Friday 2nd October Colossians – Home and Hearth
Colossians 3: 18 – 4:1
Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and never treat them harshly. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this is your acceptable duty in the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, or they may lose heart. Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything, not only while being watched and in order to please them, but wholeheartedly, fearing the Lord. Whatever your task, put yourselves into it, as done for the Lord and not for your masters, since you know that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward; you serve the Lord Christ. For the wrongdoer will be paid back for whatever wrong has been done, and there is no partiality. Masters, treat your slaves justly and fairly, for you know that you also have a Master in heaven.
Wives and husbands, children and fathers – we still have them today. And, let’s not kid ourselves, we’ve still got slaves; some held illegally, some trapped in slave-like working conditions. You can say what you like about the advice in these verses (and lots has been said), but the social and economic relationships they address are as important to us today as they were to people back then.
There’s some distance between ‘there is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female’ (Galatians 3:28) and, ‘wives be subject to your husbands … slaves obey your earthly masters.’ No wonder some say that the same person could not have written both.
I’ve got to say I’m a bit bemused and disappointed with today’s advice. Being a child of my time, I’ve no wish to make my wife subject to me, even ‘in the Lord’, I wouldn’t dream of owning a slave, not even in a nice sort of way. And I don’t think these verses authorise me to do either. O that the author had had the guts to be more radical than realistic – “family members will live in equality and all slaves are to be freed forthwith” – not just to advise people to live well within the rules of a very imperfect system.
If I’m really honest, though, I’m not too disappointed. Like most children of any time I’ve little appetite to have my life uprooted. Today, whilst sipping my fairly traded coffee, I advised some people to join me in donating to Christian Aid, not to destroy the world’s skewed trade system, tearing down the pillars of the international economy and society. I don’t think they would have done so, even if I had asked.
I wonder, how Christians reading Daily Devotions in two thousand years will judge my advice? I hope they will be kind about my realism/pessimism/cowardice [delete as appropriate], but not feel obligated to do just the same as me in their time
Master in heaven,
May I be just and fair to others whenever I know it’s possible.
Make me braver in seeking out what’s possible in the here and now.
Give me a vision for how the impossible can be made possible.
And all this in your good time – which might be now.