We are re-reading the final few verses from yesterday’s Bible reading because they are the foundation of what comes next. Before we read verses 18-25, we must remind ourselves of verses 12-17 where Paul talks about the way we ought to behave towards each other now that we have a new life in Christ.
Compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, love, peace: these are universal principles of the way we need to ‘do’ relationships – all of our relationships. Paul also encourages us to be thankful, and to teach and spur each other on with wisdom from scripture, hymns and spiritual songs. And all of this is to be done in the name of the Lord!
Now Paul has established these general principles of the way we relate to each other in our new lives, he moves on to specific relationships: husbands, wives, children, fathers, slaves, masters. Here is how the general principles he has explained can look in everyday life in our homes and workplaces.
The idea of wives submitting to husbands might seem controversial. However, this is not about men being ‘better’, but about the particular responsibilities that God gives to each family member. Submission is about respect for the position of the husband and the responsibilities he takes on. One of those responsibilities is to love his wife, to sacrifice his own desires for her sake. Both marriage partners take responsibility for the relationship, as do both children and fathers.
The advice for slaves might also seem out of date, but how many of us go out to work? How many have a boss who we dislike or who we think makes our life difficult? Paul’s advice applies just as much today as it ever did: “whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters”. And of course, the bosses have their responsibilities too!
God understands how hard relationships can be. Can we allow him to change our hearts? Can we allow him to be Lord of our homes, our workplaces and our relationships too?