“Jesus made it clear that His kingdom had no place for power seekers, for His was a kingdom of servants. The Christian never asks, “How can I be master?” Instead, they ask, “How can I be servant?” The Christian never asks, “How can I be number one?” Instead, they ask, “How can I be the last and the least.”
–Anthony Campolo, The Power Delusion
Text: Ephesians 5:21-33
Devotional: There has been a tendency, at a variety of points in Christian history, and even in some Christian communities today, to read Paul’s words in Ephesians 5:21-33 as a divine implementation of power and authority in Christian living. However, this reading overlooks the phrase Paul utilizes when describing the posture Christians ought to have towards one another: he says, without distinction to gender or household role, in v. 21: “Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.” The rest of the passage thus follows from this assumption of mutual submission, with an understanding that the posture of every Christian–male or female–is one of servanthood and service to the “other,” whomever they might be. This sort of statement from Paul usurps every other cultural “household code” common in his day. By affirming a mutual submission amidst the Christian community, and by asserting husbands must love their wives in the same way Christ loves the church, Paul is actually writing this letter with a new way for the Christian community to live amidst neighbors and systems that do not affirm the same sense of mutuality in their living. Congruent with his other letters, Paul is reminding the church that a discipleship of Jesus means an emulation of His ways. Indeed, the way of servanthood–of self-giving, agape love–is precisely what Paul calls all of us to, as that is the way of the Christ we follow (Philippians 2:1-11). The result of following these teachings, then, is not a continued affirmation of dominance and self-assertion which so commonly characterized Paul’s world and continues today, but instead a new community committed to mutual respect, submission, and service that manifests the self-giving love of Christ to a world in need of it. -CL
Prayer: Lord, I repent of the ways I have used my power over others for the sake of imposing my will in a given situation. Forgive me, and teach me the posture of servanthood that Christ taught us. Empower me to live as one who longs to love and serve all of those around me. Amen.