greatly in faith and hope, but Paul clearly tells us that without love we are “nothing” (:2), and ALL of our other efforts, no matter how noble they may appear to others, benefit “nothing” (:3). Faith, hope and love: having only the first two out of the three leaves us destitute. Love is faith’s and expectation’s superior. Let’s learn well the lessons of Christ’s love. Let’s not come up empty at His appearing.

C2Pilkington-4Clyde L. Pilkington, Jr.
(Excerpted from his upcoming book, Wife Loving.)

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Sometimes a husband may grumble about his “choice” of a wife. He’ll speak of her incompatibility, her lack of interest in mutual things, her indifference in spiritual matters, her deficiency of physical appeal, etc.

Interestingly, in Old Testament times marriages were commonly arranged. Although we do not necessarily promote a return to its practice, that does not mean that it was without any merit. One interesting thing that it and the levirate law (where a man was required to marry his brother’s widow) do is that they demonstrate that a man can love and care for a woman – any woman – even one they did not even choose themselves. The bottom line is that marriage is not so much about “choosing” the “right” wife, as it is about being the right husband.

Paul did not write:

Husbands love your ideal wives …

Husbands love your loving wives …

Husbands love your helpful wives …

Husbands love your Proverbs 31 wives …

Husbands love your non-deficient wives …

Husbands love your uncomplicated wives …

Husbands love your unbroken wives …

Husbands love your compatible wives …

Husbands love your submissive wives …

Husbands love your spiritual wives …

Husbands love your attractive wives …

Husbands love your supermodel wives …

Husbands love your sexy wives …

No, without qualification, he simply wrote:

Husbands love your wives …

C2Pilkington-4Clyde L. Pilkington, Jr.
(Excerpted from his upcoming book, Wife Loving)

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March 2015
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