A relationship with Jesus Christ changes all of our other relationships. As we saw in the end of Ephesians 5, marriage for the Christian is not about getting what we want from our spouses but about learning to love and serve another person more than ourselves. So, too, with the parent-child and worker-boss relationships, the redeemed versions are supposed to model humility and justice rather than rebellion, pride, and selfishness. Jesus shed His precious blood to repair our broken relationships with God the Father. But He also died to fix our broken relationships with each other. Christians can pursue love, joy, and peace in their homes and workplaces by letting God instead of sin and the world shape their thoughts, attitudes, words, and actions. If you do what God says, He can redeem (buy back, restore, heal) your current relationships with your parents and prepare you to enjoy redeemed relationships with your spouses, children, bosses, and employees in the future.
Children must obey their parents. Period. There are no qualifications or restrictions given for this commandment other than that your obedience should be done “in the Lord.” Now, this does mean that you should not obey your parents if they tell you to sin against God by breaking clear commandments of Scripture (stealing, lying, hurting others, etc.). But it also means that with all commands that don’t violate Scripture, your obedience should be from the heart as if you are obeying Christ Himself. By learning to trust and obey your parents’ commands with a humble and respectful attitude the first time those commands are given, you are learning how to trust and obey other authorities (like teachers and later bosses). But more importantly, you are learning how to trust and obey God. True, parents, teachers, and bosses will not always be right. But, God has placed them in authority over you, and in His wisdom He also knows that they will usually be right more often than you. If you question and argue with your parents rather than obey them, you are disobeying God and removing yourself from His umbrella of protection. That is not a good place to be. If you keep on challenging and bucking the counsel of your parents and teachers, the damage to your life will eventually become really serious. If you look at the lives of people in their twenties who are suffering from the bitter consequences of their sin, you will often see a history of rebellion against parents in their childhood and teen years.
God’s blueprint for redeeming our relationships is easy to understand but hard to do; we need to depend on Christ each day to help us live out His plan for our lives. Submitting to authority does not come natural to most of us. We want to do what we want to do. We want what we want when we want it and we want it right now! Once you are older and become parents and perhaps bosses yourselves, leading others with fairness and kindness will be tough, too. Our sin nature likes to lord authority over others and take advantage of power. The bottom line is that we need to ask Jesus each day to help us honor Him in our relationships with each other. But He will help us if we seek Him with all of our hearts. God would not command us to do something without giving us the power to do it through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13).
The Text (Ephesians 6:1-9)
6 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— 3 “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”
4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
5 Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. 6 Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. 7 Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, 8 because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free.
9 And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.
Questions to Think About
- How are you doing right now with obeying your parents? Is it a struggle? Why or why not?
- Do you think of obeying your parents and teachers as a way to obey Jesus? Does that mindset help you when you don’t want to obey? Explain.
- How can students whose parents are not modeling obedience to the Lord still obey today’s teaching? How can these students humbly obey their parents while still taking a stand for Jesus in their families?
- The promise of happy, long lives to those who obey their parents in verses 1-3 comes from the Ten Commandments (found in Exodus 20). Like the promises given in the Psalms and Proverbs and other parts of the Bible, it should be taken as a general promise of earthly blessing that is normally but not always true. Sometimes, God takes very godly and obedient people home to heaven at a young age. And sometimes, God allows very wicked men and women to live longer lives than we think they deserve. But we must remember the perspective of eternity. A short life lived well for Jesus is better than a long life of sin and selfishness because the first leads to eternal joy and peace while the second leads to eternal suffering and misery. Remember the story of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31 (the passage that Mr. Reel applies with the 4 chairs illustration).
- Notice that parents (“fathers”) and bosses (“masters”) are expected to live out redemption in their God-ordained roles, too. They should be fair and kind and stay humble before their heavenly boss – Jesus. Wives, children, and workers are to model the obedience of the church to the Lord while husbands, parents, and bosses are to model the Lord’s wisdom and justice in His treatment of His people. This is not a perfect analogy because we are all sinners and only God is perfect, but in practice families and workplaces can help us to picture our relationship to Christ when they follow His plan.
- The command to train children up in the knowledge of the Lord in verse 4 should definitely be understood as applying to both fathers and mothers. However, it is important to see that the role of the father in discipline and spiritual instruction is critical. Church research has long shown that when only the mother is an active Christian (i.e. a Bible-reading, praying, church-attending Christian), there is a 50% chance for each child that he or she will follow the Lord as an adult. But if the father is an active Christian, the chance improves to 90%! Simply put, as Dad goes spiritually, so goes the family.