The Far End of the Pipe
God intends this simple principle whenever and wherever the truth of Scripture is made known to us: What goes in, must come out! Colossians presents this flow of thought, first unveiling Christ in the highest, most transcendent way. That revelation trickles into our concepts, changing the way we think of Him and His salvation. Then it trickles into our daily living where we put on the new self, and finally, after having been experienced intensely and applied deeply, comes out the far end of the pipe in a new home and work life.
The passage under consideration, Col. 3:18-4:1 (which contains no tee-shirt verses), gives the Apostle Paul’s description of what Christ looks like when released into our most personal life settings. It doesn’t get any more real than this: Christ at home with the spouse and kids. Christ at work with coworkers and bosses.
Christ All Over the Place
The criteria seems simple. Wives submit to your husbands–that is, stop the power struggles and the single-minded quest to get your way. This models the Son of God who submitted to imperfect people all during His earthly life. Husbands love your wives and do not be harsh. That models the self-sacrificial love and kindness of the Son of God who loved to the point that He died on the cross. Children obey your parents, modeling the Christ who obeyed His own earthly parents, as well as His heavenly Father. Fathers, do not discourage your children. This demonstrates the Christ who could discipline His disciples with a sharp word (telling Peter, “Get behind me, Satan”–Matt. 16:23) and then encourage them mightily (“You will sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel”–Matt. 19:28). There is even a way for slaves to live out Christ. Although that social institution has been outlawed (thanks to seeds planted in the New Testament), application still exists for all of us who feel forced into an exhausting workweek, making less money than we think we deserve. What should we do in such a situation? Listen to the boss and work with sincerity. Stop doing things just to be seen. Actually work when you’re at work. This models the sincerity and honesty of Christ. There is also a charge to masters, who approximate today’s bosses. They should not strut around high on themselves, wronging the people who work under them. Their fair treatment will demonstrate the Christ who is just and judges without bias, rewarding those who deserve it.
At the end of the day (and this epistle), nothing theologically profound has emerged that can match the likes of the earlier description of Christ in Colossians 1. But Paul isn’t gunning for profundity at the end of his letter. Rather, he details how we can know that a wife, a husband, a child, a father, an employee, or a boss are all in current possession of the spiritual reality of a true and living Jesus. That is something worth its weight in gold.
Verses (English Standard Version)
Col 3:18 – Wives, submit 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 provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.
22 Slaves, 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. 23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. 25 For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality. 4:1 Masters, treat your slaves justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.