As we wind down to the end of our study of Ephesians we come to chapter 6:1-9, a treatise on authority and submission. A large portion of this passage concerns the child/student/servant/employee’s response to authority and leadership, I am going to cover that next week. Today, however, I want to talk about the proper use of authority as presented here.
We have all been there, working for someone who seemingly takes pleasure in making people uncomfortable. Whether it was because of a bad attitude, a mean spirit, or just a lack of understanding of how to lead, we cringed when we read in verse 5, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ.” “How can I respect someone who disrespects me and treats me unfairly?” you might have asked.
When instructing Timothy on how to grow the church, Paul gave this instruction, “Don’t appoint people to church leadership positions too hastily” (1 Timothy 5:22, The Message). Even Paul knew that it takes maturity to be a leader, and without it, disaster could ensue. Anyone who has any authority, whether a parent, a supervisor, a pastor, or even a babysitter, has the responsibility to use that authority wisely. A Christian leader, however, has an even greater responsibility because not only is he or she responsible to the employer/congregation/etc., but that leader is also responsible to and representing Christ.
So what does it mean to be a Christian leader, whether in the church, the home, or the marketplace? While there are only two verses, they are chock full of wisdom for us. So let’s see what the author of Ephesians has to say.
Fathers,[Parents] do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord (v. 4).
Although addressing the home situation, I believe this instruction applies to every area of leadership. Exasperate is a strong word with synonyms such as incense, anger, vex, inflame, infuriate. See irritate. (www.dictionary.com). The actual meaning is to make rough, provoke. Some leaders take this way too far, thinking that they can never correct or redirect children, students, employees, etc., because they might get angry. Not the intent at all! We are not to intentionally provoke people to anger, to intentionally and without consideration overwhelm the individual.
While this verse might not seem to apply to the workplace, let me phrase it this way: Bosses, do not provoke your employees to frustration and anger by making decisions without consideration, wisdom, and fairness, but remember that you are Christ’s example and representative in that workplace. Remember to ask yourself, “What would Jesus do?”
Parents, remember that as you follow Christ, your children will learn how to do the same. If you are arbitrary in your decisions, considerations, and parenting, they will learn to do the same, and quite possible consider your God to be arbitrary, too.
In educating our children and acquaintances concerning Christ, we need to remember Jesus’ purpose: For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Redemption, the hallmark of Jesus’ ministry on this earth. Everything Jesus did or said had an ultimate purpose, that of redemption, reconciliation, and restoration. As Christian leaders we should have that same purpose, doing business, leading, parenting so that those in our influence would see Christ through us. Will we have to make hard decisions? Oh yes! But we make those decisions through crimson-colored glasses, ones that see them through the blood of Christ, seeing God’s purpose for the one with whom we are dealing, trying, as much as possible, to show grace along with justice.
Verse 9 confirms this , saying, “And masters [parents, supervisors, pastors, committee leaders, politicians] , treat your slaves [employees, children, church members, etc.] in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.”
I like how The Message says this: Masters, it’s the same with you. No abuse, please, and no threats. You and your servants are both under the same Master in heaven. He makes no distinction between you and them.
In closing, can I provide a few suggestions to help in following these ideas in our individual lives, especially if you are a person in authority?
- Don’t correct anyone when you are angry. Let the initial frustration and anger settle down so you can speak with clear-headed understanding about the situation. Don’t react, rather respond.
- Do your research! Be sure the issue you are responding to is actually what you understand it to be. Don’t assume anything.
- Don’t take sides or try to please groups within the situation. Be fair to everyone.
- Pray. Pray. Pray! As a Christian man or woman, you are responsible to represent Christ in this situation. Ask God to remove your emotions from the situation and to give you a heart of grace, mercy, and redemption, that you will make decisions that God can use, especially if your child/employee/etc., does not know Christ.
Being a leader is a hard thing to do. Being a Christian leader is almost impossible. My prayer for each of you today who finds him or herself in a position of leadership/parenthood is that you will take time to once again renew in your own mind the beauty of Christ’s mercy and forgiveness for you, and then pray and ask God to give you that heart for others so that, even if you have to make a hard decision regarding someone—what we might call “tough love”—they will know without a doubt that you are not being arbitrary but fair and loving, just like your Savior!
A friend of mine always ends his video posts with this statement: “Because of Jesus life is good!” I have to agree. Being in Greenfield a few more days per week and interacting with those from Ebenezer and the community has been wonderful. In fact, we started the community Bible study on Wednesdays last week and had eight in attendance! You are invited, and here are the details: Every Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. (note new time) at the Senior Center on Allison. We are studying Chuck Swindoll’s Dropping Your Guard: Relationships in the Church. If you have questions, call me. ALL AGES ARE INVITED!
See you in church!
Mary Kay Glunt, Pastor
Ebenezer Presbyterian Church
P.O. Box 393, Greenfield, MO 65661