“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.” (Colossians 3:18-21 NLT)
Much has already been written on these verses. And much of what’s been written has contributed to disagreements and divisions in the church.
I’ve been searching for answers to verse 18 for most of my adult life. It started in my teenage years, wondering why the women in my church wore hankies on their heads. Continued into my university years as I studied feminism and sought to reconcile it with sermons I heard on Sundays. And it remains to this day, as I am the sole income earner while my husband stays at home with our son. I’ve read countless books and articles trying to understand the different cultural and scriptural interpretations of gender and marriage roles.
That one word, “submit”, has consumed hours and hours of my thoughts and prayer life.
Truth is, we can always find some author or preacher or friend who is going to give us the answer we want to hear on how to structure our family relationships. I know the authors I prefer and the ones that make me cringe. There is no shortage of opinions and thus no shortage of debates.
This week, I could feel myself getting sucked back into those debates as I pondered these verses. I could feel myself stepping back onto my soapbox again. And you know what? It didn’t feel like freedom. It didn’t feel like unity. It didn’t feel like forgiveness. It didn’t feel anything like the new life we’ve been reflecting on in recent weeks.
“I can’t tell you how much I long for you to enter this wide-open, spacious life. We didn’t fence you in. The smallness you feel comes from within you. Your lives aren’t small, but you’re living them in a small way. I’m speaking as plainly as I can and with great affection. Open up your lives. Live openly and expansively!” (2 Corinthians 6:11-13 MSG)
Ahhhh, yes, that’s it. That’s what I want to preach from my soapbox instead. A life that is open and expansive. A life that isn’t defined by cultural constructs of the past or the present. A life defined by grace and overflowing with new life.
That’s the word Jesus gave me when I asked Him this week about this controversial verse.
When our lives overflow with mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, how does this influence our family relationships?
It’s going to look different in my family than it does in your family. But I hope we can agree not to make our discussions small and divisive as we ponder as a church family what these verses mean for our relationships.
Reflections on Colossians 3:18-21