Today we’re going wrap up our study in the book of Colossians. We’ve seen who Jesus really is: that He is supreme, eternal, the creator, sustainer and He is all we need for salvation and spiritual growth. Then we looked at how to live our new life in Christ.
Why would you have a new life in Christ and the same old things keep going on? Today we’re going to take a look at some of the most vital things in our lives, our relationships. Doesn’t it make sense that if I have a new life in Christ things will change in our relationships?
The great thing about this passage is it gives us guidance on our closest relationships. Be careful to not think about what this says about somebody else. Listen to what it has to say to you.
New relationships mean I make the choice to be loving not selfish.
There are three family relationships that Colossians talks about beginning in 3:18. The first couple we’re real familiar with – wives and husbands, and children and fathers, but all the time in the Bible when it talks about families it talks about servants and masters. Why? It does it in Ephesians and 1 Peter. Why does the Bible do that?
In that day the house servants or slaves were a part of the family. In the Roman Empire of that day there was just about as many slaves in the Empire as there were people who were not slaves. Every person had a slave and these people were a part of the family. They were there in the household. So part of Christian relationships was how do I relate to all the relationships in my life. Today we can apply these to employer and employee relationships.
Let’s get some key words in each of these areas that make these relationships work. That’s what this passage is based on.
A key word for wives that the Bible uses is “submit.” Submit has the idea of unselfish love. But the Bible word is the word “submit”. That’s gotten a lot of bad press lately. The idea of submission to somebody else who tells me what to do who doesn’t really care about me, they’re always ordering me around is not the biblical idea of submission. In fact, the idea is no one can force it on you. It has to be something that you choose in your life.
So when the Bible says, “Wives submit to your husbands” there’s four truths about submission.
- Submission does not cancel out our equality. Any time the Bible tells you to submit to somebody else it doesn’t mean you’re therefore unequal with them. Here’s the greatest proof of that. In the book of Hebrews the Bible tells us that Jesus submitted Himself to the Father. Are the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit equal? Our whole faith is built on that. Jesus made the willing choice to submit Himself to the Father in some areas. So it doesn’t mean you’re not equal. The Bible tells us we are equal, equal partners in grace.
- Everyone is to submit in some way or another. This isn’t just for women, just for wives. Every one of us have relationships in which we have to submit to other people. That’s the way that life works. In fact, some of the ways you and I have to submit: to the governing authorities, believers submit to fellow laborers in Christ, we’re all commanded to submit to one another in Christ, wives to husbands, Jesus submitted to the Father, believers submit to the Father, as Christians we submit to God, angels submit themselves to Jesus it says in the Bible, believers to spiritual leaders, young men to older men. The Bible says those are all relationships of submission. It’s not a one way thing that we talk about a lot of times.
- Submission doesn’t mean disobedience God. A lot of people think if you’re really submissive you have to do whatever they say. Not true, God is our highest allegiance. There’s an interesting story about this in Acts 4 when they told the disciples they had to stop preaching the gospel. They said, “We’ve got to do it. So if you have to punish us, punish us. But we’ve got to do it.” It’s a great story because it said we have to obey God but we still respect you. Sometimes when somebody says you have to disobey God whether it’s a governing authority or husband or wife, instead of saying, “No, I have to obey God,” we get real resistant. We get resistant to the point of bitterness. And somehow the early disciples were able to say, “We realize you can throw us into jail but we have to do what we have to do.” They said they’re going to obey God but they still respected those people who were authorities in their life. Sometimes we have to do that in our lives.
- Submission is voluntary. Husband, anytime you say to your wife, “You have to submit to me!” it’s not going to work. Does that work with any of us? You can’t impose submission on somebody, a willing choice to respect somebody else. You can’t impose that. It says “Wives, submit yourself to your husbands.” It doesn’t say, “Husbands, get your wives to submit themselves to you.”
The real key of submission in marriage (Ephesians talks a little more about it) is there’s a leadership responsibility that husbands have that they don’t take sometimes. There’s a need to let them take that responsibility before God. I like this definition of submission: “Submission is the wife ducking out of the way so God can hit her husband.” There’s some deep spiritual truth in that.
The key word for husbands is “love”. Guys – love, not make love. Somebody said that marriage is when you agree to spend the rest of your life sleeping in a room that’s too warm beside someone who’s sleeping in a room that’s too cold. We’re very different from each other. Love and respect for each other are incredibly important. Paul’s just saying, Let’s just lay it out here: If you’re a new person here’s the new kind of relationships that you’re going to have. You’re going to be able to respect somebody like you never have before because you’ve got the strength of the love of Christ in your life. You’re going to be able to love someone, guys, sacrificially, like you never have before because you’ve got the strength of Christ in your life. Are you going to be perfect at it? No. You’re going to work the rest of your life at that. But we’re growing in it.
I like what Paul says as he talks about the love that husbands express. He points to the fact that especially as you’re expressing love you should not be harsh. That’s where the Bible is honest. He says it’s easy to be harsh sometimes – it’s the end of the day and you’re tired and the conversation is going on and on and you know how you can stop it real quick so you do. Or you’ve got the logical answer – “Here it is, just do it! Why talk about it any more? Just do it!” It’s so easy to be harsh. The Bible says that one of the keys to expressing love is not be harsh.
A survey was done by a couple of psychologists who studied newlyweds over the first decade of their marriage. They discovered that couples who stayed together uttered five or fewer put-downs in every hundred comments to each other. But couples who inflicted twice as many verbal wounds, ten or more in a hundred comments, were later much more likely to split up. That makes sense. There’s something about our words that build our relationships in very powerful ways.
On the positive side of that, I read a survey where some German physicians and psychologists got together and did a study of what happened with men who kissed their wives right before they left their house each day and men who just walked out. The study found out that those who kissed their spouse each morning missed less work because of illness. They had fewer auto accidents on the way to work. They earned ten to thirty percent more monthly. And they lived about five years longer than those who don’t at least get a peck on the cheek on the way to work. It couldn’t hurt! What they concluded from the study was that simple encouragement that says, “We love each other,” made an incredible difference in people’s lives.
So just the gentleness of words and the actions towards one another of love is a real key.
My favorite advice to read when it comes to marriage is not from psychologists. A lot of psychologists have been divorced multiple times, what do they know? But whenever I see “On their golden wedding anniversary they said…” that’s the advise that I want to read. If somebody can stick together for fifty years. I read this one this week. Somebody asked a grandmother on her golden wedding anniversary the secret of a long and happy marriage. She said, “On my wedding day I decided to choose ten of my husband’s faults which for the sake of our marriage I would overlook.” One of the guests said, “Can you tell us one of the ten that you had?” She said, “To tell you the truth I never did get around to listing them. Whenever my husband did something that made me really mad I’d say to myself, ‘Lucky for him that’s one of the ten!’”
It’s the little things that count in relationships. It’s the little things that change my attitude – this willingness to submit to another, this willingness to sacrificially love another person.
What’s the word for kids? “Obey”. The Greek word “obey” literally means “to hear under someone.” That means to obey someone you have to listen to them. We sort of intuitively know this with our kids. They don’t listen to us so they can’t obey us. We’ve all had this conversation. “Can you take out the garbage?” Ugh! Did they hear you? No. Then they can’t obey. Obviously the Bible here says “Children, you have a responsibility to obey,” but this is saying to you and I we have the responsibility to make sure that they hear. If obedience means you listen under somebody, if we don’t say it in the way they can hear it, we don’t give them the opportunity to be obedient.
Here’s the key word for fathers. It doesn’t say anything necessarily about mothers. This could be said to both parents, I think. The key word: don’t. Both here and Ephesians it says, Dads, there’s some things that we do that we shouldn’t do that irritate our kids. As a dad there’s some things I do that irritate my kids. Don’t exasperate your children, it says in Ephesians 5. Don’t embitter your children. Three things that tend to really exasperate kids from fathers. This is particularly to dads. Moms, you might fit into this too but this is particularly to us dads.
- Avoid insulting them. It’s easy to say an insult but there’s something about our words as dads that carry greater weight than we realized. Instead of words of insult, obviously our kids need words of encouragement. That doesn’t mean you can’t ever be negative. Sometimes something negative happens but it’s so easy to share words of insult.
- Avoid ignoring them. This is probably the one we do the most. That is one of those things that exasperate them. Maybe the practical thing is to make a date with one of your kids this week, one that you’ve been ignoring. The easiest one to ignore is the on that’s most like you. They irritate you the most because they’re most like you. We have our favorites and they’re usually not the ones that are most like us.
- Avoid indulging them. Because we’ve ignored them we feel we have to indulge them with stuff. We think that giving them gifts, toys, or electronics will cancel out the time we missed. Material things are a poor substitute for our presence.
What do they really want from us? They want our time. They want our encouragement. And dads, if you haven’t said, “I love you,” to your kids today you need to. Maybe you say, “My dad never said that to me!” You can break that pattern and teach your sons and daughters to say that to their kids. They need that.
A key word for servants that comes up again and again in this passage is the word “master”. How does this relate to us? If you and I are going to have a relationship with the boss and we’re reading this passage that says treat them as your master how would your boss react if you came in and called him “master”? Some of your bosses would really like it. Obviously for us Christians we have only one master or Lord and that’s Jesus. But there’s really an attitude of who you’re really working for here. We don’t work for a boss as the master of our lives. We work for the Lord Jesus Christ as the lord of our lives. That’s why this says again and again don’t do your work for anyone else. Work as for the Lord Jesus Christ whom you’re serving. Don’t do it to please other people. Do it to please the Lord Jesus Christ. Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing you’re working for the Lord Jesus Christ.
Colossians talks about the attitude that you and I do that with. I like some of the words he uses. If I’m going to work for this person and yet my attitude is really towards the Lord what should my attitude be? Verse 23 “Whatever you do work at it with all your heart as working for the Lord not for men since you know that we will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.” There’s some good news. The pay that you’re getting at your work, that’s not the only benefit that comes. That’s good news isn’t it? We receive a reward from the Lord also.
Then he goes on and says, “It’s the Lord Christ whom you are serving.” Verse 22 “Servants obey your earthly masters in everything and do it not only when their eye is on you to win their favor but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord.”
This is a Bible study tip: Sometimes when you’re doing Bible study, sometimes you learn just as much by studying what the English words mean as Greek words. The word “sincere” in our language comes originally from the Latin language. It came from a habit that they used to have when they made marble. Marble was very difficult to polish without all the machinery that we have today. So instead of going to all the work to polish the marble, oftentimes they’d put this wax on the marble that would cover all the blemishes and scratches that might be on it and make it look as smooth as glass like polished marble. But when it got out in the heat, the wax would melt and you’d see all the blemishes. Marble that didn’t have the wax on it, that had been polished smooth was “without wax”.
The Bible says that you and I should serve with a sincere heart, genuine, “without wax,” not faking it. The only way to do that is to have a genuine relationship with Christ even at work. How are you going to serve the Lord at work if you’re not thinking about Him at work? How is He going to be your boss if He’s not on your mind all the time? That’s the great benefit that comes out of this.
The key word for masters – you who are “masters”, bosses, company owners, here’s the key word for you – “provide.” As a believer in Christ you’re responsible to provide for your workers in the best way that you can. With excellence. Not to be excessive, not to do things that are outside the bounds of reason but the best way you possibly can. That’s one of the things the Bible teaches us about our relationships.
There’s really a single word behind all this – “unselfish love.” That’s the attitude I have in all my relationships. This is what makes them work. Christ loved us, we should love others. That’s how to have supreme relationships.
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