Are we servants? Is anyone in a position of authority over us? If so, we are to represent Christ to them by being servants with all respect.
As followers and as workers, we often chafe against their authority over us. It could be we dislike the person in charge. Maybe, we do like them, but don’t care for the way they do things. Or perhaps, we are of a mind that we could do better than them since we know better than them.
Whatever the reason, it is not unusual to find ourselves trying to take hold of the reins for ourselves.By rebelling against authorities in our lives, we are not properly representing Christ in our lives.Click To Tweet
Submission to Authority
In 1 Peter, there is a section of chapter 2 devoted to addressing how believers are to approach and respond to human authority. It deals with government leaders, but it also addresses our relationship with those who have leadership roles in our working lives:
Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust.
1 Peter 2:18. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016. Print.
The word “servants” appears in many translations as “slaves” which might allow us a sigh of relief thinking the above-quoted verses do not apply to us. After all, slavery is illegal in the US!
Before we get too comfortable with ourselves though, I believe we need to look at the meaning of the original language of not just “servants” but of “masters” as well.
οἰκέτης ŏikĕtēs, oy-ket´-ace; a fellow resident, i.e. menial domestic:—(household) servant.
3610. Strong, James. A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Greek Testament and The Hebrew Bible 2009 : 51. Print.
δεσπότης dĕspŏtēs, des-pot´-ace; perh. from 1210 and πόσις pŏsis (a husband); an absolute ruler (“despot”):—Lord, master.
1203. Strong, James. A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Greek Testament and The Hebrew Bible 2009 : 21. Print.
So, are we a servant or slave by these definitions? Do we reside or occupy space with someone who has absolute authority over the work done by us?
I don’t think we can escape the answer.
The answer is yes.
With All Respect
As servants, Scripture tells us that we are to be subservient and submit to those in authority over us regardless of whether they are good or bad leaders.
Honestly, I struggle with this, and, without judgment, I imagine the same goes for you.
Scripture doesn’t tell us to belittle people in authority. Nor are we told to ignore their rule(s) and just do our own thing.The Bible instructs believers to: “be subject to your masters with all respect.”Click To Tweet
Again, two words deserve better understanding:
ὑποτάσσω hupŏtassō, hoop-ot-as´-so; from 5259 and 5021; to subordinate; reflex. to obey:—be under obedience (obedient), put under, subdue unto, (be, make) subject (to, unto), be (put) in subjection (to, under), submit self unto.
5293. Strong, James. A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Greek Testament and The Hebrew Bible 2009 : 75. Print.
φόβος phŏbŏs, fob´-os; from a prim. φέβομαι phĕbŏmai (to be put in fear); alarm or fright:—be afraid, + exceedingly, fear, terror.
5401. Strong, James. A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Greek Testament and The Hebrew Bible 2009 : 76. Print.
In other words, we are to be obedient under their authority. We are to be as children to their parents, fearful of earning their disapproval, wrath, and correction.
Why is It Important?
For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.
1 Peter 2:19-21. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016. Print.
We are called to do what is right regardless of whether or not it means we suffer, just as Christ suffered and died for us having done no wrong.
A Further Word
I do not want to close this article without adding that we are not slaves in the traditional sense. We choose who our masters are when we choose:
- Where we live
- Where we work
Therefore, unlike slaves of old, we can get out from under a despot. We can move; we can change jobs.
With that said, as long as we choose to remain under an authority figure by continuing to live or work in their domain, we are to obey them with all respect and grace. Anything less than that is a disservice to our Lord and harmful to our witness.
It goes against our nature but falls squarely in the domain of Christ’s example to us.
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
Matthew 16:24. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016. Print.
Jesus submitted to human authority even though it cost him his life. He did it for you and me. Likewise, we are to follow his example. In his steps, our obedient submission may allow others to experience his mercy, love, and grace in their lives.