Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and never treat them harshly. (vs 18-19)

Colossians 3:18 - 4:1 Friday 27 August 2021

Psalm 54


I find reading this passage of the Bible really challenging. As a passionate feminist, the idea of obeying or submitting to my husband doesn’t sit well with me, and the verse about slavery feels very outdated too. I’m sure there are many ways one could interpret this passage, and other sections of the Bible, but I’m not well-versed enough in theology to discuss them here. But I think this passage,  allowing for the context in which it was written, has much to tell us about how we should live with each other as followers of Christ.

The Colossians were part of the Early Church, and were still finding their feet, navigating the cultural norms within which they lived. When Paul was writing to the Colossians, the head of the family was the man, and his wife, children and slaves belonged to him. While Paul doesn’t really challenge slavery or advocate for the equality of women, he does offer the people of Colossae a counter-cultural idea of what a family structure should look like. In a world where each family, or even each person, would be competing for social status and validation, where gender and class defined how you were treated, the idea that Jesus was the head of the household, and each person lived to serve Jesus and not their master, was completely different to how the Colossians lived.

It wasn’t just the idea that Jesus was the head of the household that was challenging, but what that meant for the way people should be treated. Paul was telling the Colossians that the love, compassion and forgiveness that Jesus shows humanity should be the motivation behind how the Colossians treat each other. No longer should people serve each other out of obligation or privilege, but out of care and love because God called them to love others.

I think in the 21st century, there is still a lot to learn from this passage. Of course, we should be striving to dismantle the patriarchy (which is very much still a reality) and should be campaigning so that no person is enslaved. But even in an equal household, whatever the family structure looks like, the relationships should be rooted in the same love and grace that Jesus shows us. Even beyond family, within our friendships, work places, schools and with strangers, our actions and thoughts should stem from the fruits of the Spirit, rather than what is the cultural norm. This is easier said than done, and I definitely have had times where I’ve not shown the compassion and love that Jesus calls me to show. But that is where God’s grace, God’s abounding and unconditional love, carries me through, so that I can try again, and live my life offering Christ’s love to all.

To Ponder:

  • What cultural norms, that don’t reflect the love of God, should we challenge?
  • How can you build relationships that have love at their centre? Where might you need to show forgiveness or love to someone?
  • How can we show love to others by working for equality?


I pray that we can each build relationships founded on love, compassion, kindness and empathy. I pray that when those foundations are tested, we can look again to Jesus’ example of forgiveness to start again, and that we can show others a new way of living, where love is at the centre.

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