To properly understand today’s teaching we must enter
into another world, in another time, in an alien culture. If we fail to do so we miss the revolutionary
liberating power of what the Apostle Paul has written. This is our 16th
excursion into the letter written to a congregation in the city of Colossae
One of the more weird conventions of the culture was a
woman was considered a thing, like livestock; the richer the family the more
valuable the livestock but regardless a woman was considered property. She had no legal rights. A woman never would be on the streets alone,
not even when carrying out assigned tasks.
She would be accompanied by other women.
She was not to be seen in public so she wore a veil. This was an especially stringent rule in the
cities. It was a symbol of modesty and
virtue, but also one of subordination. When
her family paid a dowry and married her off, sometimes referred to as the “acquisition
of a bride,” she became the property of her husband. Most marriages were arranged. It was privilege for the husband and duties
for the wife. One of the chief duties
was to birth heirs, male heirs. There
was a huge child mortality rate. Women
were not to converse with men, not even when a husband was accompanied by his
wife was she to speak to him in public. For the husband, there was no such thing as
infidelity, but the wife was to remain chaste.
The more wealthy, women tended to be secluded, living with other
household females, it was not even common for the wife to have meals with her
husband. As for security, a husband
could divorce his wife for any cause, but there were strict guidelines for a
woman to request a divorce from her husband.
The role of the wife was servitude.
There is no doubt that in the ancient world children
were important, not many of them survived to adulthood. I am sure there was parental love and pride,
though the scholars focus on the abuses of children more than the perks of
being the son of a rich father. We know
that family ties were extremely important.
Yet children were seen as commodities. They had less legal protection
than women. Under Roman Law (Patria
Potestas) the father had complete control of their children. Whatever the father decided, pamper the kid, sell
the kid into slavery, work the kid on the farm, execute the child, was all
perfectly legal. In another letter, Paul
wrote to the congregations in the Galatian regions we read: “As long as the heir is a minor, he has no
advantage over the slave. Though legally he owns the entire inheritance, he is
subject to tutors and administrators until whatever date the father has set for
emancipation” (Galatians 4:1-2 (MSG).
And that’s the way it was in the first-century (Walter Cronkite). [Paul uses the common practices of the
culture as a metaphor, but that’s for another teaching.] A child’s fate was completely in the control
of the parents, especially the father.
In the law’s cultural eyes, lower than the women,
lower than the child was the slave. Being
enslaved was never a good thing. The
slave was property, a thing, like livestock, free labor upon which economies
were built. “All slaves and their
families were the property of their owners, who could sell or rent them out at
any time.”( The Roman
Empire: in the First Century. The Roman Empire. Social Order. Slaves &
Freemen | PBS) It was a common
practice to enslave people. Slaves were
used in the fields, the mines, the brothels, and the factories. Slaves were used as public works staff. Slaves were used as household servants,
administrators, teachers, and for sport, Gladiators were all slaves. According to the circumstances some slaves
were treated well, but others, with no rights, were subject to the whims of
their owners. It was a death sentence
for those who disobeyed or tried to escape.
In a letter written to a slave owner named Philemon concerning
a slave named Onesimus, Paul gives the best advice that he could give given the
culture of the day. Onesimus was a
runaway slave. Somehow he came in
contact with Paul and converted to the faith in Christ. There is always a moral change in a person
who follows Jesus. You do what is right
even when it may be personally detrimental.
Paul is sending Onesimus back to Philemon.
Philemon 1:15-17 (MSG)
Maybe it's all for the best that you lost him for a
while. You're getting him back now for good— 16 and no mere slave this time,
but a true Christian brother! That's what he was to me—he'll be even more than
that to you.
17 So if you still consider me a comrade-in-arms,
welcome him back as you would me.
These were the conditions for women, children, and
slaves at the time Paul wrote. The
emancipation of women, children, and slaves were not even on the horizon. All
privileges belonged to the Father all duties to all the rest. That’s not to say that a wife didn’t have
command over children and slaves also, but the husband’s word was law.
Paul with his Christianity challenges the cultural
18 Wives, understand and support your husbands by
submitting to them in ways that honor the Master.
19 Husbands, go all out in love for your wives. Don't
take advantage of them.
20 Children, do what your parents tell you. This
delights the Master no end.
21 Parents, don't come down too hard on your children
or you'll crush their spirits.
22 Servants, do what you're told by your earthly
masters. And don't just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. 23 Work
from the heart for your real Master, for God, 24 confident that you'll get paid
in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the
ultimate Master you're serving is Christ. 25 The sullen servant who does shoddy
work will be held responsible. Being Christian doesn't cover up bad work.
4:1 And masters, treat your servants considerately. Be
fair with them. Don't forget for a minute that you, too, serve a Master—God in
Everything rises and falls on relationships. It is about relationships that Paul writes.
What Paul writes is entirely new to the culture, “reciprocal obligation,”
“mutual responsibility” (Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT).
Wife respect your husband.
Husband love your wife
Children obey your parents
Parents encourage your children
Slaves work from the heart
Masters treat slaves fairly.
Those five statements were revolutionary. This is a picture of family life in the
kingdom, a totally new concept in the culture of the day. Mutual love and respect. In the husband-wife relationship when a
husband feels respected and supported by his wife, he finds it easy to do
loving things for her. In those loving
things, she knows that her heart is safe in his hands. She knows he has her best interests at
heart. So she honors and respects him
that much more which results in his loving her that much more.
A wife’s respect for her husband is demonstrated by
her recognition of his needs for:
Conquest is that desire to work and to achieve.
Hierarchy is the desire to protect and provide.
Authority, that desires to serve and lead
Insight, that desires to analyze and counsel
Relationships, that desire to do life with companions
Sexuality is that desire for sexual intimacy.
Eggerichs, Love & Respect. CHAIRS,
chapter 15-22. My personal evaluation of
the book is that the good stuff is in Part 2 of the book]
A husband’s love for his wife is demonstrated by his
recognition of her needs for
Closeness, that need to be emotionally close to her
Openness, the need for communication
Understanding, that need to be heard, to be listened
What a day it was when I figured out
that she just wanted me to listen, not offer solutions to her problem, my task
was to listen, not fix.
Peacemaking, that need for her husband to take
responsibility for actions and when wrong say you’re sorry.
Loyalty is the need to know that her husband is
committed to her.
Esteem, that need to be honored and cherished.
[Emerson Eggerichs, Love &
Respect. COUPLE, chapter 8-14].
These types of exchanges between husband and wife were
unheard of in Paul’s day. This is a
picture of marriage in the Kingdom. This
is how a couple is to relate to one another wrapped up in that all-purpose
garment of love.
Raising children has never been easy. The job of the parent is to socialize these
little beasts so that they become productive members of society. Good parenting leads to prosperous
adults. It’s not always the case, but it
is a solid foundation for a life to be built upon. In Paul’s day, parental tyranny was the
norm. Fear kept children in line, “obey
or else.” Paul is advocating that love
keeps children in line. They are to obey
their parent. The parent will have to
discipline, to correct, behavior that is missing the mark. This parental
discipline is to be given with equal amounts of encouragement. Correct poor behavior, reward good
Paul then addresses single adults, I mean slaves. That’s a joke. The reason why singles are not mentioned is that
singleness was not the norm in that society.
Today singles are the fastest-growing demographic. They are of infinite worth to the Kingdom,
they have the time, they have energy, and they have resources to revolutionize
the way we do Kingdom business. Like
attracts like, like reaches like. Their
ideas blow new life into the staleness of the church.
Paul addresses the relationship between slaves and
masters emphasizing again the Kingdom value of “reciprocal obligation” and
“mutual responsibility” to one another.
The slave is to do good work; the master is to give good care. This was amazing teaching for the times,
There have been people that have used this portion of
scripture to proclaim that Christianity supported misogyny, child abuse, and
slavery. This is so far from the truth
that it’s laughable. We take what we
read and put it into our current culture; the result is a misinterpretation of
what is being communicated. Recall what
Paul wrote: chapter 3:11—
Words like Jewish and non-Jewish, religious and
irreligious, insider and outsider, uncivilized and uncouth, slave and free,
mean nothing. From now on everyone is defined by Christ, everyone is included
in Christ. (Col 3:11 (MSG).
Paul has continued this same thought about
equality. The Kingdom levels the ground
and demands that we treat each other the way we want to be treated. The position of women and children, and in this
case, slaves, was elevated.
This is what you can walk away with.
For married couples, you have guidelines for how to
keep love alive in your marriage.
For parents, you have guidelines for raising your
For all of us we have seen when it comes to our
relationships with others, love is indispensable. Righteous relationships reflect the Kingdom
principles of “reciprocal obligation” and “mutual responsibility.” These principles are part of the new wardrobe
we are to wear. Put them on in your
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