Psalm 119:17-24

These verses all start with gimel (ג).

Deal well with your servant so that I may live and keep your word.

Uncover my eyes and I may look at
miraculous things from your laws.

I am a stranger in the land
do not hide from me your commandments.

My soul wore down with longing
for your judgments at all times.

You rebuked the proud, the accursed,
the ones who wandered away from your commandments.

Roll away from me reproach and contempt
for I have kept your precepts.

Although princes have sat speaking together against me
your servant will meditate on your statutes.

Yes, your precepts are my delight, my counselors.

Brief Synopsis of Painter’s “The Gospel of John”

One of my favorite classes in my undergraduate studies at Simpson University was one that covered the Johannine Literature with Dr. Painter. This class mostly focuses on the Gospel of John but also looked at the Epistles of John. Dr. Painter has published a book on the Gospel of John through Wipf & Stock Publishers, which covers this same relevant class material. Anyone who studies John should have a copy of Painter’s book at hand. It is easy to follow, it does not require any reading knowledge of Greek, and it is a relatively short book at about 140 pages. This book,The Gospel of John: A Thematic Approach, is not a commentary, but, rather, a survey of themes. As such, it is not oriented towards scholars and is readily accessible by laypeople. But what is a thematic approach?

Painter argues that the Fourth Gospel is infused with 7 themes and has 2 meta themes that permeate throughout. There is the theme of identity, which explains the origin of Jesus as fully divine. There is the life theme, which tells of Jesus as the Savior who gives life. The festival theme shows Jesus as the fulfillment of all things Jewish. The witness theme shows Jesus is both the One who is sent and the One who sends. The Gospel of John also has a theme of believing; to believe is not merely to have faith but to have whole-hearted devotion and faithfulness to Jesus. In addition to the “signs” that are commonly referred to in this Gospel, there is also the theme of signs, which are basically signposts that point to Jesus and are intended to evoke belief. Finally, the last of the seven themes is that of destiny, which is truthfully all about God’s love that also encompasses judgment, so that those who believe will have eternal life while those who do not remain in their judgment. But the meta themes of revelation, the declaration of Jesus, and response, the call to respond to the revelation, streams throughout these 7 themes. No part of John can be understood correctly without considering these meta themes, and no portion of this Gospel can properly be understood without considering it in relation to the 7 themes and their developments throughout.

The book discusses each of the 7 themes and shows how the meta themes are involved. After discussing these themes in a survey format, Painter provides three case studies of these texts in John and shows how this thematic approach is essential for studying them: John 3:1-21; 6:26-58; and 17.

While he did not set out to replace any commentaries or write the definitive analysis on the Gospel, Painter did accomplish his goal of creating an accessible supplementary tool to commentaries for studying the Fourth Gospel. While not without typographical and grammatical errors, it is a delightful book as it is concise in form and rich in content. The vocabulary of the Gospel of John is “deceptively simple,” because it is truly a theologically deep and complex book. Understanding the themes greatly helps unpacking the theology of John, and this book helps with that important process, which supplements the technical aspects of the existing commentaries.

If you want to read the Gospel of John with new eyes, pick up this book, read about the themes, and then re-read this Gospel. Do as Painter suggested in class and in his book–color your Bible in John with the 7 themes. You might find that reading and coloring gets to be quite fun. Ultimately, through this practice, you will better understand John’s gospel, and, more importantly, you will have a deeper understanding about Jesus’ life and ministry.

Daniel Kirk on Homosexuality, Marriage, and Government

I recently read Daniel Kirk’s “Sex Inside Out” blog post at Storied Theology (available here). This paragraph particularly stuck out:

I think that the best idea of all is for the government to get out of the marriage business altogether–civil unions for all, irrespective of sex (or no sex at all), and church weddings being none of the state’s business and not civilly recognized.

As per my paper I submitted back in seminary (available here), I agree with Kirk’s statement.

Homosexuality and Marriage

This paper was delivered to Professor Sanders at Fuller Theological Seminary during my 2nd year in seminary. The class was called “Perspectives on Christian Ethics.”

—————

Is our nation homosexual? Homosexuals are pushing very hard to be given the rights to marriage, and evangelicals are speaking out about the issue. But not every evangelical speaker is on the same page. Evangelicals have a right wing, left wing, and center or moderate position just as politicians do between a conservative, liberal, and moderate position. Evangelicals from all positions have made their cases, ranging from only supporting marriage between a male and female to supporting civil unions between two consenting and committed members of the same sex. These arguments have been offered in response to a negative cultural trend in regards to marriage.

What is this cultural trend regarding marriage? Marriage is no longer being defined in a traditional way by many people, especially by advocates of same-sex marriage who also assert that fairness requires a new understanding of marriage, an understanding that is unparalleled with any other human civilization, which is “a moldable union between any coupling of consenting adults, regardless of gender, driven by adult desire rather than an obligation to the next generation.”[1] Furthermore, this understanding is gaining popularity and support from some very influential law groups, such as the American Law Institute.[2] One sociologist, David Popenoe, has interpreted the current trend as a detriment to marriage, since it encourages casual liaisons for adult relationships and fulfillment, so that it will likely eliminate marriage relationships over time. Popenoe concluded that children will be harmed from this scenario, adults will not be any happier in this relationship design, and the social order may in fact collapse.[3] The argument is important, as it affects the well being of people from all ages, races, and genders. Here enters the arguments of the three evangelical positions.

We are going to examine the three evangelical responses to this cultural trend regarding marriage and homosexuality. First, we will examine the evangelical right. The evangelical right is totally against same-sex marriage. Second, we will examine the evangelical left. The evangelical left is totally in support of marriage between males and females, but it is more open to supporting same-sex relationships as far as civil unions are concerned, and sometimes it does support same-sex marriage. Finally, we will examine the evangelical center. The evangelical center is certainly in support of marriage between males and females, and they are concerned with working out a solution for homosexuals who want a defined legal status. To the evangelical right we now turn.

The Three Evangelical Positions on Same-Sex Marriage

The Evangelical Right

The evangelical right holds marriage in extremely high regard. But at the same time, the evangelical right looks down upon homosexuality and is not willing to allow something as sacred to them as marriage to be corrupted by it. The evangelical right recognizes that same-sex marriage is a pressing issue, and it asserts that Christians everywhere should fight against it.[4] Because they view marriage as a sacred covenant that has been designed and endorsed by God while also being recognized and upheld by humans, members of the evangelical right contend that marriage is only supposed to be between one man and one woman. According to their position, it is through this union that God intended for children to be raised and a family developed.[5] They focus on the claims of the Bible and disregard other factors:

The Bible is so clear in its support of marriage there is little need for us to go through an exhaustive definition of biblical marriage versus the types of unions allowed by law today. We will simply point out the Bible’s claim, made overwhelmingly clear from Genesis through Revelation, that marriage is supposed to be between a man and a woman who love and respect one another. The scriptures say in Genesis 2:24 that a man is to leave his family and cleave to his wife. This concept is repeated in Matthew 19:5 and Mark 10:7. All the scriptures in the Bible concerning marriage presuppose heterosexual marriage.[6]

With its focus on the biblical concern for marriage as a loving, committed relationship between a male and a female, it has fiercely opposed same-sex marriage and has not given much credence to the idea of civil unions.[7]

The Evangelical Left

The evangelical left supports marriage between a male and a female, but it is more open to the idea of civil unions or even same-sex marriage. [8] Members of the evangelical left base a lot of their argument on the rights of homosexuals as humans. As humans, the argument goes, homosexuals should have access to basic human rights. This argument is closely linked to the well being of society. The evangelical left contends that the society will be good and healthy when homosexuals are treated as humans and their rights as humans are “honored, respected, and defended.”[9] Members of the evangelical left are concerned with demonstrating justice and compassion on behalf of homosexuals, hoping that by being both pro-family and pro-homosexual human and civil rights, some progress can be made for the benefit of society.[10]

The evangelical left bases its argument on some important concerns. For example, homosexuals that are not given basic civil rights through a state-recognized and sponsored civil union would not be permitted to be at his or her loved one’s deathbed at a hospital that has “family restrictions” or to have a voice in the medical treatment of that loved one. Also, for example, the possessions of a deceased homosexual would not go to his or her partner, but instead they would go to the family, even if the family had rejected him or her a long time ago and the partner had been committed to him or her for the last twenty years. By not allowing homosexuals to enter into state-recognized civil unions, they miss out on basic rights and privileges that they should have access to in all fairness. But, the evangelical left asserts, this issue of fairness does not necessarily need to redefine marriage in order to come to a resolution.[11]

Instead of redefining marriage, there are many in the evangelical left who would offer for the government to grant the rights of civil unions.[12] With the protection of homosexual human rights in mind, the evangelical left has committed itself to social justice and compassion by showing homosexuals respect and fighting for their rights. Members in the evangelical left are committed to talking through the issue, and many of them believe that the definition of marriage does not need to be dramatically altered, but instead, the government could grant civil rights to same-sex couples.[13] Some maintain that marriage itself should be left for civil authorities to grant, not the church, so that all couples, whether hetero- or homosexual, would have to apply to the state in order to be given the civil right to be recognized by the state as a committed couple with all of its privileges. If this were the case, then the couples could go to whatever religious institution or church that they desire to seek religious blessing.[14]

The main concern for the evangelical left is for the human rights of homosexuals. Members of the evangelical left affirm marriage between one male and one female, but they are willing to enter into conversation and work through the issue. They recognize that society will not be healthy until the well being of both the family and homosexuals are pursued.

The Evangelical Center

The evangelical center is concerned with God’s intent for marriage and humans as demonstrated in the image of God. The image of God is simply male and female together. This image boldly declares both the equality of the male and female with each other, but also their distinctiveness from each other. Together, they bear the image of God, and when they bring their distinctiveness together they are best able to bring new life into the world and create a family. Male and female were not intended to be alone, but rather, they were intended to be with each other.[15] As a result, members of the evangelical center conclude that “easy” divorce, same-sex marriage or parenting, or reducing marriage to nothing more than casual, self-satisfying relationships are not to be affirmed.[16] But the evangelical center wants to do more than merely saying what the Bible says and judging the world. Instead, it wants to give some substance to what the Bible says by demonstrating how moving away from God’s intentions for marriage and family has adverse affects on humans. It wants to use social sciences to show how cohabitation “is associated with increases in domestic violence for women and children; increased drug use and abuse; lowered relational faithfulness, happiness, and durability; and dramatic increases in divorce once a marriage is entered.”[17] The evangelical center contends that marriage is supposed to unite the male and female as essential counterparts—a connection that society depends upon—but same-sex marriage breaks this understanding, since it makes the male and female unessential to each other.[18] Members of this position find a strong link between good lawmaking and loving one’s neighbors, so that how one seeks to influence the public through the legal system must follow some guidelines, particularly towards the homosexual community.[19]

Many evangelicals have approached the issue without seeking to love the homosexual community. Many members from the evangelical right have tried to argue against same-sex marriage by appealing to nature, law, social convention, unity, marriage as a suffering union, and the well-being of children, but all of their arguments have counterarguments.[20] Evangelicals from the left have proposed civil unions as an alternative to same-sex marriage, thinking that civil unions are not technically of the same status as marriage. Such a compromise would grant homosexual partners humane legal benefits without the religious status attached to the relationship.[21] But members from the evangelical center have hoped for a position that does not yield to same-sex marriage and give up on biblical moral convictions; at the same time, they want to put an end to non-loving activities, such as gay bashing, and beginning to respect homosexual human and civil rights.[22]

Critiquing the Evangelical Positions

Of the three evangelical positions towards same-sex marriage, I find myself in the center. But all three positions have their own problems. The evangelical right does not respect the homosexual community, the evangelical left does not respect biblical morality concerning marriage, and the evangelical center does not respect the religious separation of the church from the state.  It seems that the right does well by staying steadfast in its convictions regarding marriage and sexuality. However, the evangelical right should not allow its convictions to trample over the homosexual community. They should respect homosexuals even though they disagree with them. The left does well to seek to dialogue about the issue. They are steadfast in their convictions, but their convictions rest in loving and respecting the homosexual community and not merely to biblical morality. However, their focus on love and respect causes them to lose sight of God’s intent for humans—to be together in male-female pairs—and they go so far as to forsake this intent in order to please the homosexual community. The center does well to demonstrate how biblical morality has scientific backing; they work hard to show why following God’s intent for humans is best for society. However, in the same way as the right, the evangelical center is dangerously close to legislating biblical morality on society. While biblical morality might actually do society some good, it is not necessarily what society wants. The evangelical center is quite balanced, but it should not attempt to act as the conscience of society. The center needs to continue arguing its case, supporting it well with scientific data and explaining the benefits of its beliefs for society over other practices, lest it be guilty of an imperialistic attitude and therefore discarded as a solution to the issue.

It seems to me that out of all three of the evangelical positions towards same-sex marriage, I would be classified as a member of the evangelical center. I do focus on the need to love and respect the homosexual community, but I am not willing to release my conviction regarding God’s intent for humans in marriage. However, my approach is not extreme, which is why I would most certainly not classify myself as evangelical right. Yet, I would not argue on behalf of the homosexual community, saying that they deserve basic human rights, and seek for the state to approve and recognize same-sex marriage. I would take a different approach to the issue.

I would approach same-sex marriage in three parts. First, I would let it be clearly known that I believe God’s intent for humans rests in heterosexual marriage relationships. Second, I would attempt to demonstrate how this setup benefits society more than a same-sex marriage setup. And finally, I would argue for state-sponsored civil rights for both heterosexual and homosexual partners. I would seek state-sponsored civil rights, but not marriage for homosexual partners, because they should be able to have certain things in life, such as the ability to see their partners on their deathbeds. It would not be loving or respectful to deny them this right simply because of a moral conviction that homosexuality and same-sex marriage is wrong. Marriage itself is for this society more of a religious union than it is civil. As such, we cannot force people who do not align themselves with the same religious background to value marriage in the same way we do. Therefore, it makes sense that we could fight to preserve marriage as a state-recognized religious institution as a similar though distinct type of civil union, while at the same time permitting state-recognized civil unions amongst both heterosexual partners and homosexual partners. This way, both the religious institution is preserved and basic civil liberties are granted. In other words, marriage would still be contended as God’s best for society while still respecting the homosexual community, but religions will not be forced to marry anyone they do not want to, and partners can receive their basic human rights in all fairness.

Conclusion

Same-sex marriage is a very heated debate in evangelical circles. While members of the evangelical right tend to adhere to the words of Scripture and seek to keep same-sex marriage from becoming state-sponsored, members of the evangelical left tend to adhere to loving and respecting homosexuals, even at the expense of biblical morality. However, the evangelical center, of which I believe I am a part, seeks to provide a balanced response to the issue. It seeks to keep biblical morality while respecting homosexuals. Instead of simply attempting to keep same-sex marriage from becoming legal by merely arguing that the Bible says homosexuality is wrong as a defense, and instead of wishing to grant basic civil rights to homosexuals without regard for biblical morality, the center maintains that the Bible contains what is best for society, it seeks to defend biblical morality through scientific research and theory, and it respects the homosexual community. The center does not argue primarily from Scripture, nor does it argue primarily from anthropomorphic principles, but instead, it uses Scripture, principles, and science to formulate a response to the issue. Even though it is not perfect, as it struggles to keep from legislating morality upon people who do not want it, the center does provide a way to preserve marriage as an important religious institution while still granting civil liberties for homosexual partners.

Bibliography

Gushee, David. The Future of Faith in American Politics: The public witness of the evangelical center. Waco, Texas: Baylor University Press, 2008.

Jackson, Harry, and Perkins, Tony. Personal Faith Public Policy. Lake Mary, Florida: Frontline, 2008.

Minnery, Tom, and Stassen, Glenn. “Family Integrity,” Toward an Evangelical Public Policy: Political strategies for the health of the nation. Ronald Sider and Diane Knippers, eds. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2005. 245-64.

Wallis, Jim. God’s Politics: Why the right gets it wrong and the left doesn’t get it. New York: Harper One, 2005.


[1] Tom Minnery and Glenn Stanton, “Family Integrity,” Toward an Evangelical Public Policy: Political strategies for the health of the nation, Ronald Sider and Diane Knippers, eds. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2005), 246.

[2] Minnery and Stanton, “Family Integrity,” Toward an Evangelical Public Policy, 246.

[3] Ibid., 247.

[4] Harry Jackson Jr. and Tony Perkins, Personal Faith Public Policy (Lake Mary, Florida: Frontline, 2008), 142.

[5] Jackson and Perkins, Personal Faith Public Policy, 177.

[6] Ibid.

[7] David Gushee, The Future of Faith in American Politics: The public witness of the evangelical center (Waco, Texas: Baylor University Press, 2008), 166.

[8] Gushee, The Future of Faith in American Politics, 166.

[9] Jim Wallis, God’s Politics: Why the right gets it wrong and the left doesn’t get it (New York: Harper One, 2005), 331.

[10] Wallis, God’s Politics, 331.

[11] Ibid., 332.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid., 333-34.

[14] Ibid., 334.

[15] Minnery and Stanton, “Family Integrity,” Towards an Evangelical Public Policy, 250-51.

[16] Ibid., 256.

[17] Ibid., 261.

[18] Ibid., 262.

[19] Gushee, The Future of Faith in American Politics, 169.

[20] Ibid., 169-170.

[21] Ibid., 171.

[22] Ibid., 174.

Psalm 119:9-16

These 8 verses all start with bet, ב.

With what can a young man keep his way pure?
By keeping according to your word.

With my whole heart I seek you
do not lead me astray from your commandments.

I have hidden your word in my heart
in order that I will not sin against you.

Blessed are you, Lord, teach me your statutes.

I tell with my lips
all the judgments of your mouth.

I rejoice in the way of your laws over against all wealth.

I will meditate on your precepts
and I will examine your ways.

I will take pleasure in your statutes
I will not forget your word.

Psalm 119:1-8

In an effort to keep up on my Hebrew, I am starting a series in which I will be translating Psalm 119.

For those not knowing Hebrew, the first 8 verses all start with aleph, א, as Ps 119 is an acrostic poem that gives 8 verses starting with the respective letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Aleph is the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet. I will subsequently report the letter of the alphabet that starts each verse when going through this series. In total, there are 176 verses in Ps 119, which gives 8 verses for each of the 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet.

For those knowing or learning Hebrew, I challenge you to converse with me regarding my translations.

Happy are those whose way is blameless
those who walk in the laws of the Lord.

Happy are those who keep his laws
those who seek him with all their heart.

Indeed, they do not do injustice
they walk in his ways.

You commanded your regulations for the purpose of keeping them exceedingly.

Oh that my way will be established for keeping your statutes!

Then I will not be ashamed
when I look at all your commandments.

I will praise you with an upright heart
when I learn your righteous judgments.

I will keep your statutes
do not even forsake me at all.

Colossians 4:2-18

Paul’s Concluding Matters

“Devote yourselves to prayer, being on the alert in it with thanksgiving, praying together also concerning us, in order that God might open the door of the word to us to speak the mystery of Christ, about which I have also been bound, in order that I might reveal it as it is necessary for me to speak. Walk in wisdom towards those outside by making the most of the time. Let your word always be with grace, being seasoned with salt, for you to know how it is necessary for you to answer each one.

“All the things according to me Tychicus the beloved brother and faithful servant and co-slave in the Lord, whom I sent to you for this very thing, will make it known to you, in order that you might know the things concerning us and your hearts might be encouraged, with Onesimus the faithful and beloved brother, whois from you; they will make known all the things here to you.

“Aristarchus, my fellow prisoner, greets you and Mark, the nephew of Barnabas (about whom you received instructions, if he comes to you, receive him) and Jesus the one being called Justus, the ones who are of the circumcision, these ones are only fellow works in the kingdom of God, they have been a comfort to me. Epaphras, the one from you, a slave of Christ Jesus, greets you, always striving on your behalf in prayer, in order that you might stand mature and having been fully assured in every will of God. For I testify in him that he has many labors on your behalf and for those in Laodicea and those in the Hierapolis. Luke the beloved physician and Demas greet you.

“Greet the brothers in Laodicea and Nympha and the church in her house. And when the letter is read for you, make sure that also it is read in the church in Laodicea, and the letter from Laodicea that also you read. And say to Archippus, “See the service which you took in the Lord, in order that you might fulfill it.

“I greet with my hand of Paul. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.” (Col 4:2-18, my translation)

Paul charges his audience to devote themselves to prayer on his behalf. He wants them to devote themselves to prayer, being alert, and to pray with thanksgiving, in order that the door might be opened for him to speak the gospel. Paul is asking for support through prayer for the opportunity to preach the gospel. Paul also charges his audience to live wisely towards non-Christians (Remember the household code? Remember that appearance matters?). Paul wants them to be careful, making the most of how they use their time, because their conduct coincides with the gospel message he is proclaiming. Furthermore, they need to speak with gracefulness, seasoned with salt, especially when giving an answer. Both words and conduct are both powerful ways of communicating the gospel. “Seasoned” words are better than “unseasoned.” Seasoned words are interesting and fruitful. Paul is saying that they should be ready with an interesting response when verbally communicating with outsiders. One’s response, one’s answer, one’s story needs to be filled with zest; otherwise, it will not likely suit well.

Then Paul sends greetings and gives instructions for passing around the letter to Laodicea and vice versa. There are a couple noteworthy factors involved here. First, Paul was partnering with other people. He was not a lone wolf. Second, Nympha, a female no doubt, was in charge of a church that met in her house. In the New Testament, women could be in church leadership, although it was not leadership as we have come to know it in our American setting.

What can we say? We should be concerned about the testimony we put forth to non-Christians. Conduct is itself a testimony. We need to be wise in our conduct if we want to be effective. Furthermore, we need to speak well of each other and of God and his work in all of us, especially our own life story, if we want to be verbally effective. Our concern is not only for pleasing God, but also for bringing others into the household of God. We should actively seek to put on the right clothes, and, to speak rightly and positively of everyone. Are we dressing appropriately? Are we speaking rightly?

 

Colossians 3:18-4:1

Household Living Under Christ

“Wives, submit to your husbands as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not embitter against them. Children, obey your parents according to all things, for this is acceptable in the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, in order that they do not get discouraged.

Slaves, obey your lords according to all fleshly things, not with eye service as people pleasers, but with sincerity of heart while fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, toil from the soul as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that you will receive from the Lord the reward of the inheritance. Serve the Lord, Christ; for the one who does injustice will be repaid which injustice he did, and there is no favoritism. Lords, show right and fairness to your slaves, knowing that you also have a Lord in heaven.” (Col 3:18-4:1, my translation)

Christ is supreme, even over the household. Paul charges every member of the household with something. Wives are to submit, husbands to love and not embitter, children to obey, fathers not to anger, slaves to serve earnestly, and masters to treat fairly. In Christ, there is no race, no ritual distinction, no class, no age. In Christ, Christians are equals. This equality has far reaching ramifications. Husbands are not to treat wives or children harshly as though they are property. Lords, or masters, are not to treat slaves harshly either. Husbands and lords are held accountable to the Lord in heaven. Likewise, wives, children, and slaves all answer to the same Lord. Everyone is equal with each other, but all are subject to Christ. All are morally responsible agents, and all have a part to play even in the household. The things Paul tells each of them is both culturally bound and yet theologically profound. For instances, wives are told to submit. This charge was tied to the patriarchalism of his culture. But in Christ there is no race, no gender, no age, no class, right? True, and, yet, we have an instance in which Paul is confirming socially accepted and expected gender roles. How can this be? While Paul is confirming this cultural aspect, he is also transforming it through the lens of Christ’s supremacy. Wives are to choose to submit. It is their conscious choice to submit and to do it in relation to submission to Christ. Paul is affording women the option to choose. Not only that, but in stark contrast to other household codes, Paul is actual speaking to women as responsible moral agents, whereas other texts only addressed the husband and charged the husband to rule his wife. In connection with the wifely submission, Paul charges the husbands to love and not rule their wives. While he is affirming patriarchal gender roles, he is also radically transforming them in their specific time and situation.

But even more interesting is that slaves are to serve their lords with respect to Christ, the Lord in heaven. They are to serve men earnestly. They are not to give eye service as people pleasers do. Christ Supreme calls slaves to do everything wholeheartedly and not begrudgingly. The Lord in heaven calls slaves to work as though it is to Christ that they are working for. This is a radical transformation of services rendered!

And, so, what can we say? Christians are to live under Christ’s supremacy, and this extends into the household. There is no matter that does not fall under Christ’s reign. There is no intimate situation, no personal location, no physical abode that does not apply. Christ is supreme over everything. Whether you are a husband or a wife, a parent or a child, or an employer or an employee, all matters of life are important. As such, it is your responsibility to put on the new clothes that characterize believers.  When it comes to personal matters at home, parents are not to make choices that will embitter and discourage their children. In other words, they need to be encouraging towards their children. Also, children need to obey their parents. It is part of their acceptable service and worship to Christ.

In America, there are no legal slaves, so the technical language doesn’t apply. However, there is a charge that can be said of all those who work for an employer–work as though it were unto Christ. No matter what your job is, do it wholeheartedly, not looking to do it correctly when your boss is looking, but in all things on the job, do it earnestly as though it were unto Christ. Your job can be a place of worship unto Christ.

What about wives and husbands? Some people argue that wives are to submit and this command is universal. Others say it is not universal, but, rather, Paul used the instruction for a specific culturally bound situation. In either case, both the husband and the wife are morally responsible agents, so even in the contemporary American culture, both have a role to play. Wives, how will you serve Christ in your relationship to your husband? You have a choice. You can honor Christ in your relationship to your husband, or you can dishonor Christ. Perhaps it could be as simple as listening to your husbands desires? Perhaps it could be that you need to give your input gracefully when making decisions with him? Maybe you can discuss certain tasks with your husband so that the two of you can decide together what to do and how to do it? But the same is true of husbands–you have the same choice to make. Husbands, you do not rule your wives. How you treat your wives matters to Christ. Include your wives in decisions. Partner up with your wives to get things done. Share the load, but talk to your wives to determine in your situation how the load would best be shared. Love your wives by showing affection as well as compassion. Love is a mindset and a choice, not just a feeling. Make a point to love your wives throughout the week, every day, in multiple ways. Gift giving, letter writing, singing, dancing, lounging, caressing, and kissing are just for starters. Love is much more than gifts, notes, touching, or time. It is a life of service and devotion as well. We must challenge ourselves to love our wives within all of these aspects. In so doing, we will not be harsh with them and we won’t irritate or embitter them.

How you live matters to God. Christ is your Lord every bit as much in heaven and on earth, wether at work or at home. Make it a point to clothe yourselves with Christ’s new clothes, and to serve him in all that you do towards your spouse, your children, your coworkers, your church friends, and your neighbors. Your appearance matters. How well are you representing Christ with your actions? How well are you outwardly demonstrating God’s inward work within you?

 

Colossians 3:1-17

Living Under Christ, Part 2 of 2

“Therefore, if you have been raised together with Christ, seek the things above, about whom Christ is sitting down at the right hand of God; think about the things above, not the things on the earth. For you died and your life is hidden with Christ in God; when Christ is revealed, your life, then also you will be revealed with him in glory.

“Therefore, put to death the parts of the things of the world, sexual impurity, general impurity, lustful passions and  evil desires of the flesh, and greed, which is idolatry, according to these things the wrath of God is coming on the sons of disobedience. In which you also formerly walked, when you were living in them; but now you also put away all these things, wrath, anger, evil, blasphemy, filthy speech from your mouth; do not lie to one another, taking off the old person with his actions and putting on the new, which is renewed in knowledge according to him, the image of the creator, wherein there is no Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, slave, free, but Christ is all things and in everything.

“Therefore, put on as chosen saints of God and having been loved, affection, compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patient, enduring with one and other and forgiving each other if anyone against someone has a complaint; just as also the Lord was gracious with you, thus also you; but in all these things have love, which is a uniting bond of perfect unity. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, in which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, in all wisdom teaching and admonishing you, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with grace in your hearts to God; and everything which anything if you do in word or in deed, all things do in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Col 3:1-17, my translation)

Since Christ is supreme, believers are to live under Christ in faith, love, and unity. But that is not all. Paul tells his audience to think on heavenly and not on earthly things. Our identify is hidden in Christ. It is in Christ we find our everything. We find our hope and life in Christ, even when he is revealed in glory. Paul uses language of clothing to further discuss the life that is conducted with respect to Christ supreme. Put off and put on. Put off sexual immorality. The word for sexual immorality is the same root word used in the contemporary term, pornography (pornos, graphos). Sexual immorality is about extra-marital sexual relations. Such things are to be put off by Christians, by those who answer to Christ. Not only sexual immorality, but also impurity. This word was used in connection with sexual immorality in similar vice lists. As a technical term, it denotes being dirty, but figuratively it marks moral corruption. Christians are to put off moral corruption. In addition, believers are to put off lustful passions and evil desires of the flesh, including greediness, which is idolatry. Not only are they to put off, but they are to put away wrath, anger, evil, blasphemy, and filthy speech. Blasphemy in this context is abusive speech in a reviling, defamatory way. Christians are to put away speech that abuses the reputation of others. Furthermore, filthy speech, when taken alongside of blasphemy, refers to obscene expressions to further expand derogatory speech. It is speech that concerns sexuality in a socially distasteful way. Those who follow Christ’s supremacy are to put away such things. Christians are not to be liars, either. Christians are those who have died and been raised with Christ. To use the clothing language, Christians have taken off the old person’s “clothing” and put on new ones, which is a renewed knowledge in accordance with Christ, the image of God the Creator. In Christ there is no race, no ritual markers, no social stigmas, no social classes. In Christ, everyone is equal. As a result, we need to put on the new clothes.

And what does Paul tell his audience to put on? As if they are chosen saints loved by God, they are to put on affection, compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. In addition, they are to bear or put up with each other, forgiving them if they have a complaint, because Christ has forgiven us. They are to put on love, the unifying bond. The peace of Christ is to rule in their hearts as one body, and they are to be thankful. They are to let the word of Christ dwell in them richly, in wisdom, allowing it to teach and admonish them. They are to sing songs with gratitude to God. And whatever they do in word or deed, all of it is to be done in the name of the Lord Jesus while giving thanks to God the Father through Christ.

How well do we dress? Are we still wearing old clothes as Christians? Or have we gotten rid of our old rags to put on our new clothes? Even today, we face challenges to put off things in favor of putting on others. To live under Christ, the Supreme One, is to put on the new clothes. Our appearance makes a difference. Our appearance is also an outward representation of an inward reality. Is our appearance demonstrating to the world our inward reality? It should be. As Christians, we have the responsibility to stop gossiping and ruining each others’ reputations, not only because we are all co-people, but because we are brothers and sisters in Christ. We should not speak ill of anyone, Christian or not. We need to be a people marked by patience rather than anger. We need to be devoted to our spouses in marriage. We need to show compassion, affection, and love. We should not be following the evil lusts of the flesh. We should be thankful, and we should sing to God with gratitude. After all, he has given us the opportunity to change our appearance and has given us a clean slate.

Let’s focus on what we should put on. To dress well, we should be showing compassion and affection. How might we do that for each other? How about giving a kind word to someone when he is down? How about listening to someone when she needs to speak her mind? What about giving someone a burger when he is out on the street, seemingly homeless, possibly hopeless, and is asking for spare change? What about assuming the best intention rather than boiling over quickly and assuming the worst? What about serving others in little or big ways, whether it be dishing out soup at the local shelter or helping your neighbor by mowing their lawn? Are we not to put up with each others’ imperfections? Are we not to shrug off your fellow believers’ annoying traits or actions? Are we not to forgive others of those imperfections and annoyances? Are we not to forgive others for the wrongs they do to us? Shouldn’t we forgive? Are we not to dwell on the word of Christ? Are we not to be thankful? Is this not why we pray over our food and give thanks when we come together and eat? Paul put it simply and succinctly: whatever you do, do it in the name of the Lord while giving thanks. No matter what you do, do it as though you are doing it for Christ, and be thankful that you have the opportunity to do it for him. In so doing, you will be the best dressed believer around, and you will certainly be living under the supremacy of Christ.

Colossians 2:1-23

Living Under Christ, Part 1 of 2

“For I desire for you to know how great I have struggled for you and for those in Laodicea and as much as they have not seen my face in the flesh, in order that their hearts might be encouraged after being united in love and in all the riches of the full assurance of the understanding in the knowledge of the mystery of God, namely Christ, in whom they are all treasures of wisdom and hidden knowledge. I say this in order that no one might deceive you with enticing arguments. For if indeed I am away in the flesh, I am yet with you in spirit, rejoicing and seeing your order and your firmness of faith in Christ.

“Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in him, taking root and building up in him and confirming the faith just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that none of you will be taken captive by philosophies and empty deceit according to traditions of humanity, according to the elements of the world and not according to Christ; for in him dwells all the fullness of deity in bodily form, and you have been filled in him, he is the head of every ruler and authority. In whom also you were circumcised with a circumcision not made with hands in the putting off of the body of the flesh, in the circumcision of Christ, being buried with him in the baptism, in whom also you were raised by the faithful work of God which raised him from death; and you were dead in transgressions and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, he made you alive together with him, forgiving us all the transgressions. Wiping out each of our record of debts in ordinances which was against us, and he took it up from our midst nailing it to the cross; disarming the rules and the authorities, mocking in boldness, triumphing over them in him.

“Therefore, let no one judge you in matters of eating and in drinking or in sharing in festivals or new moon festivals or sabbaths; these are a shadow of what is coming, and that is the body of Christ. Let no one condemn you while desiring in humility and worship of the angels, which he has seen in great detail, puffing up in vain by the mind of his flesh, and grasping the head, from whom the entire body grows with godly growth by supplying and uniting joints and ligaments.

“If you died with Christ from the elements of this world, why do you submit as though you are living in the world? Do not eat, do not enjoy, do not consume, which is all for the purpose of destruction by consumption, according to the commandments and teachings of humanity, whichever is a word indeed having wisdom in self-made religion and humility and asceticism, not having anything of value against the satisfaction of the flesh.” (Col 2:1-23, my translation)

Remembering that Christ is supreme, Paul now charges his readers to live under Christ’s reign. In contrast, one can live under the reign of the world, under its elements, philosophies, religious constructions, rulers, authorities, rules, and ordinances. Paul was going to great lengths to encourage them to unite in love and in the very knowledge of Christ. His charge to them is succinct–walk in Christ. Walk language is metaphorical for “live.” Living in Christ is then expounded in much detail. Positively, Christians are to take root and build up in Christ, confirm the faith, and abound in thanksgiving. Paul is therefore adding additional traits that characterize believers. Negatively, believers to not get captured by philosophies, empty traditions, or the elements of the world. These things matter not. But Christ is everything. Christ is human yet fully divine. And, again, Christ alone is supreme; he is in fact superior to the rulers and authorities of this world. Christians live in relation to the Supreme One. Christians were baptized with Christ, raised to life with him by God. As a result, their slate has been wiped clean. God is triumphant.

Paul then charges his audience not to live as though God has not won or that their slate is still extant. Matters of eating and drinking, festivals and Jewish events, or even the observance of the Sabbath have no jurisdiction. Furthermore, angel worship–whether the direct worship of angels or, and perhaps the better way of understanding this phrase, the indirect worship of the holy God through the mediation of angels–is not necessary. Elitism has no place. The body of Christ is organic; each of its constituent parts are intimately linked together and they grow up together. Paul is exhorting his readers and listeners to live as part of the unified body.

Those who live in the unified body have died with Christ, as evident in the baptism, which means they have died and separated from the elements of the world, so there is no reason that they should still live as though they are accountable to the world. Food was meant for consumption. Asceticism is designed to deny what was meant for consumption; it is a worthless self-made religion.

Simply put, those who recognize Christ as supreme live as though Christ is their Lord. They are devoted to Christ and not to philosophy. They walk in Christ and not in worthless self-made religion. They are characterized by love, faith, and unity. Furthermore, they worship God directly and do not have need for an elite group of mediators. They are not accountable to matters of asceticism. They can enjoy food and drink with a clear conscience. Finally, their slate has been wiped clean. They can live a life that is marked by forgiveness rather than condemnation.

Are we living lives that display God’s victory? Are we as Christians reflecting Christ in our lives? Or are we caught up in matters of philosophy or religion? It is not that philosophy or religion is a bad thing. However, Christ is to be our focus inwardly and outwardly. Christ has set us free from our sins, but we now answer to Christ. We are part of him, and we ought to live like it. We ought to live as though we answer to Christ alone and not to the world, not to humanity, and not to philosophy or religion. There are two contemporary examples to mention. “I thought Christians can’t eat meat on Fridays.” Not true. “I thought Christians can’t drink alcohol at all.” Not true. Such ordinances are not part of Christ. Christians need not live as though such things are required of them. What is required? Faith, love, and unity.

And there is still more to be said. For now, let it suffice to say that Christians live under the Supreme One, and, as such, they are to walk in him.