John, although he has his moments, is very easy to love. The thought of needing an older woman to teach me to cultivate affectionate feelings towards him amuses me, because those feelings come without much effort on my part. Hopefully most of my married readers can say the same thing about their husbands.
Sadly, many wives don’t have this sort of testimony. Sadder still, even Christian marriages can struggle, with wives experiencing difficulty maintaining affection for their husbands and children. We’ll get to reasons for such problems momentarily, but first we need to go back to Titus 1 for a look at the culture in Crete. Understanding the people Paul originally directed his instructions to gives us clarity on how his instructions apply to 21st Century Christian wives.
In Titus 1, Paul commissioned Titus to appoint elders across the island nation of Crete. These elders would need the ability to deal with troublemakers, whether those who taught false doctrine or those who lived in self-indulgence. Paul reminded Titus that the inhabitants of that island generally lived in flagrant rebellion against God’s laws.
10 For there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, 11 who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach for the sake of sordid gain. 12 One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” 13 This testimony is true. For this reason reprove them severely so that they may be sound in the faith, 14 not paying attention to Jewish myths and commandments of men who turn away from the truth. 15 To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled. 16 They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed. ~~Titus 1:10-16 (NASB95)
It’s against this backdrop that Paul wrote the famous passage of Titus 2:3-5. In contrast to the worldly women of Crete, the Christian wives of that island needed to behave in ways that showed purity in their devotion to Christ. They needed to demonstrate that He had made them different from the Cretan women.
Remember that most First Century marriages were arranged by the fathers of the bride and groom rather than being results of romantic relationships. Feelings of affection didn’t necessarily precede the wedding night, and maybe didn’t follow it either. A wife was expected to conceive and bear children regardless of her feelings toward her husband. Thus, young Christian wives sometimes required encouragement to love the men they’d married.
In the 21st Century, marriages are very seldom arranged, and almost always begin in the wonderful flurry of romance. However, feminism has gained dominance in our culture, teaching women that marriage and motherhood alone can’t offer enough personal fulfillment. Feminism sometimes even equates those things with oppression and bondage. As a result, affection for husbands and children becomes diluted. Women still love their families, but their careers bring competition to their families.
Let me be careful to acknowledge that sometimes women have to work outside the home. I live in the Greater Boston Area, and not all families can afford to live on the husband’s income. Admittedly, there are families here that probably should downsize in order to keep the wife at home, but I don’t feel comfortable telling a woman that she absolutely shouldn’t have an outside job. Unless I know for a fact that her family could subsist on her husband’s income, I prefer to leave the matter between her and her husband.
That having been acknowledged, I’ve heard of Christian wives and mothers expressing frustration at being out of the workforce. They feel as if they’re wasting their educations and talents by staying home to care for their families. Nevertheless, I believe that in most situations, a young wife and mother does better by devoting herself to her husband and children. When she’s free to care for them without conflicting demands on her time and attention, feelings of affection have greater opportunity to flourish.
Precisely because the world pressures young women to find their identities apart from their roles as wives and mothers, older women must encourage them that those roles are indeed fulfilling. While having compassion on single mothers and wives who need to supplement their husbands’ income for legitimate reasons, we must help younger women see the tremendous value of devotion to their families. Regardless of what feminists say, nothing could possibly compare to loving their husbands and children.