Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Colossians 3:18-21

Day 19

Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered against them. Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord. Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart.

Paul continues in his exhortation to “put on the new self . . . according to the image of the One who created him.” Our new identity in Christ should be manifest in our relationships. Earlier Paul made general statements about how all Christians should treat each other-- with forgiveness, humility, and compassion. Unity should mark the church.

Now Paul gets relationally specific. Walking worthy of the Lord means reflecting the character of Christ in all of our relationships. Perhaps the most challenging of these relationships are within our own families. A true test of the extent of someone’s godliness is in how they act at home. There we relax and let our guard down, not worrying about appearances. Yet our new self should affect every aspect and relationship in our lives-- even those at home.

1. Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
It is interesting that Paul begins with the wives. The husband is the head of the home, Paul writes elsewhere (1 Cor 11:3). Why wouldn’t he begin with him? I wonder if it is because the wife largely sets the tone in her home. (Remember this one: “When mama ain’t happy, ain’t no one happy”?)

A wife, by her submission, sets the tone in her home. A wise older woman once told me that it was my responsibility to teach my children to respect their father. I took that advice very seriously. I never spoke disparagingly about my husband to my children. The larger part of that instruction, however, occurred as I lived out my commitment to my husband in front of the kids.

Biblical submission is not a synonym for obedience. Otherwise, why would Paul have used a different word when he addresses the children two verses later? Submission is voluntarily putting the needs of the other above our own, with the purpose of enabling them to fulfill their responsibilities. (I did a word study on submission several months ago, which is located in this blog’s archives on February 25, 2008.) Implicit in submission is a respect for God’s purpose for that individual.

2. Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered against them.
Biblical leadership is not a position of power. Peter makes this clear in his first letter, when he exhorts the elders to exercise oversight, “not lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:3). Nowhere in scripture are husbands ever commanded to make anyone submit. Submission is a voluntary act. Biblical leaders lead by example.

Paul urges husbands to love their wives, a command repeated in Ephesians 5:25. That love needs to be sacrificial in nature, as Christ’s love was for the church. This kind of love does not come naturally to anyone. Yet it is possible for us because we have been made new creatures in Christ.

3. Children, be obedient to your parents in all things.
Again, obedience is not a natural instinct!! No one had to teach my children to roll their eyes or shirk responsibility. I had a friend that decided she would never say “no” to her children, so that her children would not shout the word at her like many other toddlers she had observed. She soon discovered no instruction was needed for her son in this little skill-- he shouted no with the best of them.

Yet as believers, our relationship with Christ needs to be displayed in every area of our lives, even as children. No compartmentalizing of this life-changing encounter.

4. Fathers, do not exasperate your children so that they will not lose heart.
This is a great command of which all parents should sit up and take notice. We need to notice every time our children try to do the right thing. They may not do something thoroughly enough by our standards, but we need to see the heart behind the effort. I knew a mother of a little first grader that worked an hour on a take-home paper for school. She carefully chose each color and worked hard to stay in the lines. When she proudly turned the paper in the next morning, the teacher glanced at it and wrote: Messy. Try to be neater. The child was discouraged that her effort had meant nothing to the teacher. The next time she hardly tried at all.

Children want to please. Before we begin to throw around accusations, we need to listen and find out where their heart is in each situation. We need to give them the benefit of the doubt. We don’t want to discourage them from future effort.


All of these relationships are affected by the presence of Jesus Christ in our lives. Just before today’s passage, Paul commanded the Colossians: Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus. Our contribution to a relationship is not based on what the other person does. It is based solely on the fact that we are living for Christ alone. The kind of wife, husband, child, or father you are should be a reflection of this fact.

Think of three ways you can fulfill Paul’s command to you in your own situation. Pray and ask God to help you do these things in obedience to Him.

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