“submitting to one another in the fear of God.” (Ephesians 5:21 NKJV)
With these words, Paul begins his instructions to Christian men that turns society on its ear. If you’re used to reading these verses in the traditional way, you may think I’ve forgotten something. I haven’t. I’ll explain more tomorrow, but it’s important to understand that everything Paul teaches about relationships in the Christian home begins with this verse. Followers of Christ will submit to each other. Followers of Christ will lay aside their position of privilege, just as Jesus did when He left His home in heaven to come down to earth. In ancient Rome, the men, the fathers had all the power. They could treat wife, children and slaves however they wanted with impunity for the most part. When Paul told his readers to submit to one another in the fear of God, he fired a shot across the bow of the male patriarchy of the Roman empire. It is a shot across the bow of our current day’s practice of male supremacy.
Some of you may be thinking that I need my “man card” revoked for that kind of statement. That’s fine with me, because I prefer God’s understanding of manhood to society’s. And the best example of manhood in God’s universe is Jesus Christ who willingly gave up His position of power to serve and save mankind. He submitted to the Jewish and then the Roman authorities as He died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins. He loves everyone and wants to bring forgiveness to all people. His example to the men among us shows that we’re called to submit to women, children, and even slaves (nowadays we’d say employees with no negative connotations implied) as needed so that we can proclaim the gospel in the power of God. We shouldn’t be lording our perceived authority over anyone; instead we should recognize that God needs all of us working together in the field that’s ripe for the harvest.
Lord, remind me that oppression is never a Christian virtue. Teach me to love and respect others the way You do. Teach me to submit first to You, and then to others as necessary to proclaim Your message of forgiveness.