Eventually we were going to get to this one…

Wives obey your husbands. Husbands love your wives…children, obey your parents,…fathers, do not dishearten your children…slaves obey your masters…Col. 3:18-22, Col. 4:1

Imagine the organization chart for an organization to which you belong. Most of us could point out exactly where we fall on that chart and explain the responsibilities and chain of command. Households, and the families within them, in the Greco-Roman world were hierarchical in the way that organizations, businesses, and governments today are hierarchical.  Aristotle’s household codes present a hierarchy of genetic superiority of free males as justification for the position of women, children, and slaves as chattel. Roman culture accepted this as the natural order and considered these ideas to be foundational to maintaining a well-ordered civilization. While it may look like support for the existing cultural norm, offering mutual respect and loving intent as reasons for submitting to the hierarchies actually challenge these core assumptions. In 21st century culture advocating for the practice of slavery because it’s “biblical” is generally considered reprehensible and ridiculous. Most of our households are no longer multi-generational, and those that are, adult males are not subservient to their fathers until the elder dies. While these “biblical” practices have been relegated to the culture of the past, Complementarianism  vs. Egalitarianism (conflicting ideas about positions in hierarchy and general equality of males and females) is still being widely debated. Rather than propping up the ideas of hierarchies, household or otherwise, could it be that this passage simply continues the previous ideas about what it means to live in Christ while occupying a particular place in a hierarchy set by that particular culture at that particular time? In the context of Christ in us and we in Him, this passage supports finding a way of grace and respect within whatever hierarchies we find ourselves in.

Lord, help me respond to every person as a beloved and valuable human being rather than the position they occupy on a hierarchy.