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Colossians 3:13  Forgive as the Lord forgave you

This is one of the highest and most difficult of all moral lessons. Everyone believes in forgiveness until they have been deeply hurt; then they want justice. 

An elderly woman was delightful in her youth but she became bitter with age. As a young lady she was engaged to be married, but three days before the wedding, her fiancé ran off with her sister. The pain was overwhelming, and she never recovered.

If I had the opportunity to speak to her I would have explained three things. First, forgiveness is not optional. Jesus said, if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins (Matthew 6:15). He did not say this to be cruel, but kind. Until we forgive those who have hurt us, we become their prisoners. Forgiveness is the key that unlocks the door from the inside. It does more for the one who is forgiving than for the one who is being forgiven.

Second, I would have explained that forgiveness will make us more like Jesus Christ, which is the goal of the Christian life. From the cross he prayed, Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing (Luke 23:34). It is easier to forgive others after they stop hurting us, but Jesus forgave his killers while they were still killing him. Since God’s purpose is to make us like Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29), and since Jesus Christ is the most forgiving person who ever lived, God may allow us to be deeply hurt so that we can learn to forgive deeply. 

Third, I would have explained that recovery can be accelerated. Jesus said, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you (Luke 6:28). If you have a piece of steel that is bent, and you want to straighten it out, you must bend it beyond straight for it to become straight. In order to recover quickly, it is not enough to forgive the offending person, we must also bless them. 

Whenever the offending person comes to mind you can pray like this: Father, bless my friend financially; make all their dreams come true. Also bless them spiritually with a deeper love for you. And make their relationships a source of blessing too. And while you are at it, Father, bless me twice as much

By asking a double blessing for yourself, you will be able to pray sincerely for the offending person’s good. When the offending person no longer comes to mind, you have recovered. The most beautiful people in the world are not those who have never been hurt, but those who have been deeply hurt, and learned the art of forgiveness. 

Colossians 3:18 Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 

I can think of at least four reasons why many wives struggle with this verse. First, modern culture is more egalitarian than what we find in the Bible, so the idea of wifely submission seems unnatural to us. 

Second, many wives are better leaders than their husbands, earn more money than their husbands, and supervise men at work. Why would a natural leader submit to someone with less leadership ability?

Third, some husbands are irresponsible and oppressive, making the marriage a living hell. Heartfelt submission to that kind of person is nearly impossible.

Fourth, some husbands are so unqualified to lead that following them would take the family backward in almost every way. When all these things combine, the idea of wifely submission seems almost unbearable.  

A biblical example of wifely submission is Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord (1 Peter 3:6). But if you read their story, you will discover that Sarah could also be assertive. At one point she almost defied Abraham’s leadership, and nearly ordered him to do what she wanted. Abraham could have put Sarah down, but God said, Listen to whatever Sarah tells you (Genesis 21:12). Many have learned that it is easier for wives to follow their husbands, when their husbands are willing to listen to their wives. 

After many years of marriage Julene and I are still trying to figure this out, but the following example might be helpful. Every so often we will be in the car and she will say, Honey, you are going too fast. And I will say, Yes dear. And she will say, Honey, you are going to miss your exit. And I will say, Yes dear. And she will say, Honey, you are going to run out of gas. And I will say, Yes dear.  

I do not like to admit it, but there are times when I’m going too fast, or I’m going to miss my exit, or I’m going to run out of gas. Heaven knows I’m not the best driver, and it actually helps to listen to my wife. That said, there is one thing she is never allowed to do: grab the steering wheel. If two people try to steer the car, no one will enjoy the ride, and it could be fatal. 

Colossians 3:19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them

Whenever I am upset, the most natural thing in the world is to be harsh with my wife. But she has explained that my words can be more hurtful than I want them to be; and if I knew how hurtful they were, I would not say them. 

Thankfully, she has been willing to overlook my harshness because I have built up an emotional bank account. Whenever I say something positive, it’s like making a little deposit. Whenever I say something negative, it’s like making a little withdrawal. As long as there is a balance, the relationship is stable. But if it gets overdrawn, things are less predictable.

A young man was getting married, and his father-in-law gave him a gift. Inside the box was a watch with words inscribed on the glass: Say something nice to Sarah. Whenever he checked the time, he was reminded of the easiest way to have a happy relationship.

Colossians 3:20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord

Paul stated one of the Ten Commandments given by God from the top of Mount Sinai. The first four concern our relationship with God: (1) have no other gods; (2) make no idols; (3) do not blaspheme; and (4) observe the Sabbath. The final six concern our relationship with others: (1) honor your parents; (2) do not murder; (3) do not commit adultery; (4) do not steal; (5) do not lie; and (6) do not covet. 

The arrangement is significant since, generally speaking, murder is worse than adultery; adultery is worse than stealing; stealing is worse than lying; and lying is worse than coveting. But the commandment just before the prohibition of murder is to honor our parents. And any child so rebellious as to curse his parents could have been put to death (Exodus 21:17). 

This may seem extreme, but honoring parents is the foundation of civilization. If children do not learn to respect their parents, they are less likely to respect their teachers, employers, the law, or God himself. Authority and submission are important to God; and civilization rests on children respecting their parents. 

Reflection and Review
Have you ever been deeply hurt?
Why is forgiveness important?
Should wives always submit to their husbands?