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Christ in the Family Life

18 Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives and don’t be bitter toward them. 20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they won’t become discouraged. (Colossians 3:18-21)


As a quick reminder, Colossians 3 has an overall theme of practical application, as believers are transformed by Christ. We have seen previously that Paul called believers to unity and care for one another through love. Paul then focuses on three specific relationships of a “household” from verses 18 to 25: first, wives and husbands; second, children and parents; third, slaves and masters, in which we will look at the first two today.


In verse 18, wives are to “submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.” To submit is a calling to recognize God’s design and authority of the husband. Now, this does not diminish the equality of the wife. Jesus modeled this same submission, submitting to God’s will and plan of salvation even though He is of equal authority to the Father. As Max Anders states, “To function properly, any institution must have clear lines of authority and submission. The family is no different…Submission is God’s desire and design for Christian wives, so it is to be obeyed by those who belong to the Lord.”


Then, in verse 19, Paul tells the husbands to “love your wives and don’t be bitter toward them.” The word for “love” here in the Greek is “agape,” meaning ultimate sacrificial love, the same description of Christ’s love when He died on the cross. Therefore, husbands are to model Christ in the way they love, meeting the needs of others regardless of “the cost to self.” We see this similarly stated by Paul in another letter, Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” Husbands are to not “be bitter,” or other translations “harsh,” abusing his authority over her.


In verse 20, children are to “obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.” This command can be seen in the Ten Commandments, in Exodus 20:12, ““Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” Again, Christ models how children should be obedient, as He obeyed as the Son to the Father, doing His will.


Finally, in verse 21, as we saw the challenge for husbands to not be harsh to their wives, fathers are to “not exasperate your children, so that they won’t become discouraged.” They are not to provoke or irritate, overcorrect or harass their children. John Newton once said about his father, “I know that my father loved me—but he did not seem to wish me to see it.” Anders sums it up well, “Christian fathers should be sure their children are as sure of their love as they are of their authority.”


Blessings,

Isaac De Guzman

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