For an introduction to this series, click here.
Remember at the end of chapter 2, Paul told us that if we are dead with Christ, then we need to put off man-made regulations. Now Paul begins this chapter telling us things that we should be doing if we are alive with Christ:
"If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God." (3:1-3)
It is so easy for us to be focused on things of this world, but Paul says it is necessary for us to keep our eyes on heavenly things.
"But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." (3:8-17)
This is how it looks when we set our affection on things above. Our lives will be characterized as Jesus' life was. You know, these things take a lifetime to completely see in our lives, and that is what Paul is aiming at. It is easy to follow a list of visible, man-made rules, but that is not true spiritual growth or maturity. The evidence of true spiritual growth is when we see these things listed above in our lives. I am blessed to know or have known a lot of people in my life who exhibit these characteristics, and they are the people that I want to be like.
Paul ends this chapter with some advice to the family and servants:
"Wives, submit 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 provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality." (3:18-25, ESV)
I guess I had never noticed that the last three verses are a continuation of the instructions to servants. They are a good instruction to all of us, but I guess more specifically, they are addressed to those of us who work for someone else. Like I have mentioned before, I don't think it is fair to Paul and to the Scriptures to extrapolate from passages like this that Paul approved of slavery. He was trying to address people in whatever situation they found themselves, and in 1st century Rome, that would include slaves. Obviously slavery is wrong, but it also would have been wrong for Christian slaves to lead a revolution against the system in place. Just like them, today we need to try to improve our lives and our situations, and not try to change the things we have no control over.