Those who have believing masters should not show them disrespect just because they are fellow believers. Instead, they should serve them even better because their masters are dear to them as fellow believers and are devoted to the welfare of their slaves. 1 Timothy 6:2 (NIV).
Perhaps none of us in America can imagine this kind of predicament: being a slave who follows Jesus while serving a master who also follows Jesus. It’s true. We can’t truly imagine it because we aren’t slaves. There is no American citizen alive today who was an American slave, is the child or grandchild of a slave, or has any personal experience with legal slavery in the United States. It was outlawed as a legal institution 154 years ago. Yet, back then, it was very real. There were real slaves and masters believing in the same Jesus while one lived in cruel servitude to the other. Yes, slavery still does exist as a criminal exercise on this planet, even within the United States. But that isn’t what we’re talking about (yet hold the thought).
Perhaps the closest parallel we of the 21st Century could draw is supporting a boss who you know believes in God. We aren’t talking about supporting someone who says they believe yet says or does things to rebel against Him. I’m more talking about supporting a boss who is harsh, tough, demanding. Perhaps a leader or manager who insists that you always give your best, always hold to the highest standards, always demand more from you.
You know, like Jesus would. Jesus could be hard and demanding of people who were egregious offenders, people like the Pharisees. Yet He was also demanding of His closest friends, even as He usually interacted with a softer approach. You and I, we like to say that we’d give Jesus worship, faith and (at least) respect, right?
Perhaps He has given us hard taskmasters in our lives to serve purposes that we don’t fully see. Perhaps He allows others in our lives to push us to do things that reveal the best in us; iron sharpening iron. Perhaps God works on us, collectively and individually, through authorities (as my pastor friend, Phil, recently reminded in a sermon). Perhaps we should respect the boss, the CEO, the leader, the US President, because God is working even through them. Perhaps God even still allows slavery in our world so that others might be reached by Him, through it.
Perhaps? Yes. Yes indeed, Jesus does all these things to us and for us and for our overall good in His Kingdom. Knowing that, shouldn’t we do our best to render respect and honor to those above us even if they sometimes seem like slave masters? Perhaps. You know the answer.
For further reading: Philemon 16, Proverbs 27:17, 1 Timothy 6:3.
Wonderful Savior, we often fail You through things like slavery. Thanks for Your patience, and teach us today to respect authorities, bosses, and leaders over us.