Everyday Relationships with Christ as Lord
August 20, 2017 Speaker: Mitchel Kirchmeyer Series: Colossians: "Look Nowhere Else! Christ Is Everything"
Scripture: Colossians 3:18–4:1
How does Jesus change our everyday relationships? How does Jesus change our everyday relationships? We reflect his character in our families and we work for him in our workplaces.
People are generally pretty good at taking advice..when they ask for it. If you hire a personal trainer, you expect them to give you advice about what exercises to do and what to eat. If you ask the waitress what is good on the menu, you expect to get some options. If you go to the shoe store and tell them you want a certain kind of shoe for a certain kind of activity, you are happy to get their advice.
But there are times when we don’t want people’s advice and are actually offended when they give it. When you are at the shoe store, you might welcome the advice of the shoe salesman. He knows what he is doing there and you need his help. But then imagine if he followed you home and started giving you advice on how to decorate and how to cook and how to parent your kids and how to mow your lawn. You are probably going to get upset. You might say to him, “Listen, you know shoes and I wanted your help there. But this is my house. My house, my rules.” This is your domain and you chose how things are done.
You would probably get equally upset if the waitress who helped you pick the best food on the menu followed you to work and started watching how you do things. She starts telling you how you could do your job better and how you should treat co workers. You would get irritated! We gave those people permission to give us advice in their environments, but they don’t have permission to give us advice everywhere!
Today we are continuing our series in the apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Colossae. Paul was an early follower of Jesus and he is writing a letter to other followers of Jesus in Colossae because he has heard they are feeling pressure to trust in something besides Jesus. There are a group of people in their city who are telling them they need more than Jesus to experience spiritual fullness and a new life. To that, Paul says, “Look Nowhere Else! Christ Is Everything.”
Paul has shown them how Jesus Christ really is everything. And when they received him as their King, their whole lives were changed for the better. They were reconciled to God and guaranteed a future in his presence! Their destiny and identity is hidden with Christ, safe and secure. Now he is spelling out what it means to live in light of that reality.
Last time, we heard about how to live our new lives in Christ. We need to focus on him, put off our old selves, and put on our new selves. He is our head coach and when we start playing for his team, we put on his jersey - we act in line with who he is. In our passage this morning, Colossians 3:18 through 4:1, Paul is going to show how we wear that jersey in our families and workplaces.
But that might make us uncomfortable. It’s sort of like the shoe salesman following us home and giving us advice on how to run our family or like the waitress following us to work and telling us how to be better employees. We wanted their advice at the shoe store and the restaurant, but we don’t want it anywhere else. We can say the same thing to Jesus. “Jesus, you can tell me how to run my life when I’m doing church things, but don’t tell me how to run my household or do my job. My house, my rules. I’ll respect your rules when I’m in your house, but that’s it. I wear your jersey during church stuff but I hang it up when I leave.” But if Jesus is our King, he is King for all of life! There are no limits. We surrender all of life to him. When we join Jesus’ team, we don’t hang our jersey up at the door of our house or workplace. We are always wearing it.
The big question this passage answers is: How does Jesus change our everyday relationships? How does Jesus change our everyday relationships?
Paul answers this question with six commands and we are going to break them down into two sets. One deals with the home and the other deals with the workplace. As we go through these, they won’t all apply to you. But listening and knowing what the bible says is increasing your wisdom and ability to minister to others.
Let’s take a look at the first part in verses 18 through 21. Here, Jesus follows us home and starts telling us how we ought to act. Let’s reread those verses.
Jesus follows us home (3:18-21)
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. (Colossians 3:18-21)
Lists like these were very common in the ancient world. These “household codes” were instructions for how households should be run. Households then were bigger than we have today. They would include parents, kids, possibly adult kids and spouse, and slaves. Lists outside the bible focused mainly on instructions for how the husband should rule their household. Women, children, and slaves were usually just told to obey. Paul here uses the “household code” format but writes it with a focus on Christ.
Paul’s first command is to wives. His exhortation is that they submit to their husbands. Some of us may bristle at that command. It may sound overly hierarchical. In fact, some people read this and think we know better today that households don’t have to be run like this. Perhaps it sounds oppressive to us.
But we need to be careful with our assumptions - we shouldn’t assume that our culture’s views on things is better than the bible’s. Paul doesn’t just take his culture’s beliefs and apply them. He transforms them. Notice he says that a wife submitting to her husband is fitting in the Lord. In other words, this is the right way to live with Christ as King in his kingdom.
The bible teaches that men and women were created equal and with different but complementary roles. God designed us to carry out different responsibilities in our families and those roles are meant to complement one another. Even more, when we follow God’s design for us, it is what’s best for us. He made us and knows under what conditions we will flourish. God’s design for our families is that men lead their families as the head of the household and wives submit to that leadership.
Now, let me make a distinction. Submission is different than obedience. Later, Paul tells children and slaves to obey. He assumes they are already in a submitted status so they should obey. But the wife is to voluntarily put herself under her husband and follow his lead. I like to think of it as the gift of submission. It isn’t something that can’t be demanded of her, but is something that she gives to her husband as a gift - she gives it voluntarily.
In the previous passage, Paul told us we are to put on humility and meekness as part of our new selves in Christ. When a wife submits to her husband, she is putting on the humility and meekness of Jesus. Jesus humbly submitted to his heavenly Father. Though he was fully God, he put himself under the leadership of God the Father.
Next, look at the command Paul gives to husbands: 19 Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. This is unheard of in the ancient world. The household codes told the husband how to rule their household well and didn’t say anything about love. Here, Paul says nothing about the husband ruling. He tells the husband to love. In fact, he isn’t supposed to rule with an iron fist in a harsh and domineering way. Love is to define his attitude and actions.
What sort of love? In the previous passage, Paul told us we are to put on love as part of our new selves in Christ. When a husband loves his wife, he is putting on the love of Christ for her. Jesus’ love is a sacrificial love. He laid down his life for us, dying for us. That same love is what a husband is to show to his wife.
What would it be like for a wife to put herself under the care and leadership of someone who is laying down his life for her? Who is sacrificially loving her and putting her interests above his? He is always thinking about what’s best for his wife. Instead of being oppressive, that would actually be to the wife’s advantage.
Leadership in the home doesn’t just mean decision making. The husband doesn’t just make all the decisions and the wife needs to follow along. Leadership is more about initiating. One pastor put it like this: who says “let’s” more in the relationship. “Let’s talk about our marriage. Let’s talk about our finances. Let’s read the bible together. Let’s pray together. Let’s teach our kids about Jesus.” That’s what leadership looks like. Sometimes, decisions will need to be made and a husband and wife will talk about it. Husbands should seek the input of their wives. And sometimes if they aren’t reaching an agreement, submission will look like the wife saying: I trust you to make the best decision about this.
Sadly, some wives find themselves in either physically or emotionally abusive situations and in those cases, the wife needs to reach out for help. You do not submit under those circumstances. Submission is a voluntary gift given to someone who has your best interests in mind. An abusive situation is the opposite of that.
The big question we are answering is: how does Jesus change our everyday relationships? The first command is: Wives, humbly submit like Jesus. Wives, humbly submit like Jesus. The second command is: Husbands, sacrificially love like Jesus. Husbands, sacrificially love like Jesus. Both the husband and wife put on the attitude and actions of Jesus, their King.
Jesus has followed us home and has spoken to the husband and wife about how they ought to act. Now he is going to speak to the children and their fathers.
Children are to obey their parents in everything. They are not to submit, because they are already submitted by virtue of being children. So they are to obey in everything - they are not to have a rebellious attitude. Why? Because this pleases the Lord. This is similar to what Paul said to wives: it is fitting in the Lord. In Jesus’ kingdom, this is the right and good thing to do. Jesus willingly obeyed his heavenly Father. His attitude was: not my will, but yours. Children can show that same attitude like Jesus.
Here, Paul is speaking to all children who are still in the household of their parents, even adult children. One of big commandments in the bible is to honor our parents. In one stage of life that looks like obedience, but in other stages of life it looks like treating our parents with respect and dignity including how we talk about them. It looks like caring for them when they get older and not abandoning them.
On the other side, Paul says to fathers in verse 21: Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. What Paul is prohibiting here is the picture of a father who takes a domineering approach with his children. He is always telling them what they are doing wrong. He doesn’t take into account what they have done right or their feelings and desires. He treats them with scorn and little respect. The result is that they feel provoked: their father is someone they need to overcome. They become discouraged, losing the enthusiasm and motivation to please their parents. The result is a child who rebels against their parents because there is no pleasing them anyway. This is the opposite of what other household codes in the ancient world said. They focused on how the father should rule over his household.
In the previous passage, Paul told us to put on compassionate hearts, kindness, and patience. When a father parents with concern for his child and for their good with patience, he is putting on the character of Jesus.
The big question we are answering is: how does Jesus change our everyday relationships? The third command is: Children, willingly obey like Jesus. Children, willingly obey like Jesus. The fourth command is: Fathers, tenderly guide like Jesus. Fathers, tenderly guide like Jesus.
When we put on our new self in Christ, we are putting on his character both in our attitude and in our actions. And that transforms how we live in our households.
We don’t like it very much when people start meddling with our lives in areas we didn’t give them permission to. We wouldn’t like the shoe store employee telling us how to run our family. But imagine you are an amateur gardener and you need some help. You expect the shoe store employee to tell you about shoes, but then you actually discover they are really a good gardener and are willing to come help you out. They know so much that you don’t know: how much light your plants should get, how much water, what temperature, what type of soil. We would welcome them telling us what to do in our garden because they are experts in it and we are not. If the shoe salesman started telling us how to garden, we would think they’ve stepped out of their expertise and would want them to stop. But if they are also a master gardener, we want their advice. The same is true with our family life. We are all amateurs. God is the expert. He designed us. He knows how we work. He knows how we will grow best. He knows how to make us flourish. In the garden of our families, he knows what needs to happen in order for our families to flourish. God’s way of doing things is always for our good.
Know that God designed our families to reflect what he is like to one another. Just as our heavenly Father loves us, does what is best for us, and patiently and gently guides us, so husbands and fathers are to show these qualities to their wives and children. Just as Jesus, the Son of God, humbly and willingly submitted to the Father, so wives and children are to do the same with their husbands and fathers.
But we don’t always reflect God’s character to one another. Husbands can be harsh and domineering. Or they can be passive and neglectful. Wives can desire control and can usurp their husband’s leadership. Children can think everything should be their way. Fathers can put a big weight on their children’s backs to the point that they just want to be free of it. Or they can be absent, so consumed with work or hobbies that their kids don’t think they want anything to do with them. Here’s why we do that: it’s because we believe that’s what God is like. How you treat others is a reflection of how you believe God treats you. You may not realize it, but it’s true. One of the spiritual principles in the bible is that we become what we worship. If we believe God is harsh, we will be harsh. If we believe God is absent and not involved in our lives, we will be absent and uninvolved. If we believe God tells us to try harder when we don’t obey, then we will do the same. What you believe about God will directly affect how you fulfill your role as a wife, husband, or parent.
When you are treating someone in a way that you shouldn’t, stop and ask yourself: Is this how I think God treats me? Perhaps pick one of these relationships we’ve talked about today that you think needs work in your life. Write down your attitude and actions in it and ask God: is this what I think you’re like? Ask him to show you what he is really like.
Everyone we meet has had their view of God shaped in some way by how their parents treated them, especially their father. Our origins have programmed us to think about God in a certain way. How our earthly father related to us is how we think our heavenly Father relates to us. People lives with a view of God shaped by the imperfections and sins of their earthly parents. Wouldn’t it be good news for people to hear that unlike their earthly father, their heavenly Father is perfect? Where your dad fell short, God is perfect. The image of God you have is not what God is really like. Your dad wasn’t there for you, but God is faithful. Your parents treated you harshly, but God is patient and gentle. Your mom and dad shamed you when you misbehaved, but God forgives and lifts you up.
The big question we are answering is: how does Jesus change our everyday relationships? When Jesus follows us home, he gives instructions to each family member: Wives, humbly submit like Jesus. Husbands, sacrificially love like Jesus. Children, willingly obey like Jesus. Fathers, tenderly guide like Jesus. Next, Jesus follows us to our job. When we join his team and he is our head coach, we don’t hang up our jersey at the door of our workplace. Let’s reread those verses starting in verse 22 of chapter 3.
Jesus follows us to work (3:22-4:1)
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. 25 For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.
4 Masters, treat your bondservants justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven. (Colossians 3:22-4:1)
In the ancient world, bondservants or slaves were a part of the household and their “master” was the head of the household. Now, when we think of slavery, we think of one race of people being kidnapped from their homeland and brought across the ocean to do hard physical labor under terrible conditions. That was our 19th century slavery. In 1st century slavery, slaves were considered another person’s property just like in 19th century slavery. But in the 1st century people often became slaves because they fell on hard times. Some were forced to become slaves because of war, but many voluntarily became slaves because the alternative was poverty and starvation. Perhaps their business failed so now they have no means of income. There were no bankruptcy laws or welfare system. The choice was starve or join someone else’s household as a slave.
Still, we may wonder: why didn’t Paul or other New Testament writers tell slave owners to free their slaves? First, freedom wasn’t always a good thing. Imagine you were a slave because you lost all your money and your business failed. If your master suddenly freed you, you would be set free to a life of poverty and starvation. Second, Paul’s main concern is with how the people of God live in right fellowship with one another. Scholars estimate that perhaps one third of the population of the city of Colossae was slaves. As the gospel message spread to this city, slaves were trusting in Jesus and so were their masters. Paul’s concern is: how do masters and slaves in their households treat one another as fellow members of the body of Christ?
So what does Paul tell each of these groups? To slaves, he tells them to obey. Like children with their parents, slaves are already in a submitted status and thus they are to obey in everything. But they are to do it with integrity. It should be “what you see is what you get.” They aren’t just doing eye-service - working hard when their masters see it. And they aren’t supposed to just do it as people-pleasing in a superficial manner. They are to work with sincerity that comes from a fear of the Lord. They are supposed to recognize that the one whom they serve is the Lord Christ. He is their true Master and so their work for other people should be done with good character. Jesus is the one from whom they will receive an inheritance so they should work for him with integrity.
In verse 25 he says: For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality. They need to realize that they will be held accountable for how they worked for their masters. Did they show integrity? Or were they hypocrites, acting and saying one thing to their faces but doing another behind their back? This is not pleasing to their King.
Next, Paul addresses masters. They are to treat their bondservants justly and fairly, knowing that they also have a Master in heaven. Masters are not addressed as rulers but as ones who are under someone else’s rule: Jesus’. Because of that, they must give themselves to doing what is right, knowing that they also have a Master in heaven. The same one who will judge slaves will judge them. Paul wants them to think about how their Master has treated them and do likewise.
For us today, we don’t have slaves and masters. But we have employees and employers. The slave-master relationship took place in the context of the household, but we can apply it to our workplaces today.
The big question this passage answers is: how does Jesus change our everyday relationships? First: Workers, work with integrity for Jesus. Workers, work with integrity for Jesus. Second: Bosses, manage with fairness for Jesus. Bosses, manage with fairness for Jesus.
When we surrender our lives to Jesus, everything is done with him in mind. He is our King and so we work for him and we manage for him.
Know that Jesus is your Master and you are always working for him, whether you are an employee or an employer. We can easily make work a place in our lives where Jesus really doesn’t have any say. We were good with him giving us direction about spiritual things, but work is work. But when we come to Christ, we surrender all of life to him. Our home life and our work life. He has a say in all of it.
Believe that he will reward you for your character. Whether you are a boss or an employee, Jesus cares about how you do your work. Do you do it with integrity? Do you do it with fairness? Do you work heartily, putting full effort in? We aren’t supposed to just think about what our wage is here or our profit. We are supposed to think about how Jesus will repay us - about how we will receive an inheritance from him as our reward for trusting in him and living for him.
There are stages in our lives where it doesn’t seem like we are an employee or an employer. Maybe we enter a stage where we are a stay-at-home mom or we are retired. Then what? In whatever stage of life, our work for Jesus never stops. We don’t take a break from working and managing for him. We always need to consider what our heavenly Master wants us to be doing. Are we living with integrity? Are we giving our lives to him? Are we working heartily for his kingdom purposes? Are we putting on a show for people so we seem better than we are?
And whether you are officially a boss or not, we all are mini-bosses to some degree. When you hire a plumber or call the internet company or go to a restaurant or to the grocery store, how do you treat those people? You are paying them for a service. Do you treat them justly and fairly? Or are you domineering and demanding? We can reflect Jesus in those interactions.
Resolve to wear the character of Jesus to work as your uniform. Are there ways you are short changing your employer? Do you speak badly about them? Are there relationships at work that need to be mended? Do you admit when you are wrong and ask for forgiveness? We don’t take off our team Jesus jersey when we walk into work. We keep it on, which means we continue to have compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.
Many people have difficult circumstances at work. It’s difficult to get through the day and they don’t like what they are doing. Wouldn’t it be good news to hear that even if their job is crummy, they can do it with integrity and look forward to hearing from Jesus: well done, good and faithful servant? When it feels like our work is pointless, we can know that it has a purpose: we are doing it with Jesus’ character and that pleases him and brings glory to his name.
The big question this passage answers is: how does Jesus change our everyday relationships? Paul gives us six commands. Wives, humbly submit like Jesus. Husbands, sacrificially love like Jesus. Children, willfully obey like Jesus. Fathers, tenderly guide like Jesus. Workers, work with sincerity for Jesus. Bosses, manage with fairness for Jesus.
If this all sounds like a lot, that’s because it is! If you are thinking, how in the world can I do all of this by myself. The answer is: you can’t. In the previous passage, Paul started broad with the church community. That community is made up of all these people who are teaching and admonishing and speaking the gospel to one another. You can’t obey all this on your own, which is why we don’t think church is just worship gatherings on Sunday. If you expect to leave here each week and implement everything from every passage on your own, you are kidding yourself. Surrendering all of life to Jesus requires that we do more than gather on a Sunday. Which is why we also go on God’s mission with a Gospel Community and grow in our knowledge and love of God in a Gospel Fluency Group. We don’t think we can follow Jesus with only this hour and 15 minutes together. We need more than this. We need to be in each other’s lives throughout the week, walking through these issues together. So if you want to increasingly live all of life for Jesus, including in your family and work life, I encourage you to get more deeply involved with your brothers and sisters and Christ.