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Holy Relationships

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Colossians 3:18-4:1


Carla’s nephew in BC does a lot of work for the huge green houses that are all over the place. He installs and maintains the furnaces that keep the temperature up in the winter. They have acres and acres of greenhouse under one roof. Plants grown in these green houses are grown in absolutely perfect conditions. The light, moisture, fertilization, pruning and all conditions for growth are controlled so that these plants have every opportunity to produce as much as possible.

            Sometimes as Christians we have the opportunity to live in situations that are like a “green house” situation. At Bible School, when we attend a retreat or go on a mission trip, we are surrounded by committed Christian people, and are able to focus on the things of God with intensity. It is often a good time of growth and very important at certain times and stages in life, but it is not where most of our Christian life will be lived. Christian living is done most intensely in the matters of everyday life. It is done in a context where you wake up in the morning and your hair looks like you stuck your finger in a light socket. It is lived where you have to wake up at 3 in the morning to clean up a messy diaper. It is lived in a world where your spouse comes home from work grouchy and demanding. How many of us have been or have had to deal with a moody teenager or an unreasonable boss. How many of us have been tempted to do less than our best at our job because the work is so unfulfilling? These are the places where the Christian life must be lived. What does it mean to be a Christian in the ordinary of day to day? If God has entered our life in salvation, then it must make a difference not only when we go to church or when we have a spiritual high but in the most ordinary circumstances of life.

            Our text for this morning is Colossians 3:18-4:1. Please follow along as I read this passage.

I. Relationships “In The Lord”

            This text addresses 6 roles - wives, husbands, children, parent, worker and masters. All of us fall into one or perhaps even several of these roles. It is in these ordinary daily roles of life that our Christian life must be lived.

            The passage we are studying is written in the context of what precedes. You will recall that two weeks ago when we examined Colossians 3:1-17, we established that we do not live our Christian life by a set of rules that bind us, rather, our faith life is lived when we understand who we are and how Christ has set us apart as His children. Because of the huge change that has occurred through the blood of Jesus on the cross, we live in a completely new way. You will remember 3:1 in which we are encouraged, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.” The concluding part of that section, verse 17 says, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus…” It is in this context that the writer now encourages us that these truths - setting our hearts on things above and doing all in the name of the Lord Jesus - call us to live in these ways in the most ordinary matters of life - the place where we spend most of our time, the relationships in which we are closest.

            That this is uppermost in the mind of the writer is revealed in the text itself. If you examine the verses, you will notice that the word “Lord” appears 7 times in just nine verses. Whenever a word is repeated that often, it is worthy of note. The noteworthy thing in this passage is that all of these relationships are to be lived “in the Lord.” Notice that wives are to submit “as is fitting in the Lord.” Children are to obey “for this pleases the Lord.” Slaves are reminded of this theme four times “reverence for the Lord,” “working for the Lord,” “inheritance from the Lord” and “it is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Masters are reminded that they have a “Lord in heaven.” Each time the word “Lord” is the same Greek word. The impression is strong and clear that these day to day relationships are to be holy relationships, that our faith must be lived out most clearly and intensely in these relationships.

            It is easy to put on a good show for the people in the church. I know people who have gone to church for years and everyone thought they were getting along just fine and that their life was exemplary, but that was not the reality. Eventually, of course, the truth comes out. The TV evangelists who have been caught in adulterous relationships are evidence that an outward appearance of holy living does not mean that holiness is really being lived. If we could talk to your co-workers, your boss, your wife or husband, your children, we would know if holy relationships are truly being lived.

            Norman Wright says, “Putting the life of the new age into practice begins at home.” He also indicates that this life must be lived in the place where, “for better or for worse, one is truly oneself.”

II. Specific Relationships

            Although 6 roles are mentioned, they are set in pairs and must be looked at in pairs. There is the husband/wife pair, the child/parent pair and the slave/master pair. In the relationship, each one of the pair has a part which is necessary to live in a way which fits with who we are in Christ. The wonderful thing is that when we live in this way, a win/win situation is created. Let us look carefully at each of these pairs and examine how the life above is lived in the street where you live.

A. Wife/Husband

One of the most intense places we live our lives is in our marriage relationships. It is pretty hard to fool your spouse about what is really going on in your life. The love spoken of in Colossians 3:12, 14 must first of all be lived in the marriage relationship.

“In December 1999, George Barna published the results of a survey which found that…27 percent of born-again Christians have experienced divorce compared to 24 percent for the rest of Americans.” Many have questioned the accuracy of his research for various reasons, but no matter how accurate they are, we all know that divorce is happening among Christians more than it used to. Most of us know at least some Christians who have experienced divorce. My intention is not to condemn those who have been divorced, but simply to say that the degree to which it is happening suggests that there is something wrong with many marriages today.

Even among those who do not divorce, however, that does not mean that their marriages are all wonderful. A researcher at the University of Wisconsin, Mary Ann Fitzpatrick, says that nearly half the married men in America are "emotionally divorced" from their wives. I know of marriages where the couple is together and will not separate, but it is clear that warmth, intimacy and a holy relationship which is lived with the recognition that we have been raised up with Christ is far from evident.

What does it mean to “do all things to the glory of God” in marriages?

I believe the answer lies in what we expect our marriages to be.

            Many marriages today are self centred marriages. People enter the marriage with the hope that this will be the source of joy and fulfillment for them. They expect that their marriage partner will fulfill them. We need to recognize that people find ways of making such marriages work.

            Other marriages develop into 50/50 marriages. Each partner knows that they need to give a little and then they will receive a little. Such marriages also can work.

            But in each of these marriages the premise is faulty and so the stability of the marriage is in great danger. If you are in a relationship because you are hoping to find fulfillment in that relationship, what happens when you realize that you are no longer finding fulfillment? What happens when it isn’t satisfying any more? You may decide to keep the relationship going for the sake of appearances, for the sake of the children or because there are no better alternatives, but what kind of a relationship is that? What happens when a better alternative comes along?

            In a 50/50 marriage, the relationship will work as long as the accounting system does not fail, but what happens when it begins to be a 40/60 relationship? Soon the partner who is not getting his or her 50% begins to look for other ways to find that satisfaction.

            Paul’s advice for a holy relationship, one that recognizes that we do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ is to have a relationship which is 100/100. Each partner gives him or herself fully to the other partner.

So the wife is called upon to submit to her husband. This is not a very popular point of view. I read this story, “One evening my husband, Mark, and our preschooler, Krystal, were on the couch chatting. "Daddy, you're the boss of the house, right?" I overheard her ask sweetly.

My husband proudly replied, "Yes, I'm the boss of the house."

But Krystal quickly burst his bubble when she added, "Cause Mommy put you in charge, huh Daddy?"

What does it mean for a wife to submit?

Unfortunately many men have read this verse when they have no right to read it, it isn’t written to them. It doesn’t say, “husbands, make your wife submit.” The results are a world in which spousal abuse, usually men against women is far too common. Marlin Vis in "Battered into Submission," writes, “One out of every three women who seeks emergency medical treatment at a doctor's office or hospital is the victim of domestic violence, and so is one out of every four women seeking prenatal care. Constance Duran, a Christian psychologist, says, "Typically the violence pattern begins with the wife's first pregnancy and is really directed toward the fetus. There's going to be another sibling in the family, and the husband is jealous." For women between the ages of 15 and 44, domestic violence is the most common cause of injury.”

            Wives, I, as a man, am reluctant to tell you this. You must read this for yourself. The choice that is to be made is your choice. As a woman who has been raised up with Christ and who seeks to “do all in the name of the Lord Jesus” you have the privilege to choose to submit to your husband. This is your part of giving yourself fully to your husband, a choice to do for him what is 100% best for him.

            The part that husbands are meant to read is verse 19. Your part in this 100/100 marriage is to love your wife. Because of greater physical power, the added warning is “don’t be harsh with them” but the essential teaching is to give yourself 100% to loving your wife and doing for her what is best for her.

            The amazing thing is that if the wife will give herself fully to her husband and the husband fully to his wife, a holy relationship will be created which will not only last, but be a blessing to all concerned. This is what it means to live a Christian marriage.

B. Child/Parent

            The second area in which life is lived where the “rubber meets the road” is in the relationship of parents and children. One of the interesting things that happens in all of these pairs is that each member of the pair both has dignity and responsibility. We often see that one is stronger and the other weaker, but, one writer says, “The strong have duties as well as rights and the weak have rights as well as duties.” Each member of the pair must contribute their part to make for holy relationships.

            Often we place the responsibility on parents. If children don’t do what is right, the parents have to find a way of straightening them out. As parents we rightly expect obedience from our children, but that is not what it says here. This is addressed to children. So, children, listen to what the Bible says. God honours you so much that he holds you responsible for how you live. If you are a Christian, then God has an important role for you to play in the family. He wants you to be his holy child and the most important thing that you can do as His holy child is to obey your parents.

            There comes a time when you will begin to want a little more independence. This is a natural process, but it doesn’t override the responsibility that you have to obey your parents.

            Parents, the role that you have in the home as people who “do all in the name of the Lord Jesus” is to train your children in a supportive and helpful way. We have the responsibility of training, guiding and even disciplining our children. The problem is that we can go on a power trip. Whenever anyone has power, they have to be very careful that they do not abuse this power. To that danger, Paul says, “do not embitter your children or they will become discouraged.”

            Let me suggest some of the ways in which we embitter our children.

            We can make them bitter when we expect them to become carbon copies of us. Instead, we need to free them to become what God intends them to be.

We embitter them when we cause them to submit to us out of fear. If a child tends to cower - either physically or emotionally - before us, we need to think about what we have done to make them that way.

We embitter them when we do not carefully balance guidance and freedom. As parents, our task is to guide them and teach them to become independent. If we guide them too much or give them freedom too early, we can discourage them. May God help us have the wisdom to know how to balance this great task we have.

We discourage them when we don’t hold them accountable for the wrong they do. When I was caught for something I did wrong at school, I had my parents promise that I would get it at home as well. I appreciate that they helped me recognize when I did wrong and guided me into the right way.

We can also discourage them if we expect them to perform above their abilities or when we expect them to do better than somebody else’s children. Unreasonable pressure can dishearten them greatly.

One writer said, “The parents duty is, in effect, to live out the gospel to the child: that is to assure their children that they are loved and accepted and valued for who they are, not for who they ought to be, should have been, or might (if only they would try a little harder) become.”

            Just as husband and wife are to give themselves fully to the other, this is also true in the parent/child relationship. Children are to give themselves fully to their parents in obedience and parents are to give themselves fully to their children in encouraging and building them up.

C. Slave/Master

            The third pair is another one in which we find ourselves on one side or the other. Of course, no one today is a slave or a master, but the principles taught here are so clearly relevant that I do not think it does any violence to the text to suggest that this is about workers and bosses. The context is relationships that are lived every day and at that time, slave and master were common, every day lived relationships. The seeds of the eventual disappearance of the system of slavery were already intimated in the equality that existed between all believers. Because of that, we live in a world in which those relationships no longer exist. Instead, we most often find ourselves as either a worker or a boss. In that set of relationships, Christianity must be lived in the grind of daily life.

            The Winnipeg Free Press has been on strike for the last few weeks. What happens in a strike? The workers say, “you as bosses are not treating us fairly and we will make you change your ways and give us justice.” The bosses are saying, “you ungrateful workers, you are failing to live up to your end of the bargain and destroying your work place.” It is a self centred way and both bosses and workers lose in such a setting.

            How different the way of Christ!

To slaves, he says that their perspective on work is that they should work with a view to serving the Lord. He tells them four things. First that they are to work as God pleasers, not boss pleasers. Second, they are to be diligent and work hard as those who are working for the Lord. Third, they are to recognize that although they get their wages from their boss, their ultimate reward comes from God - which, by the way, is a perspective only a Christian can have. How many of us work not for the wages we make, but for the reward God will give us? The last thing he says to them is that they are to recognize that they are serving the Lord.

What is worship? Often we think of worship as what we do on Sunday morning in church when we sing. Paul, however, in Romans 12:1,2 says that when we offer our bodies as living sacrifices, that is spiritual worship. When we do our work well, with the thought in mind that we are serving God, that is worship.

Verse 25, is written to workers who do not do what is right and reminds them that they will be repaid for the wrong done. But the second part of that verse, reminding all that “ there is no favoritism” helps us realize that not only workers, but also bosses are to take note of who is watching. It is the duty of those who are responsible for others to treat them fairly and with justice. When bosses give meaningful work, clear expectations, just wages and affirmation to their workers, then they are fulfilling their part of what it means to do all things to the glory of God. Those in authority must remember that the bottom line, the board of directors or the profit margin are not the final measure of success in business. The final judge is the master who sits in heaven and sees how they treat their workers. It is amazing how many passages, especially in the Old Testament prophets speak about this. This passage and others like it are a good read for anyone in authority.

What happens when workers and bosses do what God calls them to do? Do strikes happen? There is no reason anymore. Once again we see how God’s way creates a win/win situation.


            The radical difference between the world and the Christian life is right in this. The norm in world politics and human relationships is that it is often lived by the “tyranny of the most selfish member…” as one writer puts it. If that is the child who has a tantrum whenever they aren’t getting their way, the husband who beats his wife into submission, the worker who steals his employer blind, the wife who complains about her husbands inadequacies, the parent who pays for his or her child to do better than the neighbour children. In fact, we could almost say that the entire world works on the assumption of self centeredness.

As Christians, we have the opportunity to be counter-cultural. We, who follow Christ, follow the way of Christ and just as he gave himself for us, so we are to follow His example and give ourselves to one another. This must be done in the most real and common relationships of life. If we aren’t learning to love like Christ loved - in the home or at work - then we aren’t learning to be like Christ at all.

            Remember, “whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus” remembering that you have been raised with Christ.

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