I remember having a hard time with the idea of wives submitting to their husbands, and, at times, with the idea of children submitting to their parents. Being able to process things on my own timing in an honest manner, and to voice my ignorance by asking questions has always been important to me. I’ve been a curious and inquisitive person since I was little. My parents, despite the somewhat authoritarian culture in which we grew up, had raised me to have a voice and encouraged me to question even what they have taught so I can reach my own conclusions. Therefore, when I’m not able to express myself freely, I feel alienated from myself, misunderstood, and frustrated. And that’s how I felt about the whole submission talk. I had my own arguments about why submitting to someone mindlessly—as it sounded like to me—was insufficient and plainly wrong. Nonetheless, I never felt I had the space to explore my questions about the text in Colossians 3:17-4:1 NLT:
"And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father. Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting for those who belong to the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and never treat them harshly. Children, always obey your parents, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not aggravate your children, or they will become discouraged. Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything you do. Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you. Serve them sincerely because of your reverent fear of the Lord. Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ. But if you do what is wrong, you will be paid back for the wrong you have done. For God has no favorites. Masters, be just and fair to your slaves. Remember that you also have a Master—in heaven.”
Thinking back, I can see how I was missing one very important piece of the verses mentioned above: And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus. Doing things for Christ changes our perspective. Of course, those God-inspired verses must be understood in context, just like anything else. And I think that when we lack the understanding or the knowledge to comprehend what God meant, our best bet is to believe that he meant it for our good and his glory, and that he has a good reason for saying things the way they were written. That’s what I did with those verses for quite a while. Despite the sour taste they left in my mouth, I believed they were the best approach to family and systems in general – if for no other reason, because God said so.
However, the “do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus” part sheds new light onto the whole submission idea for me. Paul’s writing was revolutionary because it instructed people on how to live properly and in a way that honored each other as image bearers of God. It wasn’t about some exerting tyrannical control over others; it was about mutual respect, shared responsibility, and an underlying design. Paul meant that under the command of Christ we’re all equal in value but different in roles. And while that sounds like a one-size mold, it isn’t. In this generic idea of how a system should function, God is showing us how to love, help, and respect one another in our differences, and how to flourish as we step into the life he has for us. Submission and leadership look different in different families, workplaces, and churches. Nevertheless, the reason for why we do it is the same: we do it for Christ. And that’s what, to me, is at the heart of Paul’s writings.
Being a representative of Christ means living our lives like he lived his. It means loving God above all else and seeking to please him in everything as a response to his unfailing and never-ending love, demonstrated at the cross. It means trusting that his design is good and impacting others through our willingness to follow him and submit to his will. It means understanding our place and taking advantage of the opportunities we have to display his love and character as we rely on his grace to carry us through. Being a representative of Christ means to show others Christ’s face and love when they have not been able to see it any other way yet, and in that being a tool in the transformation of the world as God transforms us and conforms us into his own image and character. Which is, in my humble opinion, the greatest gift anyone can ever get, to be more like our Lord Jesus.
If you missed out on this week's sermon, check it out here.