Chapter 2 - Loving my Husband

I love reading anything by Alexander McCall Smith. He's not a Christian, but he often weaves questions of ethics and morality through his books. Some of his observations I don't agree with, but he comes up with some real gems too. One that got my attention recently was in a book called 44 Scotland St. One of the characters is lamenting that she 'can't help' being in love with a man who is not the sort of person she should be with. She says: "You can't stop yourself feeling for somebody else. You just can't." Luckily, she has an older, wiser friend with her who says this:
Of course you can change the way you feel about something or somebody. But it requires an effort of the will - a conscious decision to recognise what you have missed.
Carolyn Mahaney suggests something similar in this first chapter of Feminine Appeal. Loving our husbands includes (though it doesn't stop with) how we feel about them, and this kind of love (including the feelings involved in it) is something that Paul assumes you can 'train' someone to practise (v.4). (We depend, of course, on the Holy Spirit to give us the love God wants us to have for our husbands, but the Holy Spirit's involvement doesn't eliminate our own responsibility in the process.)

What does it mean to 'love' your husband? Carolyn Mahaney argues that 'love' in this verse means, or at least includes, genuine and tender affection, and bases her argument on the particular Greek word for love that Paul uses in this verse (phileo rather than agapao). My husband Dave knows a little more Greek than me, and I ran this argument past him; he was a bit dubious, saying that the two words are actually used almost interchangeably in the New Testament and in the Greek version of the Old Testament, and that there is a lot of overlap between their meanings (cf. Carson, Exegetical Fallacies, pp.52-53). Having said that, though, Dave went on to suggest that the way that both words are used in the New Testament suggest that an element of real emotion (not just actions of sacrificial service) is involved in love - take 1 Cor 13:3, for example, where Paul says that it is possible to perform the most extreme acts of self-sacrifice for another person without real love. (You can read more about this in Matthew Elliot's book, Faithful Feelings: Rethinking Emotion in the New Testament, ch.4)

So, I am to love my husband in a genuine, tender and heartfelt way. As Carolyn Mahaney points out, though, this is not always something that comes naturally to us after the wedding day. I thought her advice for how to maintain a tender love towards our husbands was very wise - especially her thoughts about being aware of your own sin and not focusing on your husband's faults.

This week, maybe I can start by making a list of things about my husband that are delightful, honourable, admirable, magnificent - "a conscious decision to recognise" some of the things that I might otherwise have missed, or forgotten, or taken for granted. And then maybe I can think of something to do for him to show him that I cherish him.

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