In his book The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis explores the nature of love from a Biblical perspective using the four Greek words for love – storge (affection), phileo (friendship), eros (romance), and agape (unconditional love) – as a foundation. He shows that ‘love’ is far more complicated than most of us think, and a simple term like ‘God is love’ can have lots of nuances as the various ways His creatures ‘love’ each other are manifested and explored.
The lesson here and elsewhere is, when the word love is used in the Bible it is well worth exploring just what exactly that word for love means in both its context and meaning, because it could lend an entirely different interpretation to the passage. Take, for example, the words of Paul in Titus 2:3-5:
“The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands…”
Now this is a wonderful passage, and not just because it encourages older women to lay off the alcohol. While that’s definitely a good thing (let’s face it, nobody wants to see Granny drunk!), here Paul also encourages older women to teach the younger women how to ‘love’ their husbands.
One might think, given the proclivities of (some) young, immature women not only these days but probably from the dawn of time, that they would have no need of being taught how to ‘love’ anything. Just ask any tattooed, drug-head, just-out-of-prison gang member who may not have a lot going for him, yet can barely beat the ‘ladies’ off with a stick, or any heartbroken Daddy who has lost his daughter to someone like that.
Agape love in women, coupled with wisdom, is indeed a beautiful thing, but without that wisdom it can get ugly fast.
No, women don’t need to be taught unconditional, or agape, love. Sure, it’s not perfect. Only God, of course, is the perfect example of agape love, the only one capable of truly loving without any conditions or strings. But on the mortal plane, women reign supreme. I may not be a drug-addicted, tattoed, ex-con, but I’ve certainly got my share of faults. I’m so glad my wife loves me unconditionally. She didn’t need to be taught this – it’s in her DNA.
Therefore, it stands to reason that the ‘love’ mentioned in that passage, the ‘love’ that the older women are to teach the younger women to practice, is an entirely different kind of love. A closer look at the passage reveals that this is, indeed, the case.
The word for ‘love’ in this passage is, “φιλος – philos – friend.”
Now it becomes clearer – the older women are to teach the younger women how to be a friend to their husbands. The NAS Greek Lexicon definition of phileo is, “to love, to approve of, to like, sanction, to treat affectionately or kindly, to welcome, befriend, to show signs of love, to kiss…”
It also stands to reason that, seeing as how I’m a guy and all, this passage isn’t instructing ME to teach any woman out there how to love their husbands. However, I would like to share a few ways my wife chooses to ‘phileos’ me. In that way, perhaps some ‘younger woman’ can learn from her!
Six Ways to be a Friend to Your Husband
1.) to approve of – If anything makes a friend a true friend, it’s accepting that friend for who they are, warts and all. That doesn’t mean that iron shouldn’t sharpen iron on occasion, but my wife doesn’t spend her time trying to ‘change’ the essential things that make me, well, me. She accepts me for who I am.
2.) to like – My wife enjoys my company. She wants to be with me. Her interactions with me are full of genuineness and sincerity. Whether my fault or not, the people I interact with on a daily basis won’t always like me, but the person I am sharing my life with does, and that’s worth more than a king’s ransom to me. It’s so easy to love each other, when you like each other!
3.) to sanction – My wife is my number one cheerleader. She knows what makes me tick, the things I’m passionate about. She doesn’t try to cherry-pick my interests for me, but rather she genuinely seeks to understand and share in my passions and pursuits. Not only does she sanction them, she encourages me to be the best that I can possibly be in whatever endeavors I have chosen. She rejoices when I rejoice, and she’s sad when I’m sad.
4.) to treat affectionately or kindly – Far too often the world can be a cruel, mean, heart-breaking place. My wife makes our home a haven, a place of refuge where kindness and affection rule the day.
5.) to welcome – Coming home at the end of the day is a joyous occasion. When I enter the room, especially after a long day at work, her eyes light up and she can’t wait to tell me about her day, to hear about mine, to share the evening together. It’s obvious she missed me, and that certainly makes a guy feel special.
6.) to show signs of love, to kiss – When you’re married, there’s certainly something to the whole ‘friends with benefits’ stuff! The whole worldview, especially as portrayed by countless sitcoms and jokes, of the hapless, sex-starved husband chasing his wife around the bedroom only to be rejected time and time again is a worldview that, sadly, many Christians have fallen for. My wife doesn’t just like me, she truly enjoys my company in every possible way, and she takes measures quite often to make that blatantly obvious to me. It makes me feel loved, liked, special, appreciated, desired, and, frankly, about 10 feet tall.
We spend the bulk of our lives with our spouses. I am so fortunate to have not just a wife, but a best friend to share the ups and downs of life with, a friend who accepts me for who I am, a helpmeet who isn’t merely in my life, but is a part of it as well. If marriage is but a shadow of our future with Christ, heaven will be a wondrous place indeed!
Wives, how do you be a friend to your husband? And husbands, how does your wife show her love to you? Share in the comments below!
This article first appeared here.