Dear brothers and sisters,
Ephesians chapter 5 is a familiar text to many, especially to those of us who happen to be blessed with a spouse. This chapter falls in the context of St. Paul's exhortation to live as children of light--who "were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness" (4:22-54).
The section, of course, includes the exhortation to wives and husbands to "submit to one another out of reverence for Christ" (v. 21). It contains similar encouragement to children and parents in their various roles, as well as slaves and master, which today would probably be closest to employee and employer.
Of course we may think of the man as the head of the wife, the father as the head of the family, and the employer as the head of the business. Unfortunately, the world has a faulty understanding of leadership which is based on the law and has turned these God-ordained relationships into opportunities for the "head" to become lord or dictator. This misunderstanding has turned husbands and fathers and bosses into Law men.
But St. Paul has not given us the model of the law upon which to model our leadership paradigms. Ephesians 4:32-5:1 says: "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly beloved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."
The model is that of the love of grace and forgiveness--self-sacrificial and undeserved love given to those who don't deserve it. That is the love of God which husbands, fathers, and bosses are to be imitators of. These are not institutions of the law; rather, they are vocations to which we are called and in which we are given opportunities to show the same mercy and grace we are shown every week in the Divine Service when we confess our sins and receive Holy Absolution.
What is the greatest opportunity for someone to know the great gift of the Gospel? When they don't deserve it. And so these offices of leadership become wonderful opportunities for wives, children and employees to have the Gospel brought to them by their husbands, fathers or bosses.
May we hear these words of St. Paul, and be imitators of Christ so that the Gospel would be made known to those in our families, and those with whom we work.
Submitting to the One who freely forgives. Amen.