11-17-2021 Colossians 3:17-4:1
Here we begin by receiving a stark reminder, “whatever you do in word or deed, do in the name of the Lord Jesus.” Now, I want to truly consider for a moment what exactly St Paul is implying here. Notice, there is no mention of crowds, no media reporting anything, no cameras getting video or photos here. It’s this knowledge that anything that you do, you must do in the name of Christ. It’s not only the things that you do when it’s convenient, or when it will win you “points.” No, it’s “whatever you do,” any actions that you partake of, even when you are the only one visibly present, it’s literally anything that you do. All of the “hidden things” that you think you can get away with. “In word or in deed.” Any thing that you do, anything that you say, even those things which you think, do all things in the name of the Lord.
Now, I’d like to posit a point to you. As Christians, we receive a great blessing. A great deal of hope in a fallen world. As such, we have all been joined into the family with the Lord Jesus Christ through His Bride the Church. But, as with any family, we have responsibilities to that family. Consider this fact, when we proclaim the title “Christian,” then all of our words, all of our actions, become reflective of the Church, the body of Christ. And not only within the Church itself, but even moreso to the outside world. When you are working, or hanging out with friends, or perusing through social media, any thing that you say or do reflects on the Church, and therefore on Christ Himself. I’ve always said, as a previously devout anti-theist, I was never driven away from the Church by God, I was driven away by the people in the Church. I never felt welcomed by the members of the Church, I always felt judged by them, and eventually I grew to despise the Church in America. I remember actually making the statement one time, “If they don’t even believe their own book, why should I?” And, I remember using this exact passage to disprove the Bible, to show the hypocrisy of “love one another” in a book that encouraged sexism and slavery.
And yet, now as someone who actually studies the Scriptures seeking understanding of our God, instead of using three minute searches to pick and choose which verses I could use to argue my point, I’ve become much more aware of what the Bible actually is. It’s not like song-lyrics where you can point to one line and say, “wow, I really like that.” And that has led me to a much better understanding of the Scriptures as a whole, and this verse in particular. This verse is, in a way, describing the life in the home, and in the family. And yet, what it refers to is actually that our life in the home is our life in the Lord. Our homes become as like a little Church, our families become our Church body. And, because of this fact, there must be order. Every family should live the life of the Church in their homes. All of the duties of the house, just like in the Church, are reciprocal. Everyone has the same responsibility to the same Master. Wives submit to your husbands, in the same manner that the altar servers would serve the priest. That is to say that they are there to aid in the service, although it is no less of a service to the true Master than the priest himself is performing. Without the altar servers, the priest would never be able to perform all of the duties, and without the priest, the altar servers would be useless. Husbands love your wives, as Christ loves us. What does this mean? How did Christ love us? He never took advantage of us, He never slandered us, He never talked about us behind our backs. He was willing to die for our sakes. Children, obey your parents. This is a reference to the parish, without whom neither the priest nor the altar servers would be needed. And then, throughout this unification, we all serve the One God, we all become the bondservants because all service is to God, not to men. We all have the same Master, therefore to claim to be a master over a person is to place ourselves in God’s position. In the Church family, there is no one person who is more important to God than another, all are welcomed to become children of God, all are welcomed into the family.
It’s all intended to present this idea that, in the home, just as in the Church, there must be this structure, this sense of organization. Again, the family, like the Church, must be a body. There must be a head, a body, arms and legs, hands and feet, and if any of those is not working properly, then the whole of the creation suffers. No one part on your body is any more or less important, each part has it’s own role and each is imperative for the others to function properly. Consider a star footballer with a broken leg, or a body-builder with a dislocated shoulder, or a mathematician with brain damage. Each of these has the knowledge or the skill to perform these tasks, but because part of their body isn’t working according to it’s role, the entirety of the body is left crippled. And so it is in the family. If the father doesn’t love the wife unconditionally, then the submission of the wife to the husband becomes useless, and sometimes dangerous. If the wife doesn’t submit to the husband, then that love becomes for naught. If the children don’t obey the family, you end up with chaos with neither of the other commands being possible. It is only through the full union of each part, performing their roles effectively, that the family will work; that the body will function like it’s supposed to.
In no way does this passage imply that any one part of the body is more important than the other. Instead, it is intended to simply guide us to the roles that each part plays in the operation of the Body as a whole. All authority is humbling, it is all for the sake of loving service. The husband loves his wife so much that he will do anything for her, to serve her. The wife loves the husband so much that she will submit to him, to serve him. The children submit to the will of their parents because they love them, and understand that nothing will be commanded of them unless it is out of love. But, it’s very important to remember that this service in each part is not service to the husband, or the wife, or the children or parents, but rather it is submission to God. And this organization only works when each part of it is fully dedicated to the ways God has taught us. These family roles only work in the image of the family as a little Church. If any part of this body begins to seek after their own will instead, then the whole Church collapses, as you allow sin to enter in more and more.
Therefore, the fathers, the priests, the “masters” should never attempt to take advantage of this submission, they should never assume the role of God in this equation. They should love undyingly, they should teach God’s will according to God’s will, not some contrived interpretation of what God had commanded, never allowing the falleness of their being interfere. Their lives and attitudes should mirror that of Christ in the way that He always was and remains the Husband to the Church, the Master. And yes, during the time that St Paul wrote this, there was slavery. But, he notes that even the slave owners were to never take advantage of that fact, that they should give what is just and fair. And we have to strive to understand that from the perspective that he wrote it, not from our current standards. We understand slavery as a concept to be unjust and unfair, but when St Paul was writing this, it was commonplace for people to own slaves, historically speaking. And he commands even the owners of those to consider them as a part of the family.
The Church is the Bride of God, the Body of Christ. And we do submit to His will, out of His undying love for us. We are the children of God, and as we expect our own children to do, so to must we obey Him. We must stop looking for loopholes, stop searching for one verse out of context to prove Him wrong. We must stop blaming Him, stop behaving as children, and instead focus on growing into who He created us to be.
It is a hard time to be a Christian. It is. It is hard to stand strong in Christian values and morals. We constantly get attacked and sometimes tortured for clinging to the commands that Christ has passed down for us. Recently in our culture, Christianity began to be attacked by the world. And throughout those attacks, it has lost a lot of it’s worldly influence. Holding Christian values is nerely illegal at this point. But, thousands of years of history has proven this to always be the case, and the Church has never ceased to exist. We as children must strive to obey our Father in spite of all of this. And it means that we will be hated and resisted, ridiculed and reviled for so doing. But we must stand strong in the faith. And, in that obedience, in the submission to our Father, we will find the humility that we so need. We will truly be children of God, the true family of God with all of our brothers and sisters, and ultimately, through the guidance and grace of our Father, we will become the inheritors of the Kingdom.
Christ is in our midst.