Several times throughout the New Testament, we are instructed to imitate Christ – to follow him – to become like him. We are told that we are ambassadors of Christ. We are his representatives here on earth. And that’s really the focus of our passage today.
We ended last week in mid-paragraph at verse 16 of Colossians 3. I’m not sure how your Bible has all the verses grouped together on the page, but I think in all of the Bibles that I’ve seen, verses 16 & 17 of Colossians 3 are always lumped together.
But you might have noticed that we stopped last week at verse 16 – without including verse 17. So why did we do that? Well, let’s read through our passage this morning and I’ll see if I can explain my thinking: Start at verse 17 and we’ll go all the way through chapter three right into the first verse of chapter 4.
“And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father. 18 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting for those who belong to the Lord.
19 Husbands, love your wives and never treat them harshly.
20 Children, always obey your parents, for this pleases the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not aggravate your children, or they will become discouraged.
22 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. 23 Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. 24 Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ. 25 But if you do what is wrong, you will be paid back for the wrong you have done. For God has no favorites. 1 Masters, be just and fair to your slaves. Remember that you also have a Master—in heaven.
Colossians 3:17 – 4:1
Now most of what we just read sure seems to be a hodgepodge of instructions. It’s like the misc section – a little of this, a little of that, a little of something else. It’s like reading through some of the Proverbs – it seems to be just random bits of good advice.
But it’s that verse 17 that gives it all a common theme. It’s like a bridge between everything Paul just told us in the previous verses about living according to our new nature and all these seemingly random bits of good advice. So let’s focus for a moment on verse 17.
And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.
Paul just finished a whole section of this letter to the Colossians talking about how we are to put on our new Christ-like nature – how we are to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit in every moment of every day – how we are to walk in close fellowship with God. And as we do all of that, everything we say or do will be a reflection of God.
As Christians – we are ‘Christ ones’. When people look at us, they should get a really good idea of what Christ looks like. Not physically of course, but in word and deed and attitude. When people watch you, you’re showing them who Jesus is. You’re a living example of Jesus. At least, we should be.
Everything we do or say, we do it all as a representative of the Lord Jesus. It’s like we’re His ambassadors. We speak and act on behalf of our King. Whatever Jesus would do – that’s what we ought to be doing.
Most non-Christians that you know aren’t going read the Bible to learn about your God. Chances are, they’re not going to google it either. At least not at first. They’re first going to learn about your God by watching you. Right?
So what you say and do – and the attitude behind what you say and do – that describes for people who Jesus is. You’re showing them – this is what Jesus would say. This is what Jesus would do. This is the attitude that Jesus would have. If you are a “Christ-one”, then people are going to look to you to see who Christ is.
And that’s what makes this so important. Your example may very well be what causes the people in your life to either accept Christ or reject Him. If we do a lousy job of representing Christ to our friends and neighbours and co-workers – they’re not going to want anything to do with our Christ.
So it’s pretty important that we are representing our God well. That’s why Paul says – whatever you do, whatever you say – do everything as a representative of Christ.
And so to give us some concrete examples of how to do this, Paul goes through some of the different relationships we have in life: Husbands and wives – how can we represent Jesus in our marriage? Parents & Children – how can we reflect Christ in our families? Slaves & Masters – how can we be good ambassadors of our King in our workplace? The idea here is that no matter what position we find ourselves in, (whether we are a husband or a wife, a child or a parent, a slave or a master) it doesn’t matter who we are – everything we do or say should be a reflection of our God. So let’s go through those different examples that Paul gives us this morning.
Paul starts with husbands and wives. He says in verse 18 & 19.
“Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting for those who belong to the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and never treat them harshly.” Colossians 3:18-19
Now honestly, quite often these verses can be a hot button topic – people tend to cringe whenever they hear these verses about wives submitting to their husbands and such.… But that’s because our culture has so twisted its meaning into something that the Bible never intended. You see, Paul’s not being chauvinistic. He’s simply instructing husbands and wives to take on the attitude of Jesus Christ and apply it to their marriage relationship within the roles that God has given them. We are to represent Christ even to our spouse.
Let’s start with the men. Husbands – you need to love your wife like Christ loves you. Actually, Paul says very much the same thing in Ephesians 5:25. He writes in that letter…
“For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church.” Ephesians 5:25
And if you need to see how Christ loved the church – look at Romans 5:8. Here’s how Christ loves the church.
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
When we were still God’s enemies, He loved us so much that He died for us. That’s some kind of love – and that’s the kind of love that we husbands need to have for our wives.
You know, it’s pretty easy to love our wives most of the time. When they’re thoughtful, and pleasant, when they make you supper and say how wonderful you are – it’s easy to love your wife. But what happens in those times when they aren’t so perfect? (And I know that doesn’t happen often – but on the rare occasion when they’re not perfect) – when they get short tempered, when they treat you unkindly, when they make unreasonable demands of you, when they ignore your needs… Do you still unconditionally demonstrate your love to your wife? Do you continue to serve her? Do you continue take care of her needs? Do you continue to cherish her?
That’s how Christ loves you. When you were totally unlovable – God loved you. And if you are going to be a representative of Christ, that’s how you need to love your wife.
And not only will your wife notice – but your kids will notice too. In fact your whole family will notice. Your neighbours and your co-workers will even notice. When you love your wife like Christ loves you, people will notice. Just that one thing – just loving your wife like that speaks volumes about the God you serve.
And wives, the way you represent Christ in your marriage is by submitting to your husband as Christ submitted Himself to God. So, let’s look again at the example of Christ. Let’s read in Philippians 2:5
“You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. 6 Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. 7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, 8 he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.” Philippians 2:5-8
We talked back at the beginning of this study of Colossians how Jesus Christ was indeed God – the Creator of the Universe. He didn’t have to submit to anyone. Jesus was no less God than God the Father was. Yet because of His love for us, He didn’t cling to his equality with God. He gave up his divine privileges to become a frail human being and He humbled Himself in obedience to God the Father and He died on a cross in our place.
This is the same attitude you wives must have towards your husbands. You may very well be as capable or even more capable than your husband at many things. And you are certainly no less important or no less valuable than your husband.
But in your role as a wife, God has called you to love you husband by submitting to His leadership. I found a good definition of that kind of submission on the internet.
“Submission is the divine calling of a wife to honor and affirm her husband’s leadership and help carry it through according to her gifts.”
That’s Biblical submission. That’s God’s design – and it works really good when both parties do their part. When husbands unconditionally love their wives – its easy for the wives to honour and affirm the leadership of their husbands. And when wives honour and affirm the leadership of their husbands, it easy for the husbands to unconditionally love their wives.
And I know there is a lot more than could be said on this topic, but for now, I want to go back to our main point – and that is being a representative of Jesus in everything we say or do.
Husbands – show the love of Christ to everyone around you – including your wife – by loving your wife as Christ loves you. Wives – show the love of Christ to everyone around you – including your husband – by honouring and affirming the leadership of your husband in the same way that Christ submitted Himself out of love for you.
The next set of relationships that Paul talks about in this passage is the parent/child relationship. How can we reflect Christ in our families?
20 “Children, always obey your parents, for this pleases the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not aggravate your children, or they will become discouraged.”
Ok, so let’s start with the children. What was Christ’s attitude when it came to obeying His Father? Well, we already read the passage in Philippians about how Jesus humbled Himself in obedience to God when He died on the cross. So let’s look at another example. There is a verse in Luke that shows us the same attitude. This is while Jesus was praying just before He was arrested and crucified. Luke 22:42
“Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” Luke 22:42
Jesus was not looking forward to what He was about to go through. He was not eager to go to the cross. But Jesus was still willing to obey His Father. And Jesus wasn’t obeying because He had to – it was a willing obedience. He said “Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” And children, teens, or grown ups still living with your parents – this is the kind of attitude that you are to have towards your parents. A willing obedience. Not a reluctant obedience or a grudging obedience. But a willing obedience.
My brothers & I all love the Calvin & Hobbes comic strips – I don’t know if you guys read those anymore. We’ve got the whole collection of books. It’s basically about this six year old terror of a kid who runs around with his stuffed tiger Hobbes. He’s always getting into trouble at school or fighting with the neighbour girl Susie, or running away from his babysitter, or just causing aggravation to his parents. And in one of the books that we have, Calvin has this little poem:
I did not want to go with them.
Alas I had no choice.
This was made quite clear to me
In the threat’ning tones of voice.
I protested mightily
And scrambled cross the floor.
But though I grabbed the furniture,
They dragged me out the door.
In the car, I screamed and moaned.
I cried my red eyes dry.
The window down, I yelled for help.
To people who passed by.
Mom and Dad can make the rules
And certain things forbid,
But I can make them wish that they
had never had a kid.
That’s not the attitude that reflects Christ. We need to have an attitude of willing obedience. Obeying your parents – not because you have to, but because you want to. Because you recognize that God has put them in authority over you. Because you recognize that they love you and want the best for you. That’s the attitude that reflects Christ. So kids, young people – to be representatives of Christ to your parents and to your siblings, to your friends, your neighbors, and the rest of your extended family – you need to have a willing, cheerful obedience to your parents. I guarantee you, people will notice. They will see Christ in you.
And on the flip side of that, Paul also address the fathers (and you can probably lump the moms in there too). He says…
“Fathers, do not aggravate your children, or they will become discouraged.”
The King James version says “Provoke not your children to anger.” But you know, even as good Christian dads, sometimes I think we do. Now we probably don’t do that intentionally, not on purpose, but in our moments of thoughtlessness, I think sometimes it happens. Let me give you a few examples of what I mean:
One way we can aggravate our children is by having double standards. Where we tell them not to do something, but we go ahead and do it ourselves. Maybe we’re always telling them to share their toys, but we don’t let anybody touch our stuff. Simple things like that, things that we don’t even think about, can be aggravating to our children.
Another way we might aggravate our kids is with broken promises. “Dad, you said you’d play with me after supper.” “Well yeah, I know, but I’m really tired – why don’t you play with your sister.” That’s discouraging stuff for a kid. Broken promises like that can really wound a kids heart.
Or how about criticism without encouragement? Dads have a reputation for making sure their kids know what they did wrong – but its a lot less common that we tell them what they did right. Certainly, our kids need discipline and correction, but along with that, they need lots of encouragement too. Without that encouragement, it is so easy for them to lose heart.
So, fathers, do not aggravate your children. After all, you are the #1 influence of how your child views God. Did you know that? What they think about you, that’s what they think about their Heavenly Father.
So how well are you representing God to your kids? If you aggravate them in these ways – by having double standards, breaking your promises, always being critical, being unreliable, being unfair, being absent – living like that tells your kids that their Heavenly Father is like that too. That’s sure not the picture I want to paint for my kids.
I want my kids to know that their Heavenly Father is always there for them – He’s never too busy. He’s always gracious and kind. He’s always forgiving – no matter what the offence. What He says is absolute – He doesn’t change His mind just because it’s inconvenient. I want them to know that they count on their Heaven Father.
You all probably know the passage in 1 Corinthians 13 – the “Love chapter”. I was looking at a couple of those verses this week and I wondered if my kids could take out that word “love” and put in “My Dad.” Could your kids read it like this: (Put in “My Dad” instead of “love”)
4 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Isn’t that what you want your kids to say about you? How well are you representing Christ to your kids? Of all the people in your life that you’re going to influence – Dads – your kids are the ones whom you will influence the most. So remember, whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus.
The last set of relationships that Paul talks about in this passage is the slave/master relationship. He says in verse 22.
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. 23 Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.
Now today none of us are slaves in the way that Paul was thinking when he wrote this, but certainly all of us at one time have worked for someone else – so I think this applies well to us. And its the same principle here that we’ve been looking at all morning. Whatever do we or say, including how we work, we do it as representatives of Christ.
Imagine for a minute what kind of a worker Jesus would have been. By trade, Jesus was a carpenter. Now I don’t know if that meant He built houses or fine furniture or whatever, but we can be pretty sure that He would have spent several years working for other people – probably at the very least, we would have worked for his dad, Joseph.
So what kind of worker would he have been? Would he show up at work late – and go home early? Would he cut corners and cover up mistakes instead of fixing them? Would he charge for hours he didn’t work or take extended lunch-breaks? Would he spend his lunch hour griping about his boss? Would He sluff off whenever the boss wasn’t looking?
Of course not. We can’t imagine Jesus doing any of that. So neither should we.
You know, the Bible has all kinds of things to say about working hard, not being lazy, earning your keep, being honest and reliable. Just read through the Proverbs. That one book alone, has all that stuff in there and more.
We need to represent our Lord well at our workplace. You might be the only “Jesus” your co-workers ever see. So we’d better paint an accurate picture.
Jesse was telling me the other day that Sarah had been working extra hours at Michael’s because she was one of the reliable ones. That is an excellent testimony! Way to go Sarah! Our work ethics reflect our God. And if our employers notice that we are hard working, reliable, honest, trustworthy – that speaks volumes to them about the God we serve.
And masters or bosses, foremen, managers – whatever term you want to us – the same principle applies to you.
“Masters, be just and fair to your slaves. Remember that you also have a Master—in heaven.” Colossians 4:1
Think about all the blessings that our Master in heaven has poured out on us. Think the undeserved favor we have. How kind and gracious and generous is our Master! We need to reflect that – even in our business dealings.
Christians should be the best people to work for, shouldn’t they? People should know that when they come to work for you, you’re going to be fair with them, you’re going to pay them well and on time, you’ll be encouraging – you’ll actually care about them as a person. People should love working for Christians. But I think too often, that’s not the case. I’ve heard horror stories of Christian bosses that are terrible to work for. That does not represent our God well.
So what kind of an ambassador are you in your workplace? Do you, as a boss, manager, foreman – whatever – do you represent Christ well to the people that work for you?
When people hear what you say and see what you do, are they more or less inclined to find out about this God that you serve? Does your Christianity speak well of your Christ?
Because if we’re going to make disciples, we need to paint an accurate picture of who we’re following. We need to represent our God well.
Next week as we near the conclusion of this series, we’re going to be looking at how we are to live among unbelievers. And originally, I was going to include it as part of this message, because it fits in naturally with what we’re talking about. I don’t want to spoil my punch line for next week’s message, but how well we represent Christ in our day to day lives – no matter what our role is – that will determine how effective we are in reaching our community for Christ. People need to see Christ in us. Whether its as a husband or a wife, a child or a parent, a slave or a master….
“Whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.” Colossians 3:17
Let us be good and accurate ambassadors of our King. Let us represent Him well to our spouses, to our families, in our work places – or where ever we are. Let’s be a clear reflection of our God.