Colossians 3: A Family at Peace

Colossians HeaderIntro

Hot Air Balloon

The other morning I was out for a walk the other morning at Austin Park. I climbed one of the hills, and was sitting on the bench, looking out over the valley below. It was striking. It was beautiful. It was then I noticed the loud sound of a Hot Air Balloon landing. They are trying to slowly drop, and so, they are sporadically turning on and off their burner.

The balloon slowly drifts closer and closer to earth. Where it finally comes to rest on the ground. As beautiful as the hill that I was standing on was, I am confident the view the riders of the balloon had were much more beautiful. I’m sure they made a memory that will last them a very long time.

However, they eventually needed to back down to earth, right? I mean, it’s impossible to live forever in the mountain top. It’s impossible to live forever looking at the world as a small map far below our feet.

And this is a very similar principle that we see here, as well. It’s beautiful to look at the “Future” or the “what will someday happen.” It gives us hope. It gives us confidence that we aren’t living our lives for nothing.

But the everyday grind will eventually remind us where we live.

With feet planted firmly on earth.

Paul recognizes this, and he, like the hot air balloon is gradually bringing us back to earth. Each chapter he brings us closer and closer to our daily lives.

Let’s read this week’s passage together. We’re going to be reading Colossians 3:18-21

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.

Problem

Family is our reality

 As we continue our descent from general Christ-likeness, to character, to a community of Kingdom Characters…we move to the intimate place of our lives.

Family.

More than any other influence in the world, Family is the cornerstone, the backbone of who we are as people. The positives, the negatives, the involvement, the absence, the hurts, the encouragements each moment by this special group of people will shape us into who we are and where we will go.

As adults, our relationships are falling apart:

In America, there is one divorce every 13 seconds. That’s 6,646 divorces per day, and 46,523 divorce per week.

 The average length of a marriage that ends in divorce is eight years.

 Forty-six point nine percent of non-custodial mothers totally default on support, while only 26.9 percent of non-custodial fathers totally default on support.

There are 10 million single mothers living with children younger than 18 in 2011. That figure is up from 3.4 million in 1970.

Our relationship with our kids is falling apart:

  • Young people who were victims of child abuse and neglect are 25% more likely to experience teen pregnancies, delinquencies, and to suffer mental health problems. They are more likely to perform lower in school, to engage in high-risk sexual behavior, and to use alcohol and illicit drugs.
  •  According to a National Institute of Justice study, abused and neglected children were 11 times more likely to engage in criminal behavior as teens, are 2.7 times more likely to be arrested for violent and criminal behavior as an adult, and are 3.1 times more likely to be arrested for one of many forms of violent crime.

 Pain starts at home

There is so much pain, so much suffering, so much heartache that surrounds us each and every day. We watch as people break one another, and we watch as they leave one another. We are living in a world that is in a cyclical pattern of abuse, abandonment and isolation.

It’s so easy to talk about the pain we witness abroad…but the truth is that so much of the pain we witness around us finds its roots all the way back to the days when they were still a child.

The writer, Mitch Albom said about family:

“All parents damage their children. It cannot be helped. Youth, like pristine glass, absorbs the prints of its handlers. Some parents smudge, others crack, a few shatter childhoods completely into jagged little pieces, beyond repair.”

We all carry the baggage of our childhood. Good parents, bad parents, nuclear home, broken home, born to poverty, board with a silver spoon; no one is free from the hurt that comes from our upbringing.

Some of us have experienced hurt that we could never explain, and can hardly think about, much less process through.

Focus on our families

As Paul begins to talk through what it means to be a Christ follower…as he works through the Peace that Christ offers. As we begin to talk about how to change our world, Paul is reminding us to start with our own home.

We shouldn’t try to influence others if we aren’t first making it a priority to influence those around us.

We cannot love the world if we aren’t willing to first love one another.

They see it all

The truth is that it’s hard to love our family. They see every single bad action, attitude, and character trait that we possess. And we see theirs as well. And while we choose our friends we don’t choose our family.

It’s carrying all those bags that we all inherited from our parents and grandparents that we now try to deal with the conflict that arises from interpersonal conflict, life-planning, work-stress.

And we try to do it in a way that will allow our children to grow up as normal, well-adjusted adults, or allow for the healthy development of our relationship with other siblings, aunts, uncles…etc.

Along with our attempts to try to maintain a healthy marriage, or our desperate attempts to fix a broken one.

So often it feels as though all of this equals an impossible task. Doesn’t it?

Tension

 A Foundation

What Paul is offering to the church is Colossea is a starting point. We’ve just spent 3 weeks talking about what a follower of Christ looks like.

No longer are we starting with anger, grudge holding, vengeance, malice, slander or verbal assault.

We know that a Christ follower will be peaceful, patient, forgiving, compassion, humility, and all those will be bound together by a general desire to love the other.

A professor I had defined love as a preference for another over yourself.  You prefer their happiness over yours. You care about them more than you care about yourself.

This is our new starting point. This is the lens in which we process what we have just read. And how we have the next, very loaded, conversation.

Submit

Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.

This is a sticky topic in today’s world. It’s not popular to talk about women being submissive to men, and it’s not popular to talk about gender roles in families.

As politically charged as this topic can so often be, I want to encourage you to stick with me as we explore what it means to be in a marriage together. You might be pleasantly surprised.

What Paul means by submit:

In our society the word “Submit” is a dirty word. When one says it, they get images of a man dominating a woman…removing all of her rights, and forcing her to stand barefoot in the kitchen. For a woman to be submissive to a man means the man is in control, has all the power, and reigns over the female.

As a male, I can see how that’s not a very attractive idea for a woman!

Let’s clear up a few misconceptions:

When Paul talks about Submission, he’s speaking more of the act of humility, and loyalty. When he speaks to a woman submitting herself, he’s talking about a woman, free to choose, free to decide for herself, offering herself as a gift to her husband. She is acting in trust, acting in deference to her husband.

Radically different from the time

This is a giant step for society when Paul is writing this. Rights of women were not nearly as open as they are today. Women had fewer privileges, fewer rights. The world in which they lived was ruled by men, and women were guests at the party.

With that understanding…

What Paul says next is radical.

He tells the women, yes, you need to live in humility and loyalty to your husband. You need to put him over yourself. Prefer his needs to yours.

But he doesn’t stop there. This isn’t a chauvinistic discourse…

Paul immediately follows that command up by saying: Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.

To gain a bit of context, let’s also read from Ephesians 5.

22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

Paul goes deeper by saying….

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing[a] her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”[b] 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

As Christ loved the church

Paul’s example for how husbands should lead comes from Jesus himself. He tells husbands, “when learning how to lead, look at Christ.”

And that begs the question: How did Jesus lead his church? By laying down his life.

Jesus didn’t come to rule with an iron fist. He didn’t come to dominate the weaker masses. He loved the un-lovable, he healed the untouchable, and he died an indescribable death for those who were undeserving. (NOT that women are described by any of the previous adjectives)

Jesus came to earth and took on the form of a servant. He demonstrated the beauty of servant leadership. Washing his disciples feet, rebuking the existing power structures.

It’s true. Paul tells women to submit/respect/remain loyal to their husbands. But his command to husbands is to place yourself as the servant of the family. Give of yourself openly, frequently, and without any expectation for return. This isn’t a way to manipulate an outcome. Rather, it’s the foundation for a healthy marriage.

 Children

Paul’s teaching doesn’t stop with husbands and wives. But it continues with Children. After all, that’s how life actually happens, right? What goes on between husbands and wives spills over to the kids involved. And so Paul offers a few thoughts on what a Christ-follower would look like as a parent.

Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.

Children obey

The first command Paul gives is for children to listen to their parents. This actually offers an interesting insight. Think about it. This is a letter written to a church, most likely read in the presence of the Church…quite possibly in a worship gathering. So Paul is writing to both parents and children alike. They are both listening, they are both hearing.

Most importantly, they are addressed as responsible “hearers.” Children are learning about the Christian walk and Christian faith by witnessing their parent’s example.

This isn’t given as a free option, a decision that a child can pick and choose. What Paul is teaching is that a child’s obedience and submission to their parents is taken as obedience and submission to God.

It’s that important.

But the weight of that responsibility doesn’t fall squarely on the child.

Fathers (and mothers)

This verse can be read as both a command to fathers and to mothers. Both have roles vitally important to the well-being of your child. That said, because today is fathers day, I’m going to speak to all you Fathers out there.

Do not embitter

We have hopes and we have dreams for our children, don’t we? Maybe we want them to have a life we never had, filled with comforts we never experienced. Maybe we want them to have that education that we never received or that steady, well-paying job we never worked.

99.9% of Fathers out there desperately love, care and want the best for their children. But sometimes we can be a bit overbearing, can’t we?

We can have so many hopes and so many dreams that we begin to push our child to be better, to do better than they are doing.

Maybe our kid isn’t the brightest bulb in the box and you’re just hoping they stay out of Jail.

Or maybe your 4.0 child just brought home a “C.”

Maybe you desperately want them to live their lives the way you feel they should live them.

Sure, children are commanded to obey their parents. But fathers, you’re commanded to offer love and support to your child. Do not make your love seem unachievable. Do not make your acceptance feel conditional.

As your child’s obedience to you is accepted as obedience to God, your relationship with  your child will be the blueprint-forever- for how your child experiences God.

And so if you push your child to achieve more before they find  your acceptance, or if you push them away because of your expectations, you are going to be held responsible for that. You hold the high responsibility as God’s bodily representative to your child.

Represent him well.

Resolution

 It all begins at home

We so often talk about changing the world around us, and there is nothing wrong with that. Jesus commanded us to go and change the world! That was his calling to us, and that is something that we, as a church must wrestle with and accomplish.

But we are also reminded that if we change the world and yet lose our families, then we aren’t really successful.

Mother Teresa said it really well when she said, “What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.”

So how can you love your family this week?

What can you do, out of the norm, this week to help begin to foster a better relationship with your wife, or kids? Expanding on that, what can you do to build a better relationship with your siblings, or your parents?

We all have cracks in the relationships we have with our family. Life will do that. But we are commanded to serve, love and care.

It’s not an option.

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