We often hear the saying “charity begins at home,” which reminds us that we must first show our love and kindness to those who are near to us. It is an act of hypocrisy if we only show kindness to others but neglect to do the same for our family members. In the same way, Christianity must begin at home. It is no use talking about our exploits of faith and spiritual fervor, when we are not Christ-like to our spouses, children and domestic servants at home. Our Christianity is often tested not so much in a crisis moment which calls for heroic faith but in the humdrum of our daily family relationships. This is what Paul was getting at when he wrote to the Colossian church nearly two thousand years ago. And the message is still very relevant for us today. In exhorting the Colossians to a practical holy living, he first reminded them of their new relationship with Christ. Their new life was rooted in union with Christ. They have ended their relationship with their past and now they have begun their new life by “putting on” the new garment of righteousness: ‘bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering, forbearing… and forgiving one another…and love” (Col. 3: 12-14). However all these virtues may sound good and spiritual but they are ‘as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal’ if they remain only as an abstract code of ethics. Hence, Paul exhorted the Colossians that they must first practise their faith at home. In Col. 3: 18-4: 1, he described a Christian household in the first century house-church. In this passage Paul addressed three pairs of people in the household and the one in the subordinate position was mentioned first i.e. wife, child, and slave. Is this just a coincidence or a literary style in Paul’s writing? No, I believe there is a deliberate pattern for us to take note of. First, the subordination of each partner reflects the function in the household. It has nothing to do with one’s ranking before God. Further, they are mentioned first because Paul wanted to emphasize the high regard God had for those in ‘vulnerable’ positions. Women, children and especially slaves are highly dependent for protection, care and provision from their counterparts. As such, they are easily exploited, oppressed and manipulated by those who have power over them. Thus, God is cautioning those in the position of power not to abuse it but to treat those under them with tender care and respect. At the same time the husband, father and master are reminded that they have the responsibility to represent God to their respective partners. The husband represents Christ as head of the wife. The father represents God the Father to his children. The master reflects Christ to his slaves. Many of us may think that these requirements are too high to attain. And if our Christianity is most tested at home, then we must confess that we failed miserably. How then can we reflect Christ in our homes? Paul provided the key in the word ‘Lord’ which was mentioned seven times, in Colossians 3: 18-4: 1. Christ must be the center or Lord of all our conduct and relationships in our home. When we submit to Christ, then our relationship with all members of our household will be right also. Jesus said, “And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? (Lk. 6: 46); then He followed the question with the parable of two foundations/builders (6:47-49). The challenge of the parable is this: are we building our lives and homes on the sure foundation of Jesus Christ? How about you? Are you building your home on the Lord Jesus Christ?
Rev. Mark Tay