Wives, submit yourselves 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 curry 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 human masters, 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 their wrongs, 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. (Colossians 3:18-4:1 NIV)
Paul moves from focusing on our vertical relationship with God to the impact this should have on our horizontal relationships. As I read through these instructions, I was struck by the way Jesus serves as our example in each of them.
The first relationship is the one between a husband and wife. It helps me to look at what Paul says from the example provided by God the Father and Jesus the Son. In 1 Corinthians 15:27-28 Paul tells us that Jesus submitted to or was subject to God. How can this be since God and Jesus are one? Oneness works because there is order in the oneness and the relationship is one of perfect love. Jesus obeys the Father’s will and the Father loves His Son.
We struggle with these verses as husbands and wives because we are not perfect like God. As husbands we often ask our wives to do things that are motivated by our selfishness, things that do not begin to express a desire for the best for our wives. I do not think that God ever wants any of us to be subject to sin. Our sinful behavior as husbands makes it very difficult for our wives to accept a position under us. Wives can be selfish too and the result is a constant power struggle. Our marriages would be so much better if we were constantly motivated to love our spouse as Jesus loves His Father.
The final relationship is the relationship between masters and slaves. The order in this relationship is clear, the slave is subject to the master. The same principles apply that we see in the marriage relationship, but Paul makes the underlying principle even clearer. Ultimately, it is our Lord and King that we are serving in all we do. When we apply this to the employee and boss relationship we can again look to the example of Jesus and His relationship with God. Jesus constantly sought to do His Father’s will. The Father loved His Son and was always with Him until that time when their love for us required that they be separated for a brief time. As employees we should constantly be seeking the best way to contribute to the success of our boss. As bosses we should constantly be seeking for ways to support and encourage our employees to make it as easy as possible for them to succeed.
Relationships are complicated and we make them even more complex when we approach them from a selfish perspective. I’m very glad I can look to Jesus and see another way.
For my grandchildren:
Listen and obey. This is the best way to show love to your parents.