“Wives, submit 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 provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. 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” (Colossians 3:18-22).
Here is passage that lots of men like to quote to their wives, and parents throw at their children, and employers throw at their employees. But this is not how this passage should be used.
Have you ever wondered why Paul wrote these things? This is one of those passages where we don’t usually ask why Paul wrote it. We just throw it around to get others to do what we want. But let me suggest that Paul’s reason for writing this is rather simple. These are the areas of relationship where we struggle the most.
Wives have trouble submitting to their husbands. Husbands have great trouble expressing love to their wives in a way wives need or want. Children disobey, often. Fathers can be harsh with their kids. Employees often fool around on the job or not work diligently. These are the greatest struggles we have in these relationships. If there were greater struggles, Paul would have mentioned them. But he didn’t. He zoned in on the toughest problems we have and encouraged us to repent and do the things that bring the greatest pleasure to the Lord, “For this pleases the Lord.”
Wives don’t mind submitting to a husband that is expressive in his love for his wife. Husbands find it easier to love their wives who submit to them in some fashion. These are cyclical things. Kids will alway rebel a little, but when their parents treat them fairly and compassionately, kids can come around. And an employer who treats his employees rightly may see a happy workforce.
Now, some of this seems simplistic. The sin nature always gets in the way. But, that is why Paul mentioned these things. Treating our relationships rightly can lead to peace. Paul is not saying these things will happen every time. But he is giving us a model for our behavior in our most important relationships.
“[Give] thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:20-21).
Do you do these things? It’s rather simple, but it’s also profound. Examine your relationships. How can you make these simple yet powerful commands a part of all your relationships?