Colossians 3:18-4:1. 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 Bondservants, 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.
4:1. Masters, treat your bondservants justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.
The seed of the gospel can be planted into any cultural soil and still grow to abundance, bearing the fruit of Christ and his love. Yes, the gospel is radical, life altering, counter-cultural even. And yet it was never Paul’s intention that his message of the gospel destroy the society in which it was planted. As those who are in Christ, we are meant to bring the gospel’s flourishing into any and all situations in which we find ourselves. We are not meant to escape those situations. Christ in us allows us to press into our hard relationships and difficult circumstances, not run away from them. And so the gospel always empowers the Christian to stay as we are.
What do I mean? When Paul says that in Christ there is no more male or female (Gal. 3:28), his intention was not to destroy the institution of marriage and family. This is made clear as Paul speaks to wives, husbands, and children, encouraging them to love and respect each other. Or in 1 Corinthians when he tells the believing wives to not divorce their unbelieving husbands (unless abandoned), and those who are single to stay single if they can. Are you married? Stay married. Are you a wife? OK, stay respectful. Are you a husband? Don’t leave your wife and children. Love them and nourish them. Don’t flee your household, bring Christ into it.
And when Paul says that there is no longer “slave or free” in Christ (3:11), this was not a call to the millions of slaves in the empire to rise up and fight for emancipation. Instead, we see Paul telling bondservants to obey in everything. Stay as you are. Bring Christ into it.
This follows on the heels of the Apostle telling us that “whatever we do, we can do it in the name of the Lord Jesus” (3:17). So the “whatever we do” includes the demeaning work of the slave? Yes.
So where in your life does the “whatever you do” seem to be demeaning? Difficult? Lacking respect or honor? Is there a situation or setting in your life that you dream of escaping? Your marriage? Your job? And what is the solution?
As always the answer is found in our union with Christ. And, Christ’s union with us. We must conclude that even as God does not want us to be in demeaning situations (slaves), he has also given us the one thing we need to transcend these situations – union with Christ.
Our union with Christ has set us free.
First and foremost, in Christ, every Christian is fully and forever free (Gal. 5:1). This is our eternal identity and destiny through the cross of Christ. Peter will express this clearly in his first epistle:
1 Peter 2:16. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.
By uniting us to Christ, God has set us free on the spiritual plane for all eternity. Our ultimate identity is no longer property, animals, or children. We are adult adopted sons and daughters of God, heirs with Christ of his reward. We are no longer shamed, we are honored, seated with Christ in the heavenly places. Even if our earthly status remains one of slavery, we are truly free.
This truth must be our starting point each day as we walk into any and all circumstances of life.
Christ’s union with humanity makes all service for the Lord.
Paul has already told us in this letter that “Christ is all and in all.” That everything is “in him, through him, and FOR him.” And that everything is being “reconciled to him.” So how does this apply to my own difficult or even demeaning situation?
Because Christ has joined himself to humanity, all love, respect, and submission that we freely give to others is love, respect, and submission given unto Christ himself.
not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord.
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.
You are serving the Lord Christ.
But my boss/employee/husband/wife/father/mother/ruler/leader doesn’t deserve my respect or submission.
OK. But does Jesus?
Then give your heart filled service to Jesus by giving it to the person standing in front of you.
“To live is Christ” has radically changed who we are, and at the same time it radically allows us to stay as we are. We no longer need to fantasize about escaping our circumstances. We can choose to love, respect, and serve Christ by loving, respecting, and serving those that God has placed in front of us. All to the glory of God.
What part of your life are you wishing you could escape?
You in Christ
How does knowing we are in Christ allow us to endure in any situation?
Christ in you
Where does the Christ in you need to work heartily as to the Lord?
Playlist: As for the Lord.