Face it, short-term mission trips are sexy.
If you grew up in Church and have ever had to raise funds with your friends from youth group, you know there’s a real “high” that comes from going on an overseas missions trip. Getting on a plane, being introduced to the natives as the “Americans in town”, serving the poor, sharing your testimony in a makeshift Church with tin roofs, praying for complete strangers – all of it makes you feel like you’re really making a difference in the world.
You know what's not as exciting?
Being a missionary in your own home!
It seems backwards, but one of the hardest mission fields where Christians often fail to imitate Jesus Christ is right here at home. That’s because, at home, few people know the real-you like your own family does. No matter what face we present to the public (or overseas), when we get home, our guards are down the true condition of our hearts is on full display.
Missions at home is hard.
There’s a story in the Gospel of Mark (5:1-20) about a man who Jesus healed and freed from a legion of demons. After being delivered from years of living in tombs and cutting himself, he pled with Jesus to let him join his entourage on their missionary journeys.
Jesus, however, refused. Instead, Jesus said to him in verse 19, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” The next verse says the man did just that, but I wonder if for just a moment the man’s heart sank at the thought of having to go back home, to the place where everyone identified him by his past failures (not to mention, demon possession).
Like I said, missions at home is hard.
But it’s not hopeless.
There is a godly manner in which we can act toward one another in our families that will yield the same kind of kingdom-impact that great missionaries of old have experienced on the mission field. It’s to this end that the apostle writes these familial instructions in Colossians 3:18-21, “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.”
It’s quite simple, if you want to be a rock star missionary (in God's eyes), ACT LIKE JESUS CHRIST, EVEN AT HOME. DAILY.
This isn't just a generic commandment, Paul actually has a little something for everyone. He has instructions on how wives are to act toward husbands, husbands toward wives, children toward parents, and parents toward children.
Let’s start with the ladies:
WIVES: ACT LIKE JESUS, EVEN AT HOME BY CHOOSING TO SUBMIT TO YOUR HUSBAND’S GOD-ASSIGNED ROLE
In verse 18, Paul writes “Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.” This is pretty much the same thing Paul says in Ephesians 5:22-24, except there, he expands a little more on his instruction to wives; “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.”
The idea of submission in marriage is one of those Biblical instructions that upsets our modern sensitivities and makes us cringe because we wrongly assume that submission in marriage implies suppression, or inferiority [being a doormat].
The instruction about submission in marriage here has nothing to do with weakness or bondage, but rather, a voluntary and conscious yielding of strength. In fact, the word “submit” is translated from a Greek word that means, “to voluntarily put yourself under one’s authority.”
So, for wives who are following Jesus Christ, this means that you, of your own will, choose to trust that God has appointed your husband as the head of the home and the leader in the family. 1 Corinthians 11:3 says, “The head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.”
Ladies, this means you understand that men and women are completely equal in value and in worth, yet, God has designed us to operate in different roles and functions within marriage; just as God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are equal, yet, within the Trinity of God, operate in different roles.
Now, this does not mean you should leave your brain at the door, nor does it mean your life and faith should get absorbed in your husband's. No! Instead, it means that you understand that Christ Himself is your example, “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself [submission to God] by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” - Philippians 2:5-8
So, let me reiterate this point. Submission IS NOT helplessness on a wife’s part, it is a conscious personal choice to follow her husband’s leadership in marriage, a choice that flows out of her obedience to Christ and desire to honor God’s plan for marriage.
Something else that should be obvious is the fact that a woman’s submission is ONLY TO HER husband. Scripture doesn’t call you to submit to your boyfriend, or that cute guy at Church you think is your soul mate but who hasn’t asked you out yet. Your submission is to your “own” husband, the one who has committed his life to yours when you both said, “I do” in a wedding ceremony. This, ladies, is how you can become a rock-star missionary even within the four walls of your own home!
Now, a quick note to husbands here, your wife’s submission to your God-assigned role in your marriage is not something to be coerced or commanded, it is something she freely offers. In the event that she doesn’t offer it, you simply commit her to Jesus and continue to love her gently and sacrificially as Christ does!
Which brings us to the dudes:
HUSBANDS: ACT LIKE JESUS, EVEN AT HOME BY GENTLY + SACRIFICIALLY LOVING YOUR WIFE
Paul says in Colossians 3:19, “Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.” Once again, Paul fleshes this out more in Ephesians 5:25-28 where he says, "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. ”
In every premarital counseling session I’ve ever done, I always start by asking the guy, “So, why do you want to marry her?”
My intention is partially to give the guy a chance to shine in front of his fiancé, but also to get a sense of his understanding of what he's committing to.
The response is almost always consistent.
The guys usually fumble for words and fidget a little because they think it’s a test question, but also because, to them, the answer should be obvious, “I’m marrying her because I LOVE her and want to spend the rest of her life with her.”
What every guy I've ever married finds out pretty quickly, though, is that the “why” is the easy part of marriage. The “HOW TO” is where most guys need help and where the scriptures give us very clear commands. So fellas, here it is: YOUR STANDARD FOR HOW TO LOVE YOUR WIFE IS JESUS’ EXAMPLE OF HOW HE LOVED THE CHURCH!
For example, Jesus gave everything He had for the Church (including His life). So, husbands, giving everything you have for wife means you must truly desire what is best for her AND you must work toward that goal for her regardless of the cost to yourself.
Practically speaking, it means that if several years into your marriage, your wife begins to feel like God is stirring her to return to school or to change careers, then "loving your wife as Christ loved the Church" means that YOU will need to reconsider how to readjust YOUR life, YOUR schedule, and YOUR finances to help HER achieve the dreams God has birthed in HER heart.
Here’s another one. "Loving your wife as Christ loves the Church" means that there are some nights when you’ll come home tired from work and will need to take over the kids and offer her the rest of the night off so she can go get a manicure or pedicure or sit quietly at Panera Bread with no tiny humans around her acting like they’re demon possessed. True story, bruh!
Sometimes, loving your wives as Christ loves the Church is as simple as making the bed, loading the dishwasher, and picking up milk without being asked.
Does that sound like a lot? Well, that is what sacrifice means! The cross was not convenient for Christ, yet He endured it for the Church, for you, for me!
Remember, Jesus is NOW our standard for romance, NOT your single friends!
I would also add that loving your wife as Christ loves the Church means that YOU DON'T EVER ABUSE HER, whether physically, verbally, or emotionally. For if you do, your own actions will hinder your prayers from being heard. "Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers." (1 Peter 3:7)
Dudes, ACT LIKE JESUS CHRIST IN YOUR HOME. DAILY.
CHILDREN: ACT LIKE JESUS, EVEN AT HOME BY BEING OBEDIENT TO YOUR PARENT’S INSTRUCTIONS
Look again at Colossians 3:20 “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.” This instruction reflects the fifth of the 10 commandments which makes it even all the more important. “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” Exodus 20:12
In the passage in Colossians, Paul is speaking to those who are still living under their parent’s roof, under their parental guidance and are dependent on them (this includes those of you 30somethings still living at home).
God’s command to you is to be obedient to your mom and dad.
You’re to be obedient (and respectful) to your parents because, one, God commands it (which in itself is enough of a reason), but also because they’ve lived longer than you and know more about life than you do, regardless of how smart you think you are or how out of touch you think they are! Learn from their wisdom and experience!
Something else important to also point out is that the commandment in Exodus 20:12 to honor your father and mother is the only commandment in the ten commandments that comes with a promise attached, “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” This is not just speaking longevity of life, but also the quality of life you’ll have, and how you’ll experience God’s presence and favor. So if you want to live for a little bit longer and have a decent life, honor your parents!
Now, of course, when you move out of your parent’s house, and especially when you get married, there’s a significant shift in the relational dynamics between you and your parents. They don’t stop being Mom and Dad, but your relationship moves out of the realm of expectation and into the realm collaboration.
DADS (AND MOMS): ACT LIKE JESUS, EVENT AT HOME BY ENCOURAGING YOUR CHILDREN
Paul wraps it all up in Colossians 3:21 by saying, “Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.”
In Paul’s day, most fathers ruled their home with rigid and domineering authority. Dad was king and His will had to done. Not only that, but you were obligated to follow in the path that dad determined for you, regardless of what your personal desire was.
In today’s day and age, this approach to parenting can unfortunately create the kind of environment that frustrates a child to the point of discouragement and bitterness toward Fathers and toward life in general. (Moms, be cautious of this too!)
There are a few ways fathers can frustrate and embitter their children.
If you’re overprotective to the point that you don’t let your kids have any freedom, this can lead to bitterness and discouragement.
If you show favoritism by constantly comparing your child unfavorably to their siblings or friends, this creates insecurity and discouragement.
If you impose on them unrealistic goals or try to fulfill your unachieved dreams through them, the results can be tragic.
If you withhold affection, or treat affection like something to be earned, you’ll dishearten them.
The truth is, every child craves a Father’s blessing. They long to be somebody in the eyes of someone they perceive as greater than them. They long to see and hear words of affirmation spoken over them, especially from dad (because it reflects the love of God our Father). If that affirmation is NOT received, that child will resort to any measure to satisfy this primal craving, even if it means manipulating their way to get it under false pretenses from other people.
So Fathers, your role is to discern how God has uniquely shaped your child/children, and over the course of their lives as you bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord, you continually acknowledge and affirm who they are and their unique God-given makeup.
It’s a lifetime journey.
Trips overseas will still retain their great appeal, but if you learn to “win” at home, you will have an impact that will long outlast you. Being a godly wife, husband, child, dad or mom is the kind of kingdom investment that keeps paying dividends for many generations long after you’ve gone home to be with the Lord!
So, let’s make every effort to act like Jesus Christ, even at home!
Husband. Dad. Pastor. Nigerian American. Storyteller. Aspiring Prayer Warrior. Steak Lover. Follower of Jesus Christ reminding you that God the Father still loves you.