Now Paul turns from addressing the slave to speaking to the master. And his words are just as revolutionary. “And masters treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he is both their master and yours in heaven, and there is no favouritism with him.”
Paul reminds them of their identity in Christ. They are masters but they are also servants of a master. They don’t have absolute authority they serve the same master for his glory. What is true for the slave is true for the master. In their work, in their leadership, in their home and business, in their treatment of their slaves they are to serve Jesus. To do the will of God from their hearts, to live knowing and growing in an awareness of knowledge of God’s love.
So the Christian master is to be different. Roman society gave masters all sorts of privileges and rights and powers over their slaves. But Paul says in Christ they are revoked “there is no favouritism with God.” He expects the master to serve him just as much as he expects the slaves to. Treat your slaves as they should treat you, with respect, fear and sincerity. Practically that means not threatening them as society allowed.
If we find ourselves in positions of authority as believers we need to listen to this. We are to serve Christ as we lead. We’re to treat those we lead as we would like to be treated. Our leadership should be distinctly different. Let’s try to apply this.
Your position of authority is a means of serving God and this passage isn’t a call to abdicate leadership but to lead well but not as the world sees good leadership it but as Christ led. Leadership is a means of serving, it prevents chaos in the workplace, it cares for and values people.
Firstly it means treating people – be they employees, colleagues, clients, or customers with respect, fear and sincerity. It means seeing people as Christ sees them, valuing them and treating them as you’d like to be treated. They’re not numbers or resources, or cogs in the corporate machine as a business might be tempted to treat them. They are worthy of respect and care, of time taken to consider and communicate well with them.
It will mean not making arbitrary threats or putting them under undue pressure. It works itself out practically in serving them by providing clear guidelines on conduct, expectations, discipline and so on. But also providing grievance procedures, fair pay, support and care for employees who are struggling.
That’s a huge challenge isn’t it? The gospel changes everything. Christ’s love for us changes everything. The world of work in turned upside down. For the disciple the work place is a place of worship. Where we know God’s love in Christ and seek to live wisely in a way that shows our love for him. Isn’t that a challenge? Maybe you’re already thinking that will grate, that will cause friction. Yes, it will. But we serve Christ not the boss, our reward is an eternal welcome not an end of the month pay packet.
“Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgression.” And what did he save us for, so that we whether gathered or scattered serve Christ in love out of an ever growing awareness and appreciation of his love, showing the world and beyond the power of glory of the gospel to transform everything for his glory.