Embodied – Colossians 3:18-19

The following post is the manuscript of a Sunday teaching I delivered on May 31, 2020.

You’ve seen on social media: Take a song title and add one word to change the meaning, and tag it with #AddAWordRuinASong. Could be on the show! – Jimmy Fallon

Take a movie title and add one word to change the meaning, and tag it with #AddAWordRuinAMovie.

Just as we can ruin a song or a movie by adding a word, sometimes these beautiful passages get ruined when we add in something that’s not in fact there. Whether that be a word, and insight, our cultural lens, our own experiences.

The progression so far in the letter: 1) Paul aims to get more specific with how the knowledge of Christ helps you re-orient your life around Christ. 2) How the pattern of Christ shows up in the church as we have looked at Colossians 3. 3) Paul then applies the patten of Christ to the 1st-century Roman family.

While today we look at this marriage relationship, here’s an important need to know if you aren’t married you play a vital role. You help those who are married function within God’s design displayed in Christ. If you aspire to get married, then this is the design that you are willingly entering into. In your aspiration, please hear that marriage isn’t your salvation…it won’t provide the satisfaction you seek. If this is something you’re struggling with then we have people at GenChurch who want to walk with you through that.

Paul applies his thesis: Live in the present as the type of human you will become. 

How is new humanity expressed in first century marriages?

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them.

This point of application from Paul sums up actions for husbands and wives that will point people to Jesus, rather than perpetuate the curse.

Fall: Woman: Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.”

Man: The work of your hands will be difficult. The ground will rule over you. There will be resistance when you assert yourself.

The curse pits man and woman at odds for power in the relationship. The following text provides guidance for how to reverse the curse. When you speak of marriage, and when you speak of your spouse, the words you use and the actions you do either points to Jesus or to the curse.

Submission keeps the goal in mind. The ancient Greek word translated submit is essentially a word borrowed from the military. It literally means “to be under in rank.” It speaks of the way that an army is organized.

The idea of submission doesn’t have anything to do with someone being smarter or better or more talented.  “Anyone who has served in the armed forces knows that ‘rank’ does, not have to with value or ability, but to execute the mission–multiply the way of God within the world.

We know that as a person, a private can be smarter, more talented, and be a better person than a general. But he is still under rank to the general. He isn’t submitted to the general so much as a person as he is to the general as a general. In the same way, the wife doesn’t submit to the husband because he deserves it. She submits because she is following Jesus.

“The form of the verb shows that the submission is to be voluntary. The wife’s submission is never to be forced on her by a demanding husband. 

Therefore, submission means you are part of a team. If the family is a team, the goal of the family is to be a picture of the family of God and expand that family through disciple making. The assumption is that the Christian husband has this in full view (hint: guys we will get to you soon).

Submission is limited to the marriage. Paul clarifies the scope of the submission. This defines the sphere of a wife’s submission – to her own husband

The Bible never commands nor recommends a general submission of women unto men. “The equality of all before the Lord, of which Paul wrote earlier in Colossians 3 communicates that men and women have equal standing and access before God.

In this case, to communicate the change of Christ in her life, the wife orders herself in this way toward her husband.

As is fitting in the Lord: This is a crucial phrase. It colors everything else we understand about this passage. There have been two main “wrong” interpretations of this phrase, each favoring a certain “position.”

The interpretation that “favors” the husband says that as is fitting in the Lord means that a wife should submit to her husband as if he were God himself. 

The idea is “you submit to God in absolutely everything without question, so you must submit to your husband in the same absolute way.” This interpretation thinks that as is fitting in the Lord defines the extent of submission. But this is wrong. Simply put, in no place does the Scripture say that a person should submit to another in that way. 

As is the case in every human relationship, the command to submit is not absolute. When the husband asks the wife to directly sin, she must not submit. When the husband is medically incapacitated, insane, or under the influence of mind-altering substances, the wife may not submit. When the husband is violent and physically threatening, the wife may not submit. When the husband breaks the marriage bond by adultery, the wife does not need to submit to her husband being in an adulterous relationship.

In no place does the Scripture teach an unqualified, without exception, submission – except to God and God alone. To violate this is to commit the sin of idolatry.

A person on the throne of another’s life will always perpetuate pain. Husbands you do not sit in the driver’s seat of your wife’s life. That seat is meant for Jesus. Wives your husband is not meant to sit in the driver’s seat of your life. That seat is meant for Jesus.

The interpretation that “favors” the wife says that as is fitting in the Lord means “I’ll submit to him as long as he does what the Lord wants.” 

And then it is the wife’s job to decide what the Lord wants. This interpretation thinks that as is fitting in the Lord defines the limit of submission. This is also wrong. 

It is true that there are limits to a wife’s submission, but when the wife approaches as is fitting in the Lord in this way, then it degenerates into a case of “I’ll submit to my husband when I agree with him. I’ll submit to him when he makes the right decisions and carries them out the right way. When he makes a wrong decision, he isn’t in the Lord, so I shouldn’t submit to him then. It isn’t fitting to do so.”

 Simply put, that is not submission at all. Except for those who are just plain cantankerous and argumentative, everyone submits to others when they are in agreement. It is only when there is a disagreement that submission is tested.

As is fitting in the Lord does not define the extent of a wife’s submission. It does not define the limit of a wife’s submission. It defines the motive of a wife’s submission. It means, “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands because it is a part of your followership of Jesus, because it is an expression of your submission to the Lord.”

Wives submit to their husbands, not because its the right thing to do, or because it boosts his ego, or because it gets you what you want. Wives follow Jesus first so that you point to a reversed curse.

Husbands, love your wives: Paul’s words to husbands safeguards his words to wives. Though wives are to submit to their husbands, it never excuses husbands acting as tyrants over their wives. 

Significantly, this puts an obligation upon the husbands. In the ancient world – under Jewish, Greek, and Roman customs, all power and privileges belonged to husbands in the household. There were no complimentary powers or privileges. Paul’s call for the husband to love his wife shifts the typical power dynamic at play.

Love in this way denotes caring love, a deliberate attitude of mind that concerns itself with the well-being of the one loved.” But it can be defined as love that loves without changing. It is a self-giving love that gives without demanding or expecting re-payment. It is love that loves even when it is rejected. 

Agape love gives and loves because it wants to; it does not demand or expect repayment from the love given. It gives because it loves, it does not love in order to receive.The word has little to do with emotion; it has much to do with self-denial for the sake of another.

With this type of love in view that Paul calls husbands to, husbands we must express love in two ways that will push back against our culture.

Therefore, love is not passive. Love is active. Husbands, when you are tired, maybe want to unwind and play video games,  and want to put your feet up, love is active.

We can read this passage and think that Paul means, “Husband do what your wife wants. Have her tell you what needs done around the house.” But that isn’t what Paul writes about. What he really means is, “Husband, continually practice self-denial for the sake of your wife by taking initiative.”

Love is not weakness. Love is strength.

 And do not be bitter toward them: The implication is perhaps the wife has given the husband some reason to be bitter. Paul says, “That doesn’t matter, husband.” The husband may feel perfectly justified in his harsh or unloving attitude and actions towards his wife, but he is not justified – no matter how the wife has been towards the husband.

Husbands, there is only one way you can get this strength: it is not from sheer willpower or suppressing your emotions, paying someone else to do it, it comes from your connection to Jesus.

In a passage like this, you are likely tossed into pride or despair, the yes I do this, or the more likely despair of I can never measure up. This is the whole point, Paul gets to this section after, and only after, the follower of Jesus understands actions don’t reverse the curse, they are the results of a reversed curse.

The only way you go from butting heads like rams to being connected is by both pursuing Jesus. 

Steps: 1) Admit when you’re wrong, 2) Forgive, 3) Make a plan, 4) Repeat

If you are struggling today, you should 1) Revisit your commitment to Jesus, 2) Tell someone else in the church. Do not suffer in silence. Your burden is not your alone to bear.

Generations Church is the bridge of Christ. Composed of men and women who are everyday people committed to expanding’s God’s family together because of Jesus for generations to come. Together, married or single, we can be a picture of a reversed curse.

Published by davi3sk

Follower of Christ, Husband, Father

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