Relationships that work

Blogging through Advent 15

Relationships that work

Colossians 3:18-4:1

Charter 3 of Colossians onwards is about helping other people. The putting off and putting on was a forward to the practical bit. This:

18 Wives, be in subjection to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
19 Husbands, love your wives, and don’t be bitter against them.
20 Children, obey your parents in all things, for this pleases the Lord.
21 Fathers, don’t provoke your children, so that they won’t be discouraged.
22 Servants, obey in all things those who are your masters according to the flesh, not just when they are looking, as men pleasers, but in singleness of heart, fearing God. 23 And whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord, and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. 25 But he who does wrong will receive again for the wrong that he has done, and there is no partiality.
Chapter 4
1 Masters, give to your servants that which is just and equal, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.

Serve one another in your family and at work

The controversial one first: Wives, be in subjection to your husbands.

In preparing this series of blogs, one of the commentaries I have been using has been by John Calvin, because it is out of copyright, free and available on the internet. (I’ve been balancing it with some more liberal readings.)

Here even Calvin admits the original Greek is obscure, it can be read as either:

“Be subject in the Lord, as it is fit.”

or

“Be subject, as it is fit in the Lord”

The first means that the wife hasn’t to be subject in everything, only those things where the Lord says so.

The second says that the wife has got to be subject to her husband in everything, because that is what the Lord commands.

Notice the difference? It will not surprise people who have heard of Calvin to hear that he plumps for the second one. However in the context of the whole letter I would find the former to better fit the context of serving each other.

It is not just those who in the context of the society to which Colossians is written who had positions under authority, wives, children and servants, who have to serve others, but something new: Husbands, parents and masters also have a duty to serve those under them.

In Christ there is no distinction.