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Rules for Christian Households October 21, 2012

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on Colossians 3:18-4:1.

Summary: Paul begins by stating how Christian wives should act towards their husbands – and how Christian husbands should act towards their wives.

Paul also exhorts Christian children to always obey their parents – and he exhorts Christian parents to avoid irritating their children, which would cause them to become spiritless.

In addition, Paul exhorts Christian slaves to always obey their masters – not to render mere eye-service. This stems from the fact that God is their Master, and He will give them their inheritance and reward for serving Him. Indeed, God is characterized by justice and equity; thus, if a slave offends his master – or vice versa – He will punish the guilty party.

Paul concludes by exhorting Christian masters to reciprocate by treating their slaves impartially, as God is their heavenly Master.

Thoughts: The analogous passage in Ephesians is Ephesians 5:22-6:9, which I’ve blogged about. Now this passage is relatively brief, yet it does delve into the nature of the master-slave relationship. Lightfoot offers some relevant insights in his commentary on verse 25:

The philosophers of Greece taught, and the laws of Rome assumed, that the slave was a chattel. But a chattel would have no rights. It would be absurd to talk of treating a chattel with justice. St. Paul places the relationship of the master and the slave in a wholly different light.

We see that this passage cannot be discounted in the debate over slavery in the Bible. According to Lightfoot, the “worldly sphere” in the apostolic era would treat slaves relatively harshly – compared with the “sphere of the Spirit.” While Paul does not advocate an outright abolition of slavery, he sets a fairly high bar for the Christian master: he must treat his slaves with fairness and equity. This injunction would have been a radical concept in the apostolic era. This makes me wonder if history can furnish any examples of Christian masters treating their slaves with fairness and equity; comments are welcome.

In verse 20, we see that Christian children are called to obey their parents “in everything.” Lightfoot offers a thought on this point:

The rule is stated absolutely because the exceptions are so few that they may be disregarded.

This reminds me of a book that I read several years ago. Clearly there are times when a Christian child must go against their parents’ wishes – especially if their parents are nonbelievers – in order to follow God’s calling for their lives. That being said, this verse should still guide Christian children if/when those situations arise; they should thoroughly consider the consequences of their proposed action. Are they truly following Christ, or are they actually glorifying themselves? In many instances I suspect that the latter is true, due to our sinful nature.

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