Jim Wilson is the retired director of Community Christian Ministries in Moscow, Idaho. He will be posting regularly, so check back in soon!

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Senior/Subordinate Relationships outside the Church

In the Scriptures, we find teaching on senior-subordinate relationships outside the church: government-citizens, masters-slaves, husbands-wives, and parents-children. These relationships are not chains of command as some might think, but rather chains of submission. The senior is not given the authority to command obedience, but rather the subordinate is told to submit. You can see this chain of submission in Ephesians 5 and 6, Colossians 3 and 4, 1 Peter 2 and 3, Titus 3:1, 1 Timothy 6:1, and Romans 13. Here are some examples:

"Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord" (Eph. 5:22).

"Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right" (Eph. 6:1).

"Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ" (Eph. 6:5).

"Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established" (Rom. 13:1).

In each instance the subordinate is to obey, submit, and respect the senior, not because he is respectable, but because he is the king, the master, the husband, or the father. In fact, the Scriptures are explicit about obeying even if the senior is a bad man, that is, a bad king, a bad master, a bad husband, or a bad father. The king, master, husband, or father is to be respected because he is the king, master, husband, or father.

If a Christian is the master, husband, or father, he is not given authority to command obedience from the slaves, wives, or children. You might think that that authority is a “given.” However, there were several opportunities for the Holy Spirit to speak of such authority, but he did not. He said things like this:

"Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven" (Col. 4:1).

"Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them" (Col. 3:19).

"Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged" (Col. 3:21).

Many Christians in authority think that the Bible gives them authority to command because their subordinates are told to be submissive. That is an inference that cannot be borne out from Scripture. There is neither an explicit declaration or an implicit hint of it. However, we do find this teaching: “Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’” (Mark 10:42-45).

In each of the Scriptures dealing with senior-subordinate relationships outside the church, the elder-Christian relationship is not mentioned. That is, Scriptures referring to the elder-Christian relationship are always mentioned in places separate from those referring to masters, husbands, and fathers. Why? Because an elder must be worthy of respect. This is not so with senior-subordinate relationships outside the church. That is a very important difference.

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