By Elizabeth Baumann
A Reading from Colossians 3:18-4:18
18 Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives and never treat them harshly.
20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this is your acceptable duty in the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, or they may lose heart. 22 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything, not only while being watched and in order to please them, but wholeheartedly, fearing the Lord. 23 Whatever your task, put yourselves into it, as done for the Lord and not for your masters, 24 since you know that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward; you serve the Lord Christ. 25 For the wrongdoer will be paid back for whatever wrong has been done, and there is no partiality. 1 Masters, treat your slaves justly and fairly, for you know that you also have a Master in heaven.
2 Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with thanksgiving. 3 At the same time pray for us as well that God will open to us a door for the word, that we may declare the mystery of Christ, for which I am in prison, 4so that I may reveal it clearly, as I should.
5 Conduct yourselves wisely towards outsiders, making the most of the time. 6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone.
7 Tychicus will tell you all the news about me; he is a beloved brother, a faithful minister, and a fellow-servant in the Lord. 8 I have sent him to you for this very purpose, so that you may know how we are and that he may encourage your hearts; 9 he is coming with Onesimus, the faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They will tell you about everything here.
10 Aristarchus my fellow-prisoner greets you, as does Mark the cousin of Barnabas, concerning whom you have received instructions — if he comes to you, welcome him. 11 And Jesus who is called Justus greets you. These are the only ones of the circumcision among my co-workers for the kingdom of God, and they have been a comfort to me. 12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you. He is always wrestling in his prayers on your behalf, so that you may stand mature and fully assured in everything that God wills. 13 For I testify for him that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis. 14 Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas greet you. 15 Give my greetings to the brothers and sisters in Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house. 16And when this letter has been read among you, have it read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you read also the letter from Laodicea. 17 And say to Archippus, “See that you complete the task that you have received in the Lord.”
18 I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.
Here’s a trick question: do you love all your children equally? We love some people more than others. But that won’t do when we talk about our children. It’s anathema to prefer one child to another, and where it happens, it’s tremendously damaging to a family. No, no: children must all be loved “the same.” But no one else gets that protection. We are each free to choose who we love, and some more, and some less. More than that, if it’s not a free choice, it’s meaningless.
Then, of course, Jesus comes along and says we have to love everyone — and our brains hurt. How do we begin to endeavor to love everyone? We can’t. We give up.
The problem is that we began with a bunch of faulty assumptions: mostly that love is a kind of thing that comes in quantities, and which can be measured by feelings. The right answer to the question, “Do you love all his children the same?” is a resounding, “No!” And why? Love focuses on the beloved: it is an attitude reserved to one particular person, unique from love for anyone else. To say I love any two people “the same” is to make them interchangable. Love will brook nothing of the kind.
Paul’s lesson today is one in the practical application of love. To love a husband is not to love a wife; to love a child is not the same as loving your father; to love a master, someone in authority over you, is different from loving a slave — or anyone you have authority over. Love comes in permutations as endless as our relationships to one another, no more or less.
To love one another, then, is to respect the individual personalities and unique relationships in which love is to be exercised. These are the fetters God has given us, and he can be trusted, because he is, himself, Love.
Elizabeth Baumann is a seminary graduate, a priest’s wife, and the mother of two small daughters. A transplant from the West Coast, she now lives in “the middle of nowhere” in the Midwest with too many cats.
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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Lake Mary, Fla.
The Diocese of Central Buganda (Church of the Province of Uganda)