I want to first apologize for it being so long since I have written. We have been getting used to the new school year and then on top of it all we began to have computer issues. However, it did give me time to really think about this post. I am going to be discussing things in ways I have never really thought of them before and so for the extra time I am thankful.
Ephesians 6:1 Children, obey your parents as you would the Lord, because 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 have a long life in the land. 4 Fathers, don’t stir up anger in your children, but bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
5Slaves, obey your human masters with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ. 6 Don’t work only while being watched, in order to please men, but as slaves of Christ, do God’s will from your heart. 7 Serve with a good attitude, as to the Lord and not to men, 8 knowing that whatever good each one does, slave or free, he will receive this back from the Lord. 9 And masters, treat your slaves the same way, without threatening them, because you know that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with Him.(HCSB)
Let’s begin with the children. This command to the children is really a repeat of the fifth commandment that tells children to honor their father and their mother. That is what it is referring back to when it talks about being the first commandment with promise. In honoring them they are to obey, paying careful attention to them as they would the Lord and in doing so they are honoring the Lord who gave the command.
Then the fathers are to be careful in how they treat their children. Notice they are not given permission to do as they please to their children. They too are given instructions on how to bring up their children. They are to bring them up to love and obey the Lord, training them and instructing them in the ways of the Lord. This is a heavy task and one that bears total responsibility and purposefulness. Fathers cannot do this half-heartedly, it must be with the whole heart and with precise direction – toward the Lord.
Remember we are talking about unity in the home. If the Father or the children do not get their parts correct their is a break down in that unity. A father needs his children to obey him and to honor him and their mother. The children need to be loved and understood. They are not yet adults and do not do things the way an adult would. They also do not have the understanding of an adult yet long to be understood by their fathers. This is to be done with compassion and joy as they watch their children grow in the love and instruction of the Lord.
Here is where the mystery hits this passage. Scripture talks about us being the adopted children of God. As His children we are to obey Him without question, He is our Father. The Father looks on us with compassion as Jesus did the crowds. He understands us and knows how hard it is to avoid sin. As Hebrews 2 tells us, Jesus was tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin. You see He also knows the way to avoid the sin and if we are close to the Father, listening and obeying the Father, He will guide us through the temptation so that we can escape its grasp. This relationship is all important if we even hope to say no to sin. It works in unity, perfect unity. We are the children listening, obeying and thinking the world of our Father, standing in awe of Him and He is the loving Father beaming down in love and delight in His children.
As for the slaves and the masters I have often heard this passage preached from the perspective of employee and employer. I do not think this is accurate and here is why. This is not an example of an interpersonal relationship outside the home, but one within it. The home is the entire focus of these three examples in Ephesians. In Paul’s day slaves in the home were a reality and one that contributed to the unity of the home. Therefore it had to be dealt with as part of his conversation. He was not attempting to address the rightness or wrongness of slavery, but the behavior of both masters and slaves who have become voluntary slaves of Christ, knowing that how they act reflected on their Savior. Paul was effective in reaching both slaves and masters with the Good News of Freedom in Christ.
Slaves were to obey their masters as if they were serving the Lord. They were to do this in love for their master, not resentment. The Lord sees the heart and holds even the servant responsible for his own motives and attitude in his work. Slaves were an important part of many homes. If they did not do their work in a timely manner and well the home was not a good place to be. It reminds me of Joseph when he was the slave of Potipher in Egypt. God blessed the household of Potipher because of the efforts of Joseph who loved Him.
Likewise, masters are to deal with their slaves with respect as another human being. They are to treat them fair, knowing that they too have a Master in Heaven who is watching them. Yes, watching even the way they treat their slaves. Masters are not to leave or desert their slaves, they are part of their family, and thus, the masters are responsible for their care (keeping in mind the status of a slave was often the result of debts). This is the true meaning when it says, “without threatening them”, the threat is the threat to leave them alone. God holds each of us responsible for how we treat each other no matter our station in life. In Christ we are all brothers and sisters called to love and serve one another.
Now for the mystery within this example. We are the servants of God called to follow His commands. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey my commands.” You see He is the Master. He is our Lord. He has every right to give the commands and we have no right to disobey them. As for His part, in love He has promised never to leave us or forsake us as a good master, our good shepherd, would.
Yes, Jesus does calls us His friends as well, but that does not negate our role as servants. Paul calls himself a bond-servant of the Lord, a servant by choice, following the commands of His Master. Let us never forget that Lord means Master. So when we call God our Lord and Savior we are really calling Him our Master and Savior and declaring ourselves His bond-servant bound to obey His commands.
God desires unity in every part of the relationship He has with us. Unity between the Bridegroom and Bride, between the Father and His Children, between the Master and His Bond-Servants. Is not our God awesome in what He desires with us? Truly His ways are above our ways and His thoughts above our thoughts.
Let us obey our Bridegroom, Father and Master as we love one another.