Summary: As Christ-followers, we have the responsibility to prioritize our family relationships by submitting, loving, obeying, and encouraging. We must also give attention to our jobs by working hard and by being fair.
Making Your Relationships Work
During the rehearsal for her wedding a nervous bride was having a difficult time remembering all the details. Her kind pastor took her aside at the end of the night and said, “When you enter the church tomorrow, you will be walking down the same aisle you’ve walked down many times before. Concentrate on the aisle. And when you get halfway down the aisle, concentrate on the altar. And, when you reach the end of the aisle, your groom will be waiting for you. Concentrate on him. Focus on the aisle, then look at the altar, and finally, lock eyes with your man. That’s all you have to do.”
That seemed to help a lot, and on the day of the wedding, the beautiful but nervous bride walked flawlessly down the aisle. But people were a bit taken aback as they heard her repeating these words during the processional, “Aisle, alter, him. Aisle, alter, him. I’ll alter him.”
I’m not sure how much success she had at changing her spouse, but there were probably a number of wives wishing her well that day. As we approach our topic for this morning we come face-to-face with the reality that if we’re serious about following Christ, He will alter our lives.
Follow along as I read Colossians 3:18-4:1: “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 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 win 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 men, 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 his wrong, 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.”
Before we jump into this practical passage, allow me to make some observations.
1. Our faith must come home with us. The true test of our relationship with Christ is how we relate to others. Or to say it another way, the home is the first place we test our newness in Christ as “God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved.” The virtues that Pastor Jeff preached about last week in verses 12-15 must be fleshed out in our relationships. If Jesus is supreme in your life, then it should show in how you relate to the members of your family. The followers of the Colossian heresy believed that true spirituality involved mysticism and esoteric knowledge. Paul shows that faith must be lived out in the family. Jesus is referred to as “Lord” or “Master” seven times in these verses because His lordship finds conclusive expression in the day-by-day, routine relationships of life.
2. The issue is function, not inferiority. As we learned in Colossians 3:11, cultural, racial, and even gender distinctions are no longer obstacles when it comes to salvation. Everyone is equal in Christ regardless of status. Having said that, individuals have a role to play in the family. We’re all disciples of Christ with different responsibilities in our discipleship. For instance, the husband and wife are personal equals before God, but they each have different roles for functional purposes. The same is true for children and parents. This divine chain is meant to help the family run the most efficiently and effectively.
3. Relationships are meant to be reciprocal. The instructions in our text show a special concern for those who were looked down upon in the first century: wives, children, and slaves. It’s striking that Paul would even give them attention since the culture denigrated these three groups of people. Christianity elevated women, valued children, and set things in motion to sabotage slavery. It’s also interesting to note that Paul admonishes those in authority as he tells husbands, fathers, and masters to be loving, kind, and fair. These pairs are to be studied together because the relationships are reciprocal. We can’t talk about the responsibilities of the wife without clarifying the obligations of the husband.
4. Families need help today. I won’t take the time to quote statistics to prove to you what you already know: the family is under fire and home life is disintegrating. Since the very first institution that God founded was the family, we need to listen and apply what He has to say in the Bible. Just as He created various physical and natural laws by which the universe functions, so too, when God created the family He gave good guidelines and practical parameters to follow. If we ignore them, we do so at our own peril. I pray that you will listen with an open mind this morning in order to see how Christ’s supremacy subtly deconstructs old habits of domination and exploitation and replaces them with loving leadership and gracious submission.