PFOA: Ephesians 6:5

“Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ.” Eph. 6:5, ESV.

Compared to husbands and wives, parents and children, the ideas of master and slaves do not quite resonate with us. However, if we broaden this to think about a variety of authority structures, we may be able to identify relevant ethical principles that can be applied to many contemporary situations.

We all live in a matrix of authority structures. These include relationships like teacher-student, employer-employee, leader-follower, officer-soldier, government-people and even pastor-congregants. The level and scope of authority, dominance, and power in these structures are different, depending on the relationship. Again our participation in these relationships is governed by the prefacing principle of Eph 5:21, we submit … out of reverence the Christ.

On this day when Singapore celebrates its 50th Jubilee National Day, the Christian might reflect on two primary authority structures in his life – as a citizen of the nation and as a citizen of the Kingdom of God. As citizens of the nation we are to be loyal, to be subject to the governing authorities (Rom 13:1). These have been instituted by God, as His servants, to judge and punish wrong-doing. We are to fulfil all our obligations and submit to these authorities as a matter of conscience (Rom 13:5).

Thus we are instructed to pray for all those in authority and high positions (1 Tim 2:2). It was wonderful to see the 50,000 gathered at the Singapore Sports Hub for the Jubilee Day of Prayer in July to pray for the nation, asking in particular blessing for the Prime Minister. Most liturgies include prayer for the governing authorities, unfortunately non-liturgical churches, often focusing on just local and immediate needs fail in this respect.

In the Old Testament, we learn that even arrogant nations like Assyria and Babylon are instruments of justice in God’s hands. On the other hand, He shows His mercy through Cyrus the Mede in the repatriation and restoration of Israel. The Apostle Paul too enjoyed the protection of the Roman government. He was rescued from a mob in Jerusalem (Acts 21) and later from a plot to kill him (Acts 23) by the Roman tribune. As a Roman citizen, his appeal to Caesar (Acts 25) gave him protection under Roman law.

So let us submit to those in authority, pray for our government and leaders that they may rule wisely and justly, and “if possible, so far as it depends on [us], live peaceably with all” (Rom 12:18).