Most fairytales end with the prince marrying the princess and living “happily ever after.” What happens after the wedding is of no real interest to the story. We know that the real challenges, joys, sorrows, and adventures of a couple’s life together only begin on the wedding day.
Previously in chapter 3, Paul has reflected on the transformation that the gospel brings to human relationships. He teaches that in Christ, “there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised” (3:11). In today and tomorrow’s readings, he applies this new perspective to the most intimate relationships of any household. He instructs wives, husbands, children, parents, slaves and masters: “whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus” (3:17).
Paul called wives and husbands to live in ways that are both in line with and counter to their culture. Wives were to submit to their husbands—in line with contemporary Greek and Roman thinking of that time. However, Paul’s admonition specifies voluntary submission in the context of our relationship with the Lord Jesus (v. 18). Husbands were called to “love your wives and do not be harsh with them” (v. 19). While there were many household codes in Greco-Roman culture, there was no parallel for the command for husbands to love their wives. This command goes beyond the culture norm. Husbands are to model the kind of self-sacrificial love Christ has for the church (see Eph. 5:25-33).
Paul also includes a charge for children and parents. He considers children to be full, responsible members of the church and commands them to obey their parents with an eye to pleasing the Lord (v. 19). Parents are not to domineer their children, but encourage them (v. 21).
Our home is an important place for us to live in Christ. One commentator reminds us, “The family is where, under the lordship of Christ . . . we first learn to work out the values of compassion, humility, gentleness and patience.” Reflect on some ways you can live out the love and gentleness of Christ to those nearest to you.