“Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.” (Colossians 3:20-21 )
Here is again, the eloquence of coincidence. We are at the last day of the year, and here we are talking about fathers and children. And it reminds me of the old year as an old man, and the new year as a young child. And I have to wonder if there are any parallels.
Much as we would like to believe the new year will be different, what was valued and honored in the old year will probably carry over into the new year, new year’s resolutions not withstanding. Consider that new year’s resolution are based on what had gone on in the past year, and those things resolved are based on what the person in question valued and desired and not on some impulse that had not basis whatsoever. And if our resolution(s) for the coming year is(are) based on the positives found in our Christian values, anything we resolve will be pleasing to the Lord. Further, the ‘child’ the new year represents will (or should) grow up using the values of God as modeled by the parents. So the verse in this passage could be seen as instructions to the new year.
As to the year passing away, the old man which is the old year, one would hope that the year has not been so bad as to discourage us about the potentials and prospects of the new year. If it has been a year filled with God’s presence, most things aside, it would have been a good year. And if it has not been, most likely it has been humanity’s willfulness that has made it so, and not God. So the exhortation to the old year, and those that have been influential in it, is to have had acted so badly that the new year (and the innocence within it symbolized by the new year as a young child) is stripped of hope and potential.
It is, admittedly, a colorful slight of hand to appeal these verses to the time and season of the year. If it were not the end of the year I may not have made this connection between the verses and Father Time who represents the old year and the toddler who heralds in the new year.
We have the past few days been considering verses that are warnings for living righteous lives. It is not just the verses themselves that have sounded these warnings, but the Anabaptists interpretation of these verses that also sound a warning. These verses that deal with family relationships are also seen to one Anabaptist writer as fodder for discussing right living. Hendrick Alewijns wrote to his children, “See, my dear children, learn here what is becoming to you; see here, with what heavy duty of instruction and correction Christian parents are charged with regard to their children. . . . Behold, what a solemn charge the believer has concerning his children, and also those that are committed to him as his own children. Hence, dear lambs, endure kind correction, and be afraid of words, and you will not have to suffer this severe cruelty: otherwise you must suffer it, as has been heard. Behold, my children, in these holy instructions in correction I acquit myself of my duty towards you; and in all this I admonish you not only in your youth, but also in your riper years, to give ear to the advice of the wise and pious, and always to love the Christians, God’s dear children, the holy church . . .”
Gentle reader, for whom we have written conscientiously, may you receive from God’s hand the joy, hope, love, mercy, compassion, forgiven, and righteousness that will give you all that you need in the New Year. Selah!