Chapter 3:18-4:1 (ESV) - Wives, submit 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 provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. 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. For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality. Masters, treat your bondservants justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.
Question to consider: How does our love of Christ affect the way we treat others?
Today’s passage finishes up Paul’s thoughts on how the Colossians should live according to the knowledge that Christ was the eternal Son of God who gave them eternal life in Him. If the words of this passage seem familiar, it is because these ideas were also given to the church in Ephesus. Remember that Paul was under house arrest in Rome awaiting trial and responding to news that he received from those who came to visit. Timothy was the one who wrote down Paul’s thoughts and translated them into Greek. Tychicus was the young man who would travel to Ephesus and Colossae to deliver these letters, along with a personal letter to Philemon, the one who owned the house in which the Colossian church met. Traveling with Tychicus was Onesimus, a bond-slave who fled Philemon’s household and ended up in Rome with Paul where he came to faith.
Essentially, this passage can be summed up with Paul’s statement, “You are serving the Lord Christ,” and it applies not only to Philemon’s household and the church which met there, but to all who call Christ Lord. Deep down, I think we all know how we should fulfill the roles Christ has given us. Husbands know that God has called them to protect and lead their homes without cruelty and treat each member of the household as a precious gift from God. Wives know the role that God has given their husbands and what they can do to support that role and make it flourish. Young children may not understand why they are called to obey, but typically young children are not the ones who need the advice Paul gave here. Even if we don’t fully know what the master/slave relationship was like, we all have some kind of role to play in society and know the best way to engage in our responsibilities.
We just need to ask ourselves how we would approach these roles if Jesus was the one asking us to do them. In case it is not obvious, Paul was speaking in general terms according to typical relationships. If someone is in a situation where they are in danger or asked to sin against God, the Lord would not ask them to remain in that situation or submit to sin. In fact, Paul pointed out that the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done.
The goal should be to honestly look at our actions and how Christ would want us to serve. When we fail in this task or others fail us, our response is to show mercy and to reconcile with one another, for this is the way that Christ has loved us.
Dear heavenly father, please protect us from harmful relationships and help us to be honest with ourselves in our actions toward others. Help us to forgive others in the same way You have forgiven us, and may we seek to serve others as we would serve Christ. Amen.