18 Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.
20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.
21 Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.
(Colossians 3:18-21 NIV)
Yesterday we looked at the peace of Christ, the message of Christ, and the name of the Lord Jesus in verses 15-17. Today Paul takes those truths and applies them to the most basic and fundamental of all social constructs – the family.
Paul addresses each part of the family – wives, husbands, children, and fathers. Paul also continues his address of employer-employee relationships in 3:22 – 4:1. Since most of these employees were part of the household, they are related to the same family unit and included in Paul’s discussion. We will take a look at this section on a subsequent day.
Focusing on today’s passage, we see Paul addressing each group of the family. Needless to say, there have been endless debates over what Paul meant in these verses and the parallel passage in Ephesians 5:21-33.
As I look at this passage, I can take numerous approaches – to either back up and take a larger macro view of what Paul is teaching or to dive in and take a micro view of the words and phrases Paul uses. In this case, I think the wiser approach is to back up and take the macro view. I do this not to avoid controversy, but to see the passage in its proper context.
Remember that Paul has been talking about living differently than the world in Colossians chapter 3. In yesterday’s passage, he specifically talked about the peace of Christ that changes us, transforms us from the inside out. Families living in harmony is certainly a change from what the world experiences.
So we must ask ourselves, where does the family dysfunction originate? To answer that question, we must go all the way back to Genesis chapter 3:
16 To the woman he said,
“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
with painful labor you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
and he will rule over you.”
(Genesis 3:16 NIV)
Remember that the fall of mankind was caused by Adam and Eve thinking that God had held out on them – that God did not give them something that they thought they needed or deserved. In fact, God was protecting Adam and Eve but they failed to recognize that as such, and saw it as withholding instead.
So God said to Eve that the peace in the family was broken because of sin. She (Eve) would want to control her husband, and he (Adam) would respond unkindly to her desire to control him.
Sounds like the beginning of family strife to me.
Fast forwarding back to Colossians, Paul is reminding us that everything changes because of Christ. The relationship that was broken between God and mankind has been restored through the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. And likewise, we can experience restored relationships with one another through the common bond of Christ. And that includes the most fundamental of all societal building blocks that God created – the family.
May we see our relationships as children, wives, husbands, mothers, and fathers to be glorifying to God and healing toward one another. As we let Christ rule in our hearts, our relationships change for the better. May we take Paul’s words to heart and honor one another and so in turn honor Christ who made reconciliation possible in the first place.