The Christian’s Family and Social Relationships
Key Verse 6:1 – “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.”
Good morning! Last week, we learned about the principles of a house church: wives submit to your husbands, husbands love your wives. The message was titled principles of the house church because, in ancient times, the Christian home was the church building (Rom 16:3). In that context, this morning’s verses are further principles for the house church, since children, parents, masters and slaves all lived under one roof. Today we will learn how to behave as children and how to behave as parents, how to behave as workers and as bosses.
As we think of the modern world, we can see a domino affect. The rejection of the sanctity of marriage and the removal of God from marriage has lead to many broken families, contrary to Eph 5:22-33. This has in turn lead to many untrained, disobedient children, contrary to Eph 6:1-4. In turn, these children grow up to be disobedient workers, contrary to Eph 6:5-9. To restore America, Christ needs to be brought back into all of these relationships.
Let’s read the Key Verse, 6:1. “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.”
Part 1 Children obey your parents.
Let’s read verses 1 and 2. “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor you father and mother’ – which is the first command with a promise –”
How many of you are children? All of you us are children, because we all have parents, some people may be 50 year old children. The word used here and in 6:5 is obey. It is a stronger word than the word applied to wives in 5:22, submit. To obey is to listen and do what you are told to do. It is related to showing honor. People do not like to obey others. They want to do be their own person. I remember when I left my parent’s house and moved into the dormitory on campus. I felt free at last. I didn’t have to mow the lawn or clean my room. It also seemed that, since I was now living on my own, I didn’t have to obey my parents anymore. But when we read verse 1, we do not see any age limit to obeying your parents.
Look at verse 1 again more carefully. “Children obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” What does it mean by in the Lord? There are 3 meanings. First, “in the Lord” means in accordance with the Lord’s will. That is, we are called to obey not only our parents but also God, and when there is a conflict between these, we follow God, but still honoring and respecting our parents. These conflicts are not common, unless your parents have a different religion and are persecuting you. Second, “ in the Lord” means as to the Lord. This is because we are also children of God, and we obey our heavenly father. Therefore we cannot be good children of God unless we are also good children of our earthly parents. Third, “ in the Lord” means because of the Lord. When my parents told me to do something that I didn’t agree with, I didn’t feel obligated to do it. Parents are not perfect. Some parents have serious problems like alcoholism. They may not seem worthy of obeying. But no one chose their parents, God chose them. If God has chosen a certain person to be your parent, you have to accept them and obey them, not because they earned your honor, but because God chose them as your parent.
Parents are older and generally wiser. Their direction often turns out to be the best way, so that we would be wise to obey. When George Washington was a young man, he wanted to be a sailor. But his mother pleaded with him no to go. Although he really wanted to go, he obeyed his mother. Had he become a sailor, he would probably not have become the first president. Then we would not be living outside of Washington DC, but maybe King George DC.
Verse 1 then says, “for this is right”. This phrase emphasizes the command. Obeying your parents is not presented as an optional suggestion, but as an absolute command of what is right.
And yet, verse 1 is not a typical description of the modern American family. One of the first words that little children learn is “NO.” Once they learn it, they use it all the time to their parents. When they grow to become teenagers, and their mother calls their name, they yell back, “Yea? What?” There is no respect, the father becomes “my old man”. When their parents tell them to do something, they want do the opposite instead. They complain, “my parents don’t understand me!” and they listen to their friends instead. They use their parents saying, “give me money”, but they do not say, “thank you.” Later, when they grow up, after receiving sacrificial love from their parents, they want to be their own person, so they move away and never give their parents a call or a visit. When their parents are old, they dump them in a nursing home, even though they are still healthy.
But this is not Christ’s example. Jesus was once a boy, too. And though he was the creator God, he humbled himself to become a man, and he was obedient. He could excuse himself, as the Son of God, from his human obligation, but he did not do so. In referring to Jesus and his parents, Luke 2:51 reads, “then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them.” Jesus was an obedient son, and also a caring son, who even as he was dying on the Cross, gave thought to how to providing for his mother (Jn 19:26-27).
Verses 2 and 3 draw our attention back to the 10 commandments, given to Moses by God on Mount Sinai. The fifth commandment reads, “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.” (Ex 20:12) It is the first of the commandments with a promise: namely, long life. Why does this command receive a promise? How important is this command? It is basic, it is one of the 10 basic commands of the Bible. In the Old Testament, do you know the penalty for being a disobedient child? It was stoning (Dt 21:18-21). Of course, the penalty of the law no longer applies in the New Testament, but it does serve to show the severity of this sin. For many of us, myself included, these verses were a wake up call to repentance. I had to call my parents and say thank you for all of their serving of me.
In the supposed interest of serving God, some people said to their parents, “Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is a gift devoted to God.” But Jesus flatly rejected such an idea in Mk 6:10-11. We cannot neglect our physical responsibilities because of what seem to be spiritual reasons. Rather, it is through these relationships that we learn obedience and how to obey God. Eph 5:32 shows that the most profound aspect of our physical relationships is that they have spiritual equivalents: the church is the bride of Christ, we are children of God (Jn 1:12), and we are slaves to righteousness (6:18). We learn about the spiritual through the practice of the physical. We cannot say that we obey God, if we do not obey our parents, who God has placed over us and commanded us to obey.
Part II Parents instruct your children
How many parents are there here. Many are and many aren’t. I am not. This part may not seem applicable to college students. But it is applicable, because most of us are future parents. Look at verse 4. Let’s read that. “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” God has entrusted parents with a great deal of power over their children. But they are not to abuse that power. I heard that a woman was recently caught on parking lot survelance tape, beating her daughter in the head because she was a angry at a store clerk. IT doesn’t make sense.
Verse 4 instructs parents not to exasperate their children. To exasperate is to annoy with continual demands. Basically, it is being bossy. Just because children must obey, do not heap excessive demands on them. Some families have so many rules for the children, that the children live in fear of breaking a rule, the milk always goes on the right side of the refrigerator. But rule your children with love. Col 3:21 reads similarly, “Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.” Children’s self esteem can be easily damaged by parents who expect to much, and do not careful build up their children with practical help and positive direction. When we abuse our power, we exasperate and emitter our children, but we do not get the desired result. Rather they become discouraged and rebellious. Children need their parents’ approval and help. There are five bad habits that parents have, which break the bond between them and their children. First, don’t train children when you are angry, but train with love. Second, do not say your child is a burden you wish you didn’t have. Third, do not compare your child to others, “why can’t you be as talented as them?” Fourth, do not treat your children like a fool, saying, “How old are you?” Fifth, don’t say, “Don’t bother me.”
As a parent, we need to encourage our children’s own talents and help them to grow. One parent had a dream to be a doctor, but could not achieve it, so he said to his son, you will be the doctor I never was. Even though the child showed interest and ability in math, the parent said, “No, you will be a world famous physician.”
When God entrusts someone with power, they also have a responsibility to use that power well. It is always that way. For instance, last week, we learned that the husband is head of the wife, not so that he can receive much serving, but so that he can serve her, building her up as holy and blameless.
In the same way, parents receive power over their children for the good of the children. They are to train them and instruct them in the Lord. If so many children are disobedient today, it is because so many parents didn’t train their children yesterday. Television has been called “the third parent”, because children spend more time with the TV than with their parents and they learn their values from TV. What about your children? Are they like untrained wild animals? Some disciplined children are the Brogi children. I saw that when David Brogi told them to do something, they did it.
Some people excuse themselves, that they are too busy to care for their children. Then you shouldn’t have children. Really it is not a matter of business, but of effort. Have you heard of Susanna Wesley? She had 19 children. It was hard to keep track of all of them. So what did she do? She had a weekly meeting with each one of them individually, turn by turn. In this way, she trained her children well. Two of her children were John Wesley, founder of the Methodists, and Charles Wesley, a great hymn write, of such hymns as “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing”. Even though parents are busy with many things, they cannot neglect their responsibility to train their children, because it is a special mission that God has seen fit to entrust them with.
Verse 4 also says that parents are to teach their children the Bible. This agrees with Proverbs 22:6 which reads, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” Similarly, there were many places in the Bible where parents were instructed to teach their children about the Bible. For instance when Jewish children asked about why they ate the Passover, the parents were instructed to explain how God delivered Israel from slavery in Egypt, by his mighty hand.
There are some disturbing trends. I saw a recent survey for our Children’s Bible Fellowship. 1/3 of parents did not know their child’s Sunday School teacher. More over, some parents are not taking the time to teach their children, but just rely on Sunday School and Veggie Tales. You cannot teach the Bible to others, if you do not teach your children. What does it mean if someone is a Bible teacher, laying down his life for the sheep, but neglects to teach his own children the Bible – those most precious sheep that don’t run away. Look how important the second generation members are to our music program and CBF ministry. Missionary Paul Oh found a way to actively teach his family by having daily, early morning, family worship service. In this way his daughters grew up with Biblical instruction, to be very important young members of our ministry.
Many people here have young children, under 10. It is important to instruct and train them before the rebellious teenage years. Actually, the first three years are the most important. For instance Moses learned about his Jewish heritage from his mother, during his first few years, as she nursed him, before he was taken away from her, to the Pagan palace. Whatever age your children are, it is never too late to apply these verses.
Part III Work as to the Lord, not men
In the first part, we saw how to nurture blessed Christian families through the parent-child relationship. In this part, we think about another relationship farther out in the social spectrum- that between masters and slaves, or analogously between bosses and employees.
Read verses 5 and 6. “Slaves obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them, not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart.” In Paul’s time there were about 40 million slaves in the Roman Empire. They were not treated as people but as property. It was an immoral institution (1Ti 1:10). God made man to be free, not to be a slave of other men (1Cor7:23). It seemed that Paul should encourage social upheaval to do away with the slavery. But he did not. Quite to the contrary, Paul admonishes slaves to obey their masters with respect, fear and sincerity as if they were obeying Jesus. It seemed unreasonable. Was Paul condoning the terrible practice of slavery? No. But to Christians, the most important thing is spiritual freedom. God set his people Isreal free from slavery in Egypt. But the most important thing is to be freed from the slavery to sin, which leads to eternal punishment and death. In their terrible situation, slave could have a heavenly hope and not an empty worldy hope. It required great faith on behalf of slaves. But when they did so, instead of rebelling against their masters, they could win them over to faith in Jesus, through their hard work and respect.
Unfortunately, slavery still remains in various parts of the world, though it is no longer practiced in America. But we can still apply theses principles, because there are many parallels between slavery and the modern job setting. Sometimes we have demanding supervisors. They give us many assignments and press us to produce a lot, coming in early and staying late. If there is a mistake, they always point it out, but they do not notice when things are done right. Because we live in a cursed world, we have to earn our living by the sweat of our brow. So we try to avoid hard work. At most offices, employees try to talk to the boss, giving him exaggerated reports of their work progress. But when the boss leaves, everyone makes personal phone calls, plays computer solitaire, and surfs the net. It is human nature. I heard that the average worker does actual work for only a few hours a day. But here we find a Christian work ethic that challenges us not to try to impress our boss to get their favor, and then slack off when they are not looking. If people were to apply this principle today, worker productivity would soar, and the current economic recession would be instantly over.
Read verses 7 and 8. “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free.” Instead of avoiding work, the Christian work ethic calls on us to obey supervisors and work hard, doing the will of God from our heart, serving as if we were serving Jesus. Why should our earthly masters receive such treatment? It is because this is how we demonstrate obedience to our heavenly master. No matter how difficult your boss is, God has put you in that job, and as long as he is paying you, you are obligated to him. Since God has put us there, we can serve our boss as to the Lord. Even though it is a menial task, if you prove yourself faithful in a small thing then God can entrust you with many things. Office work is not spiritual, but doing a good job at work is part of our spiritual life. When we obey and work hard, God sees it and will reward us. And in this way, we witness to our boss and coworkers, by making the teaching about God our Savior attractive (Tit 2:9). They will see our hard work and wonder what makes us different, why we are not lazy.
By extension, being lazy is a bad witness, and a disservice not to our earthly master, but ultimately to our heavenly master who has entrusted us with this job. In my lab, the professor does not watch me much, and I have to discipline myself. With my many other responsibilities, and with my lazy nature, it is not normal for me to work 8 hours. The computer has so many distractions at your fingertips. But this is not pleasing to God, and we are to stop.
Our example is Joseph. He was sold as a slave, unfairly. So we expect him to run away, back to Canaan, because he should not have been a slave. But instead, find that he obeyed his master, Potiphar, with a sincere heart. He worked hard, not just when Potiphar was watching him, but always, as to the Lord. So Potiphar did not concern himself with anything he put under Joseph’s care, because Joseph was dependable (Gen 39:6). Although Joseph at first only got trouble for all of his hard work, but through being fathful, he lived a life glorifying to God and was ultimately bless to be Prime Minister of Egypt.
Now look at verse 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 nor favoritism with him.” There are not many supervisors here, but among the college students there are probably many future bosses. Just as parents should not abuse their children who must obey, similarly bosses are not to abuse their employees. But if they are not Christian and do not behave in a Christian way, if they are harsh and threatening, that does not free us from our obligation to obey then (1Pe 3:18).
But when you are the master, be the kind of master who is like your master in heaven. God is very patient and gracious. He does not whip his people into obedience through constant threats. I have heard of numerous bosses who like to constantly mention the possibility of being fired as a way to motivate employees. How miserable it is to work for them, and when the employees get a chance, they will change their job.
When we consider our human relationships: wife-husband, child-parent, slave-master, employee-boss, we find in these verse of Ephesians many references to “as to the Lord.”
We find that all of these relationships are not between 2 people, but between 2 people and God. As a Christian, our relations becom God-centered. When Christ is at the center of our marriage, when Christ is at the center of our family, and when Christ is honored in our work, then we can serve others as to the Lord. When we see our relationship with God, our husband, father and master, then we can love our wife, submit to our husband, obey our parents, train our children and obey our boss, even when they do not seem to deserve it, because we are not doing so before men, but as to the Lord. In other words, focus on your responsibilities, not your boss’s or you children or parents. Do your part as to the Lord.
We can think about why Paul digressed into these practical matters in his letter to Ephesians, which is concerned with unity in Christ and growing to be like Christ. It is because our practical human relationships are an integral part of who we are. If we have found shortcomings in these areas of our lives, we cannot please God without fixing it. We cannot become Christ-like and have unity, if our basic relationships are improper. May God bless us to accept our position in life, to obey those who have been put over us and to serve those who have been entrusted to our care.
Let’s read the key verse, 6:1
The Key Verse is 6:1. Let’s read that. “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.”