In particular, we understand as Christians that God has instituted various roles and responsibilities especially in the context of marriage.
It’s not a coincidence that similar structures are modeled by God and Jesus, Jesus and the Church, and Government and the People/Christians.
In fact, the Scriptures speak of orderly conduct multiple times in the Scripture. This means order is something that is clearly important to God. My best guess as to why this is the case is that without order — or with disorder — that relationships tend to devolve into that which is the spirit of the flesh:
Galatians 5: 19 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: [i]immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, [j]factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
As I discussed in the Unity series (one, two, three, four), it is very easy for situations to devolve out of control without order. When emotions run out of control or others do horrible things to us it’s easy for us to lose sight of the love that God has called us.
Structures of Authority
The relationship between God the Father and Jesus also represents that which we see modeled in Husbands and Wives. After all, the first marriage was in Genesis 2, and God created man in His own image. It would make sense that which He created reflects Him.
Likewise, the relationship between Christ and Christians also models what Jesus has done on the cross. This is one of the understandings that I had a difficult time grasping because I didn’t understand how Jesus would view us as friends, but we were to be slaves to Christ. Here is the whole passage:
John 15:12 “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are My friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you. 17 This I command you, that you love one another.
Jesus makes a series of bold statements about the relationship between Himself and His disciples. He models His love for us by laying His life down for us, His friends. Slaves don’t know the Master’s business, but we do. We did not choose Him but He chose us. These passages only make sense in the context of Jesus modeling His relationhip with God (God -> Jesus) and also the relationship Paul describes in marriage (Husbands -> Wives).
Most Christians have a difficult time understanding the marriage relationship because it is a relationship not a relationship between two perfect beings (God -> Jesus) and it is not a relationship between one perfect being and humans (Jesus -> Christians). It is a relationship between two humans (husbands -> wives) and yet somehow we think this makes it different. However, it is not.
- Husbands are to lay their lives down for their wives as Christ loved the Church (Eph 5).
- In this love like Christ and the Church, wives are not treated as slaves to the husbands as they know their master’s business (even as Sarah called Abraham lord [1 Peter 3] she knew of Abraham’s business [Gen 18+, etc.]).
- Wives do not choose their husbands but husbands choose their wives. (He who finds a wife finds a good thing [Prov 18:22]; wives are to be helpmeets to husbands and not the other way around Gen 2).
The latter two points in the three points above are going to be very difficult for most Christian nice guys (or men growing in the faith) as well as Christian women to understand having grown up in a post-feminist and churchian society.
Edit: Donal has pointed out that there were a few cases (exceptions?) that women in the Scriptures did choose their husbands in the comments. Obviously, it’s not like the women had no choice in the matter as they did. However, in the vast majority of cases it is the men who are initiating the relationship.
When a man enters a marriage relationship with wife having choosen the husband he is in for all sorts of unhappiness and dischord. This is a fact. There is no respect for the husband in this case, and it is very difficult for the wife to break that habit even if she is a Christian. Likewise, it is easy for husbands to keep decisions and things to themselves, but this is not the way wives are to be treated.
Finally, Christians are to submit to governing authorities in a manner worthy of Christ. This is a structure of authority that is seemingly easier when it’s Jesus -> Christians, but when it’s governing authorities -> Christians it seems more difficult to us.
This is especially true when the governing authority is not “holding up it’s end of the bargain” by having righteous judgment as seen on the left hand side of the image. This is also what is meant by loving your enemies and praying for those who persecute you. Having someone do us wrong, even those in authority, does not permit us to go and disobey.
Now, this is not to say we should not vote or attempt to change the government through our votes and other legal means, but we are to obey the authorities unless they tell us to commit sin. You don’t get to pick and choose what you obey and don’t obey.
The easiest example of this is the structures of authority that are set up in the occupational workplaces. You may not like your boss, and your boss may do evil to you. But you are still to respect him and obey what they want you to do even if you disagree with it.
Most people intuitively understand the boss -> employee relationship, but they don’t understand that it is but another example of the God -> Jesus, Jesus -> Christians, husbands -> wives, authorities -> Christians, and other orderly relationships that are espoused in Scripture. We are not put into any of these relationships by chance, even as much as we may not like some of them.
Therefore, to honor God we must be willing to walk in the particular roles and responsibilities that God has called us in all aspects of this life. This will allow us to walk in the fullness of love, and allow us to be exemplary witnesses for Christ.