Brand New Relationships
The Blue Pill or the Red Pill
In the Matrix movie Morpheus offers Neo a choice. When he was on the threshold of discovering the matrix he was told he could choose the blue capsule and everything would stay the same. Or he could take the red capsule and everything would change.
“You take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.”
Accepting Jesus is like taking the red pill. When you have him, you have everything, and everything in your life is liable to change. From the moment you accept Jesus you are invited into a whole of life transformation. Unfortunately it isn’t as fast and easy as plugging something into the back of your head like it is in the Matrix. But over the course of your whole life Jesus invites you into transformation.
Jesus = an invitation to transformation.
We’re in a series at the moment called Brand New.
The apostle Paul who wrote a letter to the church in a city in West Asia called Colosse took his time through the letter explaining the Brand New life they have in Jesus. Everything is new. The way they see God, the way God sees them, the way they see themselves, and the way they see each other.
We had a couple of weeks of talking about the theme through Paul’s letter that Jesus + Nothing = Everything. That if you have Jesus, you have everything. Then last week Laura spoke from the beginning of chapter 3 about how Jesus transforms our life. We have him, we are complete, from the moment of accepting Jesus. And from that point Jesus wants to transform our whole lives. It’s not a measurement of how acceptable we are to God, or how much we can do for God, it’s an invitation to be transformed by Jesus. For the brand newness on the inside to spread to the outside. Our words, our actions, our attitudes.
Jesus = An Invitation to Transformation
How much transformation do you want in your life? The invitation is there for incredible transformation, for a complete game changer, if you will press in to Jesus. Your whole life can change, you can become more and more like Jesus over time, with his power enabling you and transforming you.
This is not will power. This is Holy Spirit power and transformation that you are invited into by Jesus.
How much transformation do you want in your life?
Jesus = an invitation to transformation.
Jesus = An Invitation to Transformed Relationships
One of the areas in our lives which needs transformation is our relationships with each other. We are each so different, and some of our fundamental relationships are tainted or damaged. Wife and Husband, Child and Parent, Slave and Master, or in a close analogy for today, Employee and Employer.
If you hate your boss, this message is for you.
If you don’t speak to your parents, this message is for you.
If your staff are lazy, this message is for you.
If your husband is rude to you…
If your kids don’t call…
If your kids don’t listen…
If your parents drive you up the wall, this message is for you.
If your wife doesn’t respect you…
If you’re struggling with someone…
One of the big transformations Jesus invites us into is to transform the way we see and treat each other. Jesus wants to transform your relationship with your parents. With your kids. With your boss. With your team. With your wife. With your husband. With your employees. With your manager.
Earlier on in chapter 3 of his letter to the Colossians Paul has said things like this:
“In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilised, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us.”
“Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.”
On the basis of this kind of life that Jesus invites you into, and transforms you into, Jesus wants to transform the way you treat each other. Your marriage is rescuable. Your work situation is rescuable. Your kids, your family is rescuable.
If the other party also knows Jesus, then he can work from both angles. But even if he’s only got your heart, Jesus can transform your relationships and how you act and interact in your relationships.
Paul’s household code
In his letter Paul talks about the transformation of three different kinds of relationships in a few verses beginning in chapter 3, verse 18. He touches on what these new relationships are like.
There was plenty to challenge the Colossian church, but the way Paul did it was somewhat familiar. What Paul is doing here is teaching them a household code. This kind of instruction was often given in the Roman world at the time to the head of the household on how he should govern his home. But Paul writes in a very different way than what people would have been expecting. He writes in a brand new way about the relationships people should have when their lives have been made brand new by Jesus.
When other, similar, household codes were one-sided in favour of husbands, fathers and masters. Paul writes equally to husbands and wives, fathers and children, masters and slaves.
These words are great wisdom, but they aren’t just a good way to live. This is a practical expression of the transformed lifestyle that Jesus invites you into and empowers you to live. This isn’t a list of rules to live by. This is what your life WILL look like when you follow Jesus. If you submit to him and are committed to him, he will transform your life to look more and more like this.
If you have a spouse
Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting for those who belong to the Lord.
Husbands, love your wives and never treat them harshly.
Recognise as we read these words that you hear them based on your background and experiences. Depending on your background those words will either shock you or confirm things for you. For wives to SUBMIT to husbands, because that’s what godly wives do. For husbands to LOVE wives and never treat them harshly. From what we understand of the cultures in Colosse at the time, these words were controversial all round.
In most parts of the culture around them, women did what they were told not out of willing submission, but out of forced cultural submission. Nice words, Paul, but it’s not like I have a choice. You’re just reinforcing how oppressed my life is.
Even today these words are controversial. Paul is helpful here in another letter he wrote, to the Ephesians church. We talked about this in our message called ‘What About Gender Roles’ a couple of months ago. Ephesians 5:21, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ”
Paul said in his other letter that we are to submit to each other. It doesn’t only work one way. But here Paul says it for some reason specifically to wives. It is in direct constraint to the curse on wives in Genesis 3. Instead of the curse, “your desire will be for your husband (to rule over him)”,
Submission in the Biblical sense in your marriage is not exclusive for the women. Just as love isn’t exclusive for the men. Wives, to submit to your husbands doesn’t mean that he dominates, that he makes all the decisions, that you don’t get a say, that he always gets his way, that he is more important than you. And most importantly, submission doesn’t mean to submit to abuse. Extreme circumstances call for extreme help. Counselling, even the police.
To submit means to respect, prefer, honour.
Jesus wants to transform you to submit to your husband because that is fitting for those who belong to him.
And then asking husbands to love their wives and never treat them harshly? For the men in Paul’s day, what else were wives for? They were property. You owned them. You could use them, like them, appreciate them. But love them? To treat my wife with love rather than with harshness? What if she doesn’t obey me? I’ve got to treat her mean to keep her keen.
As I’ve already said, love isn’t exclusive for husbands, but Paul chooses to apply it specifically to them. In direct contrast to the curse in Genesis 3. Rather than “the husband will rule over his wife,” Jesus is inviting husbands into a transformed relationship where you love your wife.
Love doesn’t mean loving disrespect or betrayal. Extreme circumstances call for extreme help. Counselling.
Love means to prefer, to honour, to deeply value, to cherish, to protect, to desire.
Wives and Husbands
What’s great about the Christian remix of the Greco-Roman household codes is that, when put into practice, it blurs the hierarchal lines between husband and wife, master and slave, adult parent and adult child. If wives submit to their husbands as the Church submits to Christ (Ephesians 5:24), and if husbands love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her (Ephesians 5:25), and if both husbands and wives submit one to another (Ephesians 5:21)—who’s really “in charge” here?
Such a relationship could only be characterized by humility and respect, with both partners imitating Christ, who time and again voluntarily placed himself in a position of submission.
(this is from an article by Rachel Held Evans)
To wives and husbands, the invitation Jesus has for you in your marriage is to shift your posture to one of GIVING. These aren’t words to orient you to RECEIVE, these are words to orient you to GIVE. Don’t expect that your wife or husband will live this out (thinking, thank you Jesus that they’re listening to this, or I can’t believe they’re not here when will the podcast be up?), you will live them out yourself. This is the brand new life Jesus invites you into, a life of being more blessed to give than to receive.
These words are words to give by, not words to receive by.
Husbands, whether your wife submits to you or not, are you loving her?
Wives, whether your husband loves you or not are you submitting to him?
Jesus invites you to give, even if you don’t receive from the other person. Because your value, your worth, your strength comes from him to enable you to give. The ideal situation happens when both husband and wife are living their brand new lives. Because it’s easier to submit when he loves you and never treats you harshly. And it’s easier to love when she willingly submits. But Jesus invites you to submit and love regardless.
Paul is not advocating a hierarchy, but a brand new relationship. One that shifts all of your expectations and thinking. You are free to work out how this relationship works with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, with the power of Jesus working through you, in mutual submission, one to the other.
If you have a family
Paul continues his household code, the explanation of the brand new life that Jesus invites us into.
Children, always obey your parents, for this pleases the Lord.
Fathers, do not aggravate your children, or they will become discouraged.
Normally children are instructed to obey their parents, “because I said so.” “Because I’m the dad, that’s why.” “Because mother knows best.” But Paul says the brand new life Jesus has given us is the kind of life where obeying our parents pleases God.
This is throughout your life. It should look different, but your relationship stays the same in some ways.
If you are a son or daughter, and your parents are still alive, God wants to transform your stubbornness, your hardness, your hurt into obedience of your parents. Young kids in the room, like Olivia said, when you do what Mum and Dad ask, God is pleased. Teenagers in the room, when you keep the boundaries your parents set, you might feel restricted, but God is blessed. God is pleased with you, even if you aren’t naturally pleased with your parents. Adults in the room, when you listen to your parents’ advice and honour them and their years and experience, God is pleased.
Dad and mum
Paul surprises his listeners by adding the second sentence. Household codes didn’t give instructions in favour of the kids. But Paul speaks up and says now dads, don’t aggravate or frustrate your children. No more dad jokes. Or they will become discouraged. Paul says that the brand new life we’re invited into is one where children are valued too.
Parents who aggravate their kids will discourage them. Parents who are angrily disciplining, who purposely push the buttons of their kids to annoy them. Aggravate them. Upset or hurt them. Even parents with adult children, when you’re in the thick of frustration and you pull out a word, a phrase, a memory that you know will drive them crazy…that’s not the kind of relationship Jesus wants for you and your kids.
These aren’t words to weigh up compared to reality, they are words to follow regardless of reality.
Don’t obey only IF your parents aren’t aggravating you. And don’t treat your children well only IF they are obeying you.
It can be particularly hard if you can’t find anything to honour your parents with. But Jesus isn’t laying this on you, he’s inviting you into this, and he will transform the way you obey your parents. There are things you can respect about them. There are ways you can obey them.
It can be particularly hard if your kids won’t talk to you or if Christmas always descends into anarchy, but Jesus wants to transform your relationship with your family. He will transform your attitude, your options in conversation, your tongue when you should stay quiet.
If you have a job
Finally, Paul speaks to anyone who has a job. Slaves and masters doesn’t equate exactly to employees and employers, but its close enough for what we’re reading this morning.
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. Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ. But if you do what is wrong, you will be paid back for the wrong you have done. For God has no favourites.
Masters, be just and fair to your slaves. Remember that you also have a Master—in heaven.
Jesus is the great equaler. God has no favourites. You could be working for the richest, most powerful person in the world, or you could employee the poorest, most destitute person in the world, and God doesn’t play favourites. Because of Christ, in humanity’s sense we are equal, and equally valued by God. Jesus is the great equaler.
If you are employed, when you turn up for work this week Jesus wants to transform your attitude so that the car you’re fixing, the accounts you’re balancing, the kids you’re teaching, the patients you’re treating, the things you’re organising, the project you’re progressing is for Jesus. He wants the car fixed, the accounts balanced, the kids taught, the patients treated, the thing organised, the project progressed. He wants it done. And he wants to transform you so that you approach your work like that. Like you’re doing it for him. Which you really are anyway.
As an incredible incentive he gives you a promise that not only will you get paid by your boss on payday, but that God has an inheritance waiting for you if you serve your boss like you would serve Jesus himself. The opposite is also true, there’s a carrot or a stick here. If you neglect your work or do the wrong thing then God takes that seriously too and will deal with you about that on judgement day.
God takes your work seriously, and he doesn’t play favourites with people, no matter what role they have in life or in your business or organisation.
And bosses, employers, you are not a law into yourself. Times have changed from the master/slave model that Paul wrote to, but sometimes bosses seem to forget that their employees are people too. Remember that you have a boss yourself, even if you are at the peak of your company or organisation. Your boss is God and you’re answerable to him for the way you treat your staff.
If you have trouble in your relationships, Jesus wants to transform you and transform your relationships. He’s given us some idea of what that can look like through Paul’s letter to the Colossians. Each of these areas could be a series in themselves, but the important thing is not ‘How to be a more obedient kid’ but that Jesus wants transform your relationship with your parents. He wants to lead you into Brand New Relationships that match your Brand New Life. This may take time. But if you’re prepared to commit to Jesus for the journey, he will transform your relationships.