Household Code – 3:18-4:1


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.

22 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. 23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. 25 Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favoritism.

1 Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven.

In these verses, Paul supplies the Colossian church with a Christian version of a Roman household code. A household code is a set of rules meant to govern the affairs of the home. In Rome, the household codes followed the teaching of Aristotle, who instructed men to rule over their wives and children, particularly noting that the inequality of the sexes is permanent. The man ought to be the pater familias, governing the home with absolute authority. But is this what we find in Christian teaching?

Though not explicitly stated in this epistle, Paul’s words in 3:11 echo what he triumphantly declared in Galatians 3:28: In Christ, there is neither male nor female. This does not mean that there is no gender differentiation in Christianity. Rather, it forces us to examine the ways that we consider ourselves better than others. In Christ, men are not more important than women, just as masters are not more important than slaves or Jews more important than Gentiles. The social revolution of the Gospel is that all are one in Christ, for Christ is all and is in all.


The social revolution of the Gospel is that all are one in Christ, for Christ is all and is in all.
Therefore, when Paul opens his household code by commanding wives to submit to their husbands, he is not operating from a belief that women are of less worth than men. On the contrary, the biblical teaching of the submission of wives assumes the equality of the sexes in the eyes of God. God does not, in Christ, elevate women from their culturally lowly estate to a position just below that of men. In fact, God assumes the equality of the sexes because that is how he created humanity (Genesis 1:27), and it is this equality (and not merely of the sexes, but between all people everywhere) that is a part of the restoration project begun in the resurrection of Jesus. In commanding wives to submit to their husbands, he is inviting women to participate in the faithful obedience and humility of Christ. Biblical submission assumes equality because it is a volitional act of humility in letting another lead. Like love, submission can never be forced upon or demanded of. Submission is a gift freely given to another in humility, not the humiliation extracted by force from a weaker person. (For more on this topic, please see my post on Biblical Submission.)

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What’s your favorite church song? There are a lot of good ones out there. A lot of bad ones, too. Not to sound too crotchety, but there’s one song in particular that just aggravates me. I don’t know who wrote it, but the offending line goes like this: “like a rose trampled on the ground, you took the fall, and thought of me above all.” I think I just threw up in my mouth.

Church songs are meant to be rich with theological truth, not sweet with saccharine pop song lyrics. Paul told the Colossians, “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” This verse can guide us as we gather together to sing at church.

As we sing psalms and hymns to God, we are simultaneously praising the Lord and teaching one another. We learn by singing. (Daniel Tiger, anyone?) Therefore, the message of Christ should be richly present in our music.

The message of Christ is the Gospel – the powerful proclamation that Jesus has died for our sins, was buried, and rose again on the third day. The implications of the Gospel are numerous, and all are worthy of being sung in lyrical poetry. But wherever we depart from the message of Christ in our songs, we depart from true worship.

When the message of Christ dwells in us richly as we sing psalms and hymns together, we ourselves become enriched. Singing about the Gospel honors God and encourages us in our faith. We receive the riches about which are neighbors are rejoicing!

So next Sunday, as you’re praising the Lord in church, remember that you’re doing more than singing. You’re teaching those around you, and you’re learning from them at the same time. Singing together builds up our faith and brings glory to God. So sing with all your heart!

forgive

Have you ever thought about how you want to age? Maybe that’s a weird question, but it’s something that I think about all too often. And I’m not talking about aging physically. How do you want to age emotionally? Spiritually? Mentally? What kind of person do you want to be when you’re 70, 80, or 90?

One of the things that I’m terrified of becoming is a bitter old man. It’s one thing to be crotchety (which I already am!). It’s another thing to be spiritually poisonous. I don’t want to become the grandpa whose kids and grandkids don’t want to be around because he’s always complaining, cutting others down, or is consistently expressing bitterness and negativity.

I learned a long time ago that the key to aging well is learning to forgive. Not only does forgiving others improve our spiritual state, but it’s being proven to increase our physical health, as well. When we forgive someone, we let go of the need to be paid back, to come out ahead, or to be proven right. Forgiveness uproots the saplings of bitterness. Learning to forgive quickly and thoroughly prevents the development of bitterness because you have let go of the things that bitter people hold onto.

But you might be thinking, “That sounds wonderful, but you have no idea what that person did to me.” That’s true. I don’t. But God does. God knows all the sinful things that every person has done, whether it’s the things you’ve done to others, or the things others have done to you. And he has forgiven all of them at the cross of Jesus.

Paul tells us in Colossians 3:13, “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” With his dying breath, Jesus cried out on the cross, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” What a dramatic moment of forgiveness, and what a breadth of forgiveness he has offered! This is the example for us. This is how we are to forgive, with radical disregard for our own rights.

With radical forgiveness comes radical freedom. Freedom from bitterness. Freedom from emotional bondage. Freedom from sin. Don’t let the sins of others bind you to sins of your own. Don’t let your heart become embittered. Forgive, as the Lord forgave you.

The New Self – 3:12-17


12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Now that the old self has been discarded like filthy clothes, it is time to put on the new clothes of God’s kingdom. But before Paul unveils this wardrobe, he reminds the Colossians of three great truths. First, they are God’s chosen people. This is a title given to Israel in the Old Testament. Paul, a Jew through and through, recognizes that, in Christ, the doors of God’s choice have been thrown open. Now all may enter, whether Jew or Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian or Scythian, slave or free. All are welcome through faith in Christ.

Second, they are holy. They have been set apart for God’s purposes. As Paul explains in Galatians, Gentiles have been welcomed into God’s family as the fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham. Similarly, they are welcomed in so that that promise – that all the nations of the world will be blessed – will continue to be fulfilled in every tribe and tongue throughout all generations.


God’s love is unending, unconditional, and unquenchable.
Third, they are dearly loved. God dearly and deeply loves the world, so much that he would give his only Son to be the atoning sacrifice for everybody’s sins. God’s love is unending, unconditional, and unquenchable. There is nothing, Paul declares in Romans, that can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.

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Identity politics are a hot button issue these days. Self-identification has become a vital component, not just of personal understanding, but of social politics. It seems that we can self-identify as anything we want, without respect to our physical bodies. Identity politics are about the soul, we’re told, not just the body. What’s on the inside is what truly counts.

What makes this so interesting, for Christians, is that it sounds like Christian teaching. We believe, of course, that the heart is the focus of regeneration, that sanctification flows from the inside (from renewed thoughts and desires) out, and that becoming like Christ means imitating his character, not simply his actions. A Christian would have no trouble agreeing with the statement: What’s on the inside is what truly counts.

Identity: Christ is allWhere the difference lies, however, is that Christian doctrine proclaims the need for internal change, and that this change is a person. It’s not what’s on the inside; it’s who’s on the inside. Christian identity is not wrapped up in what I believe myself to be, but rather in who has saved me from my sin. As Paul says in Colossians 3:11, “Christ is all, and is in all.”

This means that, before you are anything else, you are a Christian. Your identity in Christ is the spring from which all your self-understanding flows. You are not who you think or feel you are; you are who Christ says you are. By faith, you are in God’s family. If you have placed your faith in Jesus Christ, you are, more than anything else, a child of God.

More than anything else, this is why Christians oppose the identity politics of our culture. It’s not because we are grossed out or think people are being ridiculous. It’s because we know there is a better way. There is a better identity. And his name is Jesus.

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