Actors and actresses are often discussed in terms of their most noted roles. It may be that they are remembered for a particular movie or character that first made them part of the national conscious. Or it may be that although their reputation had already been established, a particular role made their audience view them in a new light, deepening their appreciation for the actor’s artistic talents. We say that these roles “defined” their careers – and we look at them as turning points in their body of work.
In Christian circles there is a lot a talk about defining roles, although this differs significantly from what we mean when we talk about our favorite actors. This discussion is usually about marriage and the debate between what Scripture says about the roles of husband and wives and what our own inclinations or cultural mores dictate. Words like egalitarian and complementarian are bantered about as we wrestle with the fact that although in Christ “there is no male and female” (Gal. 3:28), Scripture discusses the expectations for husbands and wives differently (See Eph. 5:22-33; Col. 3:18-19; I Peter 3:1-7). There is often a conflict between our expectations of marriage and the reality that we experience. As we struggle to resolve this tension, our desire to honor Christ often is subjugated to our own self interests and concerns.
However, when Paul was writing to the Colossae church about the the different roles we have (specifically as spouses, as parents, as children, and as workers/slaves), he reminded them that they needed to defined their role not in terms of other people, but in terms of their service to the Lord Jesus Christ (Col 3:24). Although Paul’s proclamation that we are servants of the Lord is often discussed only in terms of what type of employee we should therefore be, in reality the same concept can be applied to all the preceding roles that Paul mentions. We should serve our spouses (through demonstrating love and respect), our children (through training them in the way that they should go and doing the hard work of teaching and correcting them) our parents (through honoring them) and our employers (through working hard) first and foremost because we are servants of Christ. There is an “indirect” nature to our service of Christ which means serving Him often means serving other people well, regardless of how they treat us. This may mean that we are not treated in “the way we deserve,” yet it is important to remember that neither was our Lord (John 14:20). There is no room to view our relationships in terms of a quid pro quo (for example – I’ll show my husband respect, when he does a better job of showing me love) because ultimately the other person is not the object of our service – Christ is. Instead of defining our value in terms of whether or not our relationships provide the fulfillment and satisfaction we think we have earned, we should evaluate them in light of eternity. “Servant of Christ” should be our defining role and how we behave in any of our other roles should be subjugated to that definition.
This isn’t easy. Our pride will constantly buck against this. Yet the more we define ourselves in light of our servitude to Christ, and not in terms of any other characterizations, the more we will honor Him through each and every thing we do.
(Author’s Note – It is worth noting that if someone doesn’t treat us in the “way we deserve” and it violates the laws of the land – that person should be held accountable for their actions. Because we answer to Christ does not mean that others we interact with should not answer to the civil authorities. Although this becomes an issue only in the most extreme circumstances, because those circumstances exist, it is worth noting specifically in a discussion about the way we treat one another in marriage.)