This first quote was read at our wedding and is very special to me. Perhaps this is part of the reason why our marriage has lasted over 40 years and is still strong today. However, this scripture goes far beyond marriage to relationships with all others. It’s wonderful to see it as translated in the J.B. Phillips version of the Bible. I love the thought of “harmony” in relationships–not pushy or proud; forgiving, understanding, waiting when necessary; kind, peaceful, putting others first. We don’t succeed at this, of course, but that’s where the first sentence comes into play — “purified and beloved of God Himself” — God is the one that purifies us (see the first quote on my next post).
As, therefore, God’s picked representatives of the new humanity, purified and beloved of God himself, be merciful in action, kindly in heart, humble in mind. Accept life, and be most patient and tolerant with one another, always ready to forgive if you have a difference with anyone. Forgive as freely as the Lord has forgiven you. And, above everything else, be truly loving, for love is the golden chain of all the virtues. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, remembering that as members of the one body you are called to live in harmony, and never forget to be thankful for what God has done for you. Let Christ’s teaching live in your hearts, making you rich in the true wisdom. Teach and help one another along the right road with your psalms and hymns and Christian songs, singing God’s praises with joyful hearts. And whatever work you may have to do, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, thanking God the Father through him. Wives, adapt yourselves to your husbands, that your marriage may be a Christian unity. Husbands, be sure you give your wives much love and sympathy; don’t let bitterness or resentment spoil your marriage. As for you children, your duty is to obey your parents, for at your age this is one of the best things you can do to show your love for the Lord. Fathers, don’t over-correct your children, or they will grow up feeling inferior and frustrated. Slaves (or workers), your job is to obey your masters (employers) not with the idea of currying favor, but as a sincere expression of your devotion to the Lord. Whatever you do, put your whole heart and soul into it, as unto work done for the Lord, and not merely for men–knowing that your real reward, a heavenly one, will come from the Lord, since you are actually employed by the Lord Christ, and not just by your earthly master. –Colossians 3:12-17
I just heard recently in a sermon that at the time these words were written, slavery was nothing like we understand it today. Roman slavery was a choice; one third of the population voluntarily connected with a master, giving up freedom in order to obey another. Sadly, I would assume this was the poorest of society, so whether it was closer to slavery as we know it, or to a worker/employer relationship, I don’t know. I do know that Christ rightfully expresses the value and equality of all–slave and free, master and servant, male and female, all races and nations (see Galatians 3:28, Colossians 3:11, Psalm 67:1-4).