This week in reviewing Luther’s Small Catechism on the Ten Commandments we move to the Second Table of the Law, that dealing with our relationship to others, and the Fourth Commandment. “Honor your father and mother,” leads the way in the Second Table. And Luther gives the succinct and easy to memorize explanation, “We are to fear and love God so that we do not despise or anger our parents and others in authority, but respect, obey, love, and serve them.
If we pay attention we will note that authority and respect for authority are not bad things, but actually the way God ordered His good creation. There is a saying in our Western tradition that goes, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” And given our fallen sinful natures, there is wisdom with the saying. But it does not follow that we are therefore better off without any exercise of power and lines of authority! As an aside, in our country we talk about checks and balances to the necessary exercise of proper authority.
Luther argued, largely based on this commandment, that the office of father and mother is the highest office in the land. Of this office above all others God commands that we honor. Interestingly, the family is the first and most basic society in which God has placed us. Family comes before the larger community or society of humans, and before the congregation of God’s people, that is, the Church. And parents have the all-important job of raising future generations.
Raising those in the image and likeness of God is too big a responsibility for parents alone. They need to be assisted by teachers, law enforcement, civil authorities, and religious leaders as well, to name a few. All these offices appointed by God and representing His authority are to be respected, obeyed, loved and served.
This is not only a matter of good order. It is commanded by God.
Since You Asked…
What is the significance of sharing the peace?
“The peace which enables people to live in unity and in the spirit of mutual forgiveness comes only from Christ whose word has been proclaimed. … The peace is a sign that those who participate in it open themselves to the healing and reconciling power of God’s love and offer themselves to be agents of that love in the world. … The personal exchange of the peace should be as unpatterned as possible, but its meaning and significance should be kept clear. It is not the occasion merely for conviviality. The choice of gesture, whether a handshake, holding hands, or an embrace, should be left to the persons themselves.” (from “Manual on the Liturgy” companion to the LBW, from Augsburg Pub.)