Here’s what the Gospel says to both the powerful and the powerless- to
those at the top of the pyramid socially and those at every other level-
Col 3:17- "And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father."
First- remember that whoever you are- if you are a Christ follower, you represent Jesus. People are watching and they are wondering about this new group of people who do so many things differently. And some are worried about the radicalness of your faith and what you might try to do to society… so-
"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 discourage.
Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything you do. Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you. Serve them sincerely because of your reverent fear of the Lord. Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.
Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ. But if you do what is wrong, you will be paid back for the wrong you have done. For God has no favorites."
It’s interesting to me that in this paragraph, he gives the most space, the most attention to slaves. Slaves and masters. Is the Bible pro-slavery???
This letter to the Colossians was carried from Paul in prison to the city of Colossae by a man named Onesimus. Onesimus was a slave… A slave who had stolen money from his master named Philemon who lived in the city of Colossae, had run away and ended up in Rome, and somehow ended up knowing Paul. Maybe he got a job where Paul was being held?
But however he met Paul, the result was that Onesimus became a follower of Jesus. And so Paul sends him back to Colossae with two letters. This one to the Colossians and the short little letter we know as Philemon, named after Onesimus’ master. And what did Paul want Philemon to do in regards to his run-away slave?
That is why I am boldly asking a favor of you. I could demand it in the name of Christ because it is the right thing for you to do. But because of our love, I prefer simply to ask you. Consider this as a request from me—Paul, an old man and now also a prisoner for the sake of Christ Jesus.
I appeal to you to show kindness to my child, Onesimus. I became his father in the faith while here in prison. Onesimus hasn’t been of much use to you in the past, but now he is very useful to both of us. I am sending him back to you, and with him comes my own heart.
I wanted to keep him here with me while I am in these chains for preaching the Good News, and he would have helped me on your behalf. But I didn’t want to do anything without your consent. I wanted you to help because you were willing, not because you were forced. It seems you lost Onesimus for a little while so that you could have him back forever. He is no longer like a slave to you. He is more than a slave, for he is a beloved brother, especially to me. Now he will mean much more to you, both as a man and as a brother in the Lord.
So if you consider me your partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. If he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge it to me. I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it. And I won’t mention that you owe me your very soul!
Yes, my brother, please do me this favor for the Lord’s sake. Give me this encouragement in Christ.
I am confident as I write this letter that you will do what I ask and even more! "
What do you think Paul is saying here? Knowing that all his mail will be read by his captors, what do you think he just might be trying to communicate to Philemon by that interesting last phrase: “and even more.” I mean- past forgiving Onesimus, taking him back, treating him like a brother… what could possibly be left?
Maybe freeing him?
Can you think of any reason at all why Paul might want to say something without really saying it? Why he might want to choose his words carefully? And maybe say something between the lines?
So- why all this talk about slavery? It’s nice to know, it’s kind of an academic question, but the one we're really interested in is the question about husbands and wives...
pt 3 tomorrow-
(This series is adapted from a sermon I preached during our time in Colossians. I'm heavily indebted to Walsh and Keesmaat and their book Colossians Remixed)