Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged. Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favoritism. Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in Heaven. (Colossians 3:18-4:1, NIV)
– – – –
When my sister and I were younger, there was a ritual my mother performed quickly and thoroughly before entering any establishment where other civilians were present. She would put on lipstick in the rearview mirror and then turn around and speak the following sentence:
“Girls, we are going 'in public!'"
You see, we were taught that there was a certain way that you were to act when outside the home. We were expected to walk down the aisles of a grocery store without drinking out of juice jugs, riding the shopping carts like it was Nascar Sunday, or helping ourselves to a box of Pop Tarts on aisle seven. To indulge in the following activities meant immediate judgment from a loving mother that would come forth quickly and unapologetically wherever she found you.
Because you see, we were “in public.” We were no longer in our home. We had been brought into a new environment and our new environment demanded a new set of expectations. Rules, that would ultimately be for our good and my mother’s glory.
I tell you the following story from my childhood in a feeble attempt to introduce us to the transition that is happening in our text today.
Thus far in Chapter 3, Paul is reminding and instructing the believers at Colossae that they are to put on the new self because they are now “in the Lord” (vs.18).
These brothers and sisters now find themselves “in the Lord” which means that the new environment that they have been delivered into, now both encourages and demands that they adhere to a new set of expectations. They must learn and implement a new way of conducting themselves.
They were once “out of the Lord” – “dead in your trespasses”, but God has made us alive together “in Him” (2:13). Their new position will require new behavior.
It should be noted here, that any heart change resulting in behavior, including our very salvation is by grace through faith! (Eph 2:8) It is the power of the Holy Spirit within us who enables us to respond to God's call on our life and live out the life He now calls us into; a life “in the Lord.”
And so, Paul will write the following verses instructing how those “in the Lord” should live while at home.
1. Wives submit yourselves to husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. (3:18)
This lovingly instructs against the fleshly desire for the self-rule and control passed down from Eve in the garden. (Gen 3:16) In submitting to the loving leadership of Christ, wives should then entrust themselves to the loving leadership of a husband. The God we serve is a loving God of order, structure, and design.
2. Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them. (3:19)
This lovingly instructs against the fleshly desires present in the Roman world for men to use their strength to oppress their wives through power and intimidation. Husbands are to submit the loving leadership of Christ and love their wives sacrificially as Christ has loved the church, laying down His life for her. (Eph 5:25)
3. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. (3:20)
This lovingly instructs against the fleshly desire again for self-rule and control outside of the leadership God has ordained. First and foremost submission to His lordship and then to the parents He ordains. Honoring God will always be seen in the honor we have towards our parents.
4. Fathers, do not embitter your children or they will become discouraged. (3:21)
This lovingly instructs against the fleshly desires for men to use their God ordained position to rule over their children instead of ruling and leading out of love. Do not lead your children to hopelessness in pleasing you (Eph 6:4).
5. Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. (3:22)
Here, Paul gives instructions to implement as believers while not condoning the unjust socioeconomic structure. Paul directly appeals to them and encourages their service to God first. These principles can be applied to employer/employee relationships today. Everything we do, we do for the Lord.
6. Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know you also have a Master in heaven. (4:1)
Again, Paul does not condone slavery, but provides God honoring instructions amongst believers, reminding them to mirror the kindness and faithfulness of their master.
And ultimately, all that we say and do is in service to the Lord Jesus Christ. “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” (3:23; 24)
You do not merely work at an organization or company, you are not merely a husband or a wife, you are not merely a child obeying parents, you are not merely a mother or father, and you are not merely an employer. You are a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ!
Let today be a day of returning. Returning to the One who first called out for our freedom; that we would worship and serve Him alone. (Ex 8:1)
Today, may we seek the one who has cancelled the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands and has forgiven us all our sins, by nailing them to the Cross. Today, may we worship and serve God alone and never forget that our first title is son or daughter of the King; that our purpose is to serve Him alone.
[guest writer: Kristina Villines]