HARMONY IN THE HOUSEHOLD
Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged. Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favour, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord (Col. 3: 18-22).
‘As members of one body you were called to peace.’ This was Paul’s conviction about life in the body of Christ. Peace is only achieved when each individual submits to a collective will and is more concerned for the well-being of the others than for himself.
Likewise, in the family, harmony can only come about in the atmosphere of mutual submission. However, someone has to initiate the harmony that should characterise a household that represents the body of Christ. In Paul’s book, the person to initiate the harmony is the one in charge – the husband and father of the family.
Why must wives submit to their husbands? Is he the boss? Does he have the right to call the shots and expect everyone to jump? Not according to Paul. He expanded on his prescription for a harmonious household in his letter to the Ephesian church. The pivot around which everything turns is the husband’s love for his wife. He is to love his wife as Jesus loved the church.
Of course, that does not mean that Jesus sat in an arm chair and ordered His followers around. Quite the contrary! He loved His ‘bride’ enough to give His life for her. Jesus modelled a servant heart during His earthly life. This was His take:
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 (Mark10: 45).
It is far easier to submit to someone who has a servant heart than a person who lords it over others. A true husband and father is one who serves his family rather than one who rules with an iron fist.
How difficult is it for a wife to submit to a husband who loves her and shows his love by taking care of her needs? This is the essence of true love – meeting the needs of others at one’s own expense. Love is the oil that keeps the household functioning smoothly. If selfishness rules rather than love, the atmosphere will quickly become toxic as each one strives to get his own way.
What about children? Obedience is God’s first and only requirement for children in a family. Once again, however, God does not demand blind obedience because that would contribute nothing towards creating a family unit. Fathers must initiate the environment in which it is easy for children to obey their parents. Commands that reflect a father’s capricious demands produce rebellion, not compliance and fracture that love that holds the family together.
1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— 3 “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”
4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:1-4
How do slaves (or servants) fit into the household? Are they part of it or are they just cogs in a machine? What part do they play in the life of a family? In this family, which Paul sees as representing a Christ-controlled family, the servants play an important part. They are as much a part of serving one another as the husband, wife and children are, but even more so. Their serving is not voluntary but obligatory. What counts is why they do it and the way they do it.
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Anyone who does wrong will be paid for their wrongs, and there is no favouritism (Col. 3: 23-25).
How sad that believers are often no better than unbelievers in the world of work and business! What a witness for Jesus when they do their work as unto the Lord and with a heart of true worship!
Unity, in the end, is about submitting ourselves to one another and serving one another out of reverence for Christ, whether it be in the church, in the home or in the workplace. This is the only way in which society will ever really work.
Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.