19 Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.
Concerning the domestic affairs of Christians, God has stipulated differing but complementing duties to husbands and wives. While the wife was commanded to be submissive to her own husband, the husband is commanded to be the loving head of her and the family. In order that the family may function with peace and harmony, and for all of God’s special will and purposes concerning the family to be carried out, both husband and wife must fulfil their roles with great commitment.
Husbands are here commanded specifically to love their wives. The husband must be genuinely delighted with his wife’s presence and company, not seeking other women in sinful pleasure. He is enjoined in Proverbs 5:18-19, “Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth. Let her be as the loving hind and pleasant roe; let her breasts satisfy thee at all times; and be thou ravished always with her love.” In contrast, a warning is issued to those who would secretly cherish the company and pleasure of other women: “And why wilt thou, my son, be ravished with a strange woman, and embrace the bosom of a stranger? For the ways of man are before the eyes of the LORD, and he pondereth all his goings. His own iniquities shall take the wicked himself, and he shall be holden with the cords of his sins. He shall die without instruction; and in the greatness of his folly he shall go astray” (Proverbs 5:20-23).
To the positive command to love, Paul added a negative one: “be not bitter against them.” This second advice suggests that offences and conflicts will occur in one’s marriage relationship. If the husband does not commit himself to love his wife passionately, bitterness will grow rapidly against her. Every Christian husband must see that he gives no room for bitterness to grow, or else harsh and severe dealings will result.
As a wife is bound to be submissive to her husband in spite of his many imperfections, so the husband is bound to love his wife, notwithstanding her shortcomings. A tender-hearted leadership will result in the resolving of many a conflict, while a bitter-spirited approach will provoke greater conflicts and hurts. Husbands are not to be tyrants, but tender-hearted lovers who lead their wives with God’s wisdom to be co-heirs of all of God’s blessings. “Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity” (Ecclesiastes 9:9a).