In chapter one of his letter to the church in Colossae, the apostle starts at the summit, unfolding the supremacy of Christ and His unimaginable sacrifice on our behalf.
He treks downward through chapter two, shining the implications of this good news — the gospel — on paths of truth and lies.
Now in chapter three, he camps out in the valley of behavior — the day-to-day business of living as a Christian, in the church, and here, in our families:
Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them. Colossians 3:18-19
There’s something glorious and odd at work in these verses — something crucial we miss when we get wrapped up in the microscopic rights and wrongs of gender roles.
Women are asked to submit simply because it’s the right thing to do — as is fitting. There’s an appeal to hard logic and rules, when feminine nature often leans more heavily on instinct and intuition.
Men, on the contrary, are shoved into an emotional arena: cherish your wife. Do not be harsh. They’re called to coat their facts in feelings — to lead with love and not law.
For many of us, these commands — and the ones he’s about to write that call children to obey their parents and slaves to obey their masters (Colossians 3:20-22) — scrape against the grain. They don’t come naturally. And they’re not supposed to.
Because what Paul is telling us — far more than he’s saying “women do this” and “men do that” — is that the gospel makes the impossible in your life possible.
Jesus did the unthinkable — God becoming man, pouring all the fullness of Deity into bodily form (Colossians 2:9) reconciling to Himself all things and making peace through His blood shed on the cross (Colossians 1:20). He’s reversed the curse — made sinners into saints, called the unrighteous righteous.
You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now…. (Colossians 3:7-8) The gospel has redefined the boundaries of our nature.
The way we grow and stretch into these new boundaries has flipped upside-down, too.
We don’t start the bottom with our behavior and work our way up. We start at the top — as Paul has done — at the peak of the mountain, where the person and work of Christ stands victoriously above all things. We let that trickle down over our what we believe, who we are and what we do.
We grow by lingering on truth and sacrifice instead of obsessing over how we feel and act.
The nails in His feet show us how to walk hard paths.
The holes in His hands teach us to serve without craving glory.
The thorns in His brow pierce our sinful thoughts with mercy and love.
The wound in His side pours out blood and water and grace, cleansing us from the need to condemn ourselves.
The empty grave makes our fears hollow and powerless, even in the face of death.
If we don’t know how to get through today, we climb back to the cross, to the top of the mountain. Only then can we walk back to the valley and do the impossible thing.