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…And be not Bitter Towards Them

Men have a potential problem when it comes to loving (agape) in that full-servant enjoyment sense. It has been seen plenty of times, a wife gets sick and a husband starts taking care of her and watching over her and his self-perceived role of “husband / lover” shifts to the bitter “caretaker / parent”. In some cases, if an illness is prolonged the husband may detach to the point of remaining in the caretaker role even after his wife gets better.

Mentally, it’s a dangerous place to be in. No longer are the lover feelings being placed on the wife, but she becomes a vehicle of love-bearing or caretaking: self-sacrifice at it’s worst. The difference is so drastic that the husband might transfer his intimate love to something or someone else.

This potential is found in an incomplete agape of one’s wife. It is possible for a husband to delve so much into the role of servant / supporter that he loses several key points of being a husband–specifically headship, passion and kindness.

It is important, then, to point out that when I say “headship”, I’m not referring to some misogynistic concept of the woman being inferior to the man. I am speaking of the roles that God has assigned to men and women and the proper execution of said roles.

It is no different in our everyday lives. Children’s role of learning from their parents, society and their peers as they grow up. Parents’ role of teaching and bringing their children up in the way they should go. If you reverse the roles you have chaos, if you diminish the roles on either side, one isn’t being taught and one isn’t teaching.

Men and women have roles in the church and the home as established by God Himself–but this isn’t a conversation discussing what the roles entail, but how a man’s dedication to loving his wife, if not done properly can derail his headship-role or his kindness and passion.

Paul points out that the head of the man is God and that the head of the woman is the man (1 Cor 11:3). God is illustrating where the responsibility falls?not the chain of command, per se. For instance, God is above and over all and He has stated His word and has encapsulated them in a book meant to be read. He doesn’t force feed us with the Scriptures but He admonishes us to read them. It is then our responsibility to follow His lead and do what He asks .

It is man’s responsibility to do what the Lord asks of him but there’s more to that. God asks Him to be vocal in the church meetings, well then he should do it. Happily. If he doesn’t do it, it is not that God did not t ask him to do it; it is that the man is choosing not to do it. If he does it begrudgingly he robs God of the gift of the vocation. If the woman starts to be vocal in the church, she is usurping his headship and taking responsibility where responsibility wasn’t given (1 Cor 14:34, 35).

This aside, a man may find himself giving over responsibility to the wife he is loving in a servant sense. He, thinking he is doing well, may lose focus on the responsibilities the Lord has laid on him and he starts to give headship over to his wife. She wants to change churches, he’ll follow her lead. She wants to move to a new state where the ministry is easier; he’ll follow her lead because he thinks he’s  loving her.

Gentleman, that isn’t agape love. Agape recognizes the tough choices, acknowledging the headship role in the home. Agape will take her words and listen to them and honestly, prayerfully consider them. Agape will result in men speaking with their wives, discussing all options. Agape will demand that men bring petitions to the throne of grace seeking guidance from the Lord Himself (1 Tim 2:8) . Agape will require seeing how any change will affect the family positively or negatively and how does it bolster the Lord’s work. Agape will embrace both the responsibility and the strong bond with the wife.

I know a couple who after long discussions decided to stay in the city to do the Lord’s work not only in their neighborhood and church but in their homes. They became a shining example in a bad neighborhood of a good family–an example even for other Christian families. Such an example in fact that other people found themselves sticking to the bad city to raise a family as an example of what the Lord can do. That takes a big sense of duty and a strong emotion for the people in the neighborhood and the believers in the church–but also for the members of the family.

And yet, if the husband embraces these two aspects of agape correctly the danger still remains of losing that kindness towards ones spouse. All decisions become ones made of service and headship: tough work and responsibility. Like a sword, men then see their role as a piece of steel, intractable, unbendable and used for tough work. Men’s inherited problem in work and responsibility is sometimes seen in the black funk at the end of a busy day

Paul saw that potential problem of waning in agape and in a letter that he wrote at or around the same time as the letter to the Ephesians, he tells the husbands at the church at Colossi to love their wives and be not bitter towards them (Col 3:19).

To use a vulgar example (because a wife isn’t property but the concept can be found there because men sometimes act like a wife is property) we can look at the purchase of a car.

A guy would go through magazines looking at cars, researching specs and consumer reports and finally deciding on a make and model, he goes to the dealer. After hours of haggling and working on getting the car of his dreams, he puts in an order and a few weeks later he is driving home his brand new dream-car. He is ecstatic at its tremendous beauty and the way it moves. The car moves so quickly and the way it purrs when it starts up gives him a shiver and its low hum is barely noticeable.

Being a good car owner, he becomes systematic with oil changes and car washes. The tires are always checked for pressure and the gasoline is always high-octane. None of that lower-octane garbage for his car, he even takes the car to the dealer for tune ups every two years.

Six years pass and we see a difference in the way he drives the car. It has got a few scratches in the front bumper and when he pulls into his space, he just swerves in letting the tires scrape against the sidewalk. He takes the car to get an oil change when he remembers, maybe 300 to 600 miles after its due. He still fills up the tires…that is, when he gets a chance. The car is louder than the other cars he has seen, it does not have that same zip and it kinda rumbles in the morning; something which has increasingly been getting on his nerves and yet he is not doing anything about it.

Men can do this with their wives. Start off strong with proper love filled with self-sacrifice and caring then then focus on agape service and responsibility lacking the emotion and thus lose sight of how the wife is treated.

“She seems to be incessantly telling me to do something and yet, I do many things. I’ll just do it but I don’t have to smile about it. Or maybe, I’ll smile because that’s what I should do as a husband, but inside I’m seething. Look at all those other women! They’re not as needy as mine. I’ll keep doing my good Christian service.”

This is probably what Paul is talking about in 1 Corinthians 13 when he says though he self-sacrifices and doesn’t have love, he’s nothing.

So careful men, tread lightly. This is focusing incorrectly on a different definition of agape resulting in becoming bitter towards your wife. The first post on this subject implied this but people often assume this subject to be the number one priority and ignore what agape entails. The fact is that agape is the priority without losing focus on headship AND kindness. It’s a complete package and like many truths in the Word of God, it is multifaceted.


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