Rule of Love
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.Colossians 3:1-4:6 NIV
Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.
Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.
Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.
Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favoritism.
Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven.
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
In this chapter Paul has drawn the outline of the new self that each Christian is to put on. It is a self ruled by the love of Jesus (see Col 3:14), characterized by forgiveness, harmony, peace and thanksgiving. Paul’s overarching rule of life is that every word and every deed be done in the name of Jesus (see Col 3:17). Following such a rule affects our outlook on life. We begin to wake each morning with the sense that we are serving Jesus himself. It is this rule of love that Clement of Rome (c. 40-c. 97), a first-century contemporary of the apostles, describes.
“Who can describe the [blessed] bond of the love of God? What man is able to tell the excellence of its beauty, as it ought to be told? The height to which love exalts is unspeakable. Love unites us to God. Love covers a multitude of sins. Love beareth all things, is long-suffering in all things. There is nothing biased, nothing arrogant in love. Love admits of no schisms: love gives rise to no seditions; love does all things in harmony.”
The rule of love is to be applied, Paul implies, in the stewardship of all our relationships, both outside the family – in public and in work life (see Col 3:22-4:1; Eph 6:5-9) – and within the family (see Col 3:18-21; Eph 5:22-6:4).
Families exemplify harmony when people have a goal of submission to one another (Eph 5:21): wives esteem and honor their husbands; husbands cherish and value their wives and work to meet their needs; children are cooperative and teachable; parents discipline with gentle love – encouraging their children toward growth in health, wisdom and maturity. Quaker author, philosopher and theologian D. Elton Trueblood (1900-1994) applies the rule of love to relationships within the family. He explains that the family is the custodian of the image of the Triune relationship revealed to us in Jesus Christ, who is the only true example of life’s highest ideal.
“The family is the one institution in which it is possible to say ‘we’ without any loss of individuality. It is each for all and all for each, as is never the case in a secular society and seldom in a religious society. To say ‘we’ and to mean it, is a very great spiritual achievement for the nominative plural is the noblest of the personal pronouns. A family in which each does what he can, each receives what he needs, wholly without financial calculation of earning or merit, represents the highest known ideal, our only true approximation to the Kingdom of God, yet countless families, made up of fallible persons, demonstrate this ideal in great measure every day of their lives.”
But Paul isn’t finished. In his further instructions, he says that putting on Christ means that Christians are to be people of prayer, giving thanks (see Col 4:2). Only with prayer are harmonious relationships possible.