“Masters, grant to your slaves justice and fairness, knowing that you too have a Master in heaven.” Colossians 4:1
The division of Scripture into chapters, and verses is helpful, but at times awkward. The masters of slaves are not exempt from The Lordship of Christ. Their behavior was to be transformed by it. The warning is comforting and chilling, all at the same time. They would answer to God for any abuse to the vulnerable.
It remains a mystery why Paul was not inspired by the Spirit of God to call for the freeing of the slaves. He called for the masters of these exploited people to treat them with fairness and justice, but they were not told to grant freedom to them.
Scripture pointed masters to surrender to Christ’s Lordship as their guide to their treatment of others. This may have broken the hardened hearts of some masters who called themselves Christians, but for the majority of the slaves in the Roman Empire their chains remained in place.
Church History is clear. Where genuine Christianity has gone, it has eventually led to the end of slavery. Where it is compromised, slavery thrives. Where Christianity is crushed, slavery resurges. Today in Africa, Muslim extremists are the tip of the spear for the spread of slavery. In their pursuit, Churches are being burned and Christians are being exterminated. But I digress.
In the United States, and Great Britain, Christians were once at the center of the support for the institution of slavery. They also served as shock troops in the fight to end it. Right was delayed by the might of hard-hearted people, but it eventually prevailed.
WARNING: The church should always engage their culture. This must be marked by confrontation and transformation, not intimidation by it, or imitation of it.
To be clear, the most powerful and purifying message in this fourth chapter is the final call to the Colossians. Pray!
“Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving; praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned; that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak. Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.” Colossians 4:2-6
Devotion is not an emotion. It is a discipline. The Nike athletic shoe company has a slogan, “Just Do it!” Devoting oneself to victory in the field of sport requires a deletion of excuses, and a devotion to practice. In the arena of prayer, there is no substitute for showing up, kneeling down, and practicing Christianity.
Prayer is the obedient Christian’s expression of their surrendered heart. It is a sign of the death of their rebellious heart. Praying with thanksgiving and interceding for others keeps the practice of prayer from deteriorating into a glorified “Whine List.”
“Prayer is to faith, what breath is to life. How a man can believe and not pray is past my comprehension.” J.C. Ryle (1816-1900) Evangelical Bishop of Liverpool: prolific writer, powerful preacher and persistent church planter started 40 churches in his diocese.