Continuing our Colossians chapter 3 theme of a life of love, we come now to what love looks like in family relationships. “Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be embittered against them. Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord. Fathers, do not exasperated your children, that they may not lose heart” (Col 3:18-21).
These instructions are not a random list of one-off ideas assigned to four groups of people. They are designed to work together, to work in unison to provide balance in a healthy family. For example, a focus on “wives be subject to…” without the balance of “husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church” (Eph 5:25) leads to a distorted view of headship. It leads to using the Bible to support an ugly, domineering, version of male authority. Male headship without unconditional love has no support in Scripture.
Wives practice a life of love when they show, in tangible ways, respect toward their husbands. When they encourage their husband. When they speak highly of their husband. When they honor their husband.
Likewise, husbands practice a life of love when they love, lead, and protect just as Christ does with His bride, the church. It is a love that is unlimited and unconditional. Husbands, there is no competition between loving your wife and loving God. We show in a very practical way that we love God by how we love our wives. Loving God and loving our wives are not two separate circles that we are always having to figure out how to prioritize. Loving our wives lies in the big circle of loving God.
Moving to children and parents, our goal in child-training is to motivate our children to obey us out of a love relationship and see our kids transfer that into obeying God out of a love relationship as they mature. When our kids are young, we teach them to obey the rules because that is what is required. We enforce the rules with threats of punishment for bad behavior and the promise of rewards for good conduct.
But as our children grow up, our interaction over the rules becomes more influenced by our love relationship with them. When we see that developing a relationship with our child is just as important as rules of control, we set the stage for a healthy transition to obedience out of love. After all, this is the eventual goal for the adult believer. Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (Jn 14:15).
Our proper obedience to our Lord is based on a love relationship, not rules of control. God did not say, “If you know all the rules, you will obey. If the rules are clear, you will obey. If you work harder, you will obey. If the threat of punishment is strong enough, you will obey.” No, He said, “If you love me, you will obey.” And this obedience on our part, just like the child obedience described in our Colossians 3 passage, “is well-pleasing to the Lord.”
Well, we have run out of time with one verse to go. Since fathers and exasperation is a connection that needs some explanation and understanding, we will try to give it the time and space it is due next post.