The apostle Paul seemed to have a strategy in Ephesians 5 and 6. He started giving instructions for household living – starting with the “household of God,” which is the church, and then moving down to husbands and wives, children and parents, and slaves and masters.
In every case, there were mutual responsibilities, at least in some sense, to submit to one another.
(I know we’re not reading Ephesians 6 today, but if you have a chance, read this whole section together – Ephesians 5:1-6:9.)
In the church, Paul said members were to submit “to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Wives were to submit to their husbands, and husbands were to love their wives “as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”
Children were to obey their parents, and parents (fathers) were not to provoke their children to anger. Slaves were to obey their earthly masters, and masters were to “stop your threatening.”
In every case, if you read closely, you’ll see that all this “submitting” – in its various forms – meant that church members, wives, husbands, children, parents, slaves, and masters were to have their eyes fixed on the Lord. Paul said, “There is no partiality with him.”
There is no question Jesus Christ set down a way for his followers to live. Jesus showed his people how to cut through the clutter of a world marked by hierarchy and power structures. We are to submit to one another out of reverence for Him.
Jesus told his disciples not to “lord it over” others as the world would have them do. After all, Jesus came to serve and not to be served (Matthew 20:25-28). And when the time came, Jesus washed his disciples’ feet, and he commanded them to do the same for each other (John 13:1-20). And Jesus went to the cross on our behalf, humbling himself and taking on the form of a servant (Philippians 2:4-8).
So what ought we to do? How do we submit to one another out of reverence for Christ?
I suppose we first must keep Jesus in mind as we walk among our brothers and sisters in the church, and as we live with our spouses and children and parents, and as we work with our bosses and subordinates. Regardless of who we spend our time with, we never forget the service and humility and submission of Christ.
We revere Him and the way in which he lived for us. We show our respect by living in the same way with others.