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Tonight we are going to continue Ephesians. Last week was about husbands and wives, tonight we will talk about children and parents and then in a dramatic shift we will talk about slaves and masters and then to wrap it all up we will talk about how this plays out in all that is going on in our world today.
So to begin: the text-Children and Parents
6 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), 3 “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” 4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Bondservants and Masters
5 Bondservants,[a] obey your earthly masters[b] with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, 6 not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, 7 rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, 8 knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant[c] or is free. 9 Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master[d] and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.
Honor your father and mother. The fifth of ten commandments.
I know that all of you are exactly at me. You know better than your parents.
The day I arrived in Austin I was pumped. I spent two days driving across the country with my family and we had plans the evening of our arrival for dinner with some family friends in dripping springs. Some we are driving into Austin around lunch time and my dad goes “I want me a Texas margarita.” Because duh. So we are looking for some good Mexican food and I suggest Polvos right down the road from here. That way I can show them this awesome view of the city driving down South Congress. My mom hesitates because we need to arrive to their place around 4 and it’s around 1:30. Maybe we shouldn’t go into the city just yet. Lets just find something closer to them. And I’m like we have plenty of time driving through the city is on the way. (Fact check: it isn’t) But my Dad says “oh we have time.” So my mom applying the teachings of last week goes along with the decision. And so we get to town I drive them down South Congress showing them that amazing view and then we go eat at Polvos and we drink our Margaritas. So it’s a nice summer afternoon around 3:30 we finish our meals I plug the address into my phone and we get on our way towards Mopac (which is just another word for Satan). We get up on the road and it’s just slammed. Bumper to bumper. We’ve got half an hour to arrive. And I just sense this (I knew it. IIIIII knew it) energy hovering on my mom. But she’s remaining calm…and quiet. Which is almost worse. So we are in bumper to bumper and then right by zilker it tells me to get off. So I get off and take the exit and keep left while turning off which…..puts you back onto mopac. So here were are stuck back at the end of what took about 20 minutes to get through. I then get through the traffic exit off and follow the directions of my gps and again…I keep left and end up back on Mopac. At this point I’m pissed. I can just feel this unspoken energy growing in my mom and so every little mistake I’m making is boiling up inside and I’m like punching my steering wheel. My dad is calling and I’m hitting deny because what can he possibly tell me other then “Where in the heck are you going?” but with more buoyant words. He’s pulling up next to me waving his phone telling me to answer it and I look at him and scream NO! I’M NOT GOING TO LISTEN TO YOU TO TELL ME THE OBVIOUS. I know I’m lost, I know I made a wrong turn. I know I’m making you late. Dad calls my mom now they are arguing. She’s screaming for him to lead the way. We make another wrong turn. “If you know where we are going then you lead!” But you know with more buoyant words. After two hours of wrong turns and buoyant words we arrive. An hour and a half late. My dad didn’t drove to a bar. I felt terrible.
What’s funny to me is the irony of all my anger is that I was so upset because I simply wanted to get my mother to her destination on time. So my anger at my parents and the situation was in a strange way rooted in my attempt to “honor” them.
So let’s just jump at the front of this and call it what it is. Super. Super. Messy.
So before we get into the what if’s or the well what about. Let’s just focus on the surface level. Paul here is actually talking to children in attendance of the reading of this letter. Children obey, your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Obey your parents in the Lord. The audience is children of Christians. Parents who are in the Lord. He then references the fifth of ten commandments, “Honor your father and mother.” Which comes with a promise. “That it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” So as it was taught to the Israelite slaves at Sinai that obedience to your parents (who will be obeying and teaching these commands) is connected to human prosperity and life. If you want to understand the abundant life I am offering my people then listen to your parents who are instructing you according to my teaching. You parents who are in the Lord.
By obeying our parents we are learning what it is like to obey God. As a child our depth of understanding is not comparable to the understanding of our parents. They will always be roughly twenty or so years ahead of us on that. This does not mean there won’t be times where we actually understand things more clearly than our parents. Our parents are in fact capable of making errors. But we are called to submit to their instruction. It mirrors the relationship of husband and wife. Which to be fair teaching a child to understand the depth of this I think is in fact tough. But I look at how Paul teaches us this commandment. He expresses the obligation to obedience but also stresses the motivation of grace. In other words we don’t just forcefully say obey. We stress the motivation behind obedience. For Jesus obedience he states is placed in love for him. It’s not obey or else. It’s if you understand grace, if you understand the sacrifice, if you love me, obey my commands. They are good for you. They aren’t merely rules but loving instructions of how we can prosper. Paul is asking that we teach our children under the same grace.
Jesus himself illustrated this submission of the child most perfectly in his brutally honest prayer with God. Now remember Jesus was not a teenager. It wasn’t like there was some cap on when he was now free to stop obeying his Father. He was a 33 year old man. The three Synoptic Gospels all include this story of Jesus praying to his Father the night he is arrested.
At Gethsemane (Geth-sem-uh-nee) Jesus prays to his Dad, “Abba, Father, everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me.”
He’s asking his father, Is there another way to do this? He likens his death to cup that he doesn’t want to drink. Father, I don’t want to do this. Please take this from me,
“Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
Moments later Jesus submitted to the will of the Father. His will to bring about grace and hope and salvation to all of God’s children.
I’d like to side step and say that for some of us we don’t have both or any of our parents. Or maybe your parents simply have no desire to raise you in the Lord. You can actually bring honor to your either absent or destructive parents by living into the teachings and instructions to which Paul says we are to be taught. Living into God’s instruction will bring honor to your parents.
It continues: Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Whether we want to embrace it or not many of us are fastly approaching the time where we will be parents. And it’s likely we have heard the words from our parents…”I can’t wait for you to have kids.” And we roll our eyes and say..well my kids are going to be perfect.
No, they aren’t.
It’s interesting that it calls Fathers not to provoke their children to anger. In Colossians Paul adds to the same statement “or they will become discouraged.”
In the same way in which Husbands are not called to demand submission from their wives void of loving them. Fathers are not called to demand obedience from their children void of the grace of the Lord’s instruction.
“Some Fathers try to subordinate their children to their own authority and the necessity of obeying it in such a way that they obscure rather than express the gracious authority of God.”
Think of the times as a kid where you question the reasoning of a rule? And maybe your parent replied because I’m the parent. Or “I brought you into this world I can take you out of it.”
I’m like the most rebellious person ever when it comes to nonsense rules. Like if your rule does not make sense to me don’t expect me to follow it.
My boss in Tallahassee made a rule that we were not allowed to have water bottles at work. It pissed me off to no degree. Why? What does this solve? You would rather me leave a room of kids to get water from a fountain than carry water with me. There was no explanation of the rule and I grew angry with her. And if I’m honest (and we’ll get to this bit in a moment) I did not submit to her rule.
When teaching our children (And the children of others) we must explain the purpose for obedience and the purpose of the rule. When Christians tell people just to do what God says because it’s in the Bible. It’s no wonder people push up against us. There’s no context to that rule. There is no frame of understanding it. And it makes people angry. The same happens when teaching our children. It’s not forceful obedience, it’s instruction and discipline. We teach the grace of God because only by understanding it can we be drawn into obedience.
Or as one pastor summed it up for me “Belief drives behavior.”
Alright so last week was wives and husbands, that was children and parents, now Bondservants and Masters.
Bondservants or slaves. Their inclusion in the Bible brings up a lot of questions for skeptics or atheists and yes Christians. I’m not going to really dive into all of that, I’m going to toss it off to our neighborhood groups, I have my answers to those questions and I love the answers but diving into them would distract from the point of this passage. So feel free to ask me, I’m not running from it but let’s save it for groups this week.
Bondservants obey your earthly master with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or free.
Let’s start with this point, the slavery of America is not so similar to slavery of Rome. Roman slaves served a variety of roles. Slaves could earn their freedom, many by the time they were 30. Slaves were known to have money and property which they would use to buy their freedom. Some lived in higher quality than day labourers. They were in every industry. These slaves however were legal property. Not people with rights. There were laws that allowed owners to kill and abuse their slaves.
What Paul writes would have rattled the brain of all who listened. Paul while not directly condemning slavery delivers the progressive words that in fact bring end to slavery. In Galations Paul writes about identity in Christ stating “there is neither slave nor free.” He wasn’t calling upon slaves to rise up and overthrow their masters but instead showing the ways that in the midst of our circumstances, that in every relationship, we can encounter the divine.
What Paul is getting at is that our primary issue in life is not social or personal conditions but fellowship with God. We can encounter the Gospel anywhere. Remember Paul was writing this letter from prison.
So our conditions. Before we scoot around the statement that “slavery does not exist in our society let’s point one thing out. Slavery still exists in the United States. They are called prisoners. These people are paying a debt to society by their time removed from it. Doing tasks that give back to the society they have wronged. There is a debt that they owe and until it is paid back they may not be free. They are slaves to our government. So should you find yourself in prison, remember this passage. Moving on.
We may not have owners but we have Masters. We have employers, teachers, bosses, people who have authority over us. People we are called to respect and revere.
For the last three years I worked with the youth of Tallahassee in an urban part of town. Guys understanding this passage is so important. Especially when raising our children. This is THE issue that the our youngest generation is struggling with. It’s the issue our nation struggles with when it comes to our law enforcement or our politicians. To our teachers in our school and the students that lack respect. We don’t have to like our Masters. But we must respect them. The children I worked with only lived in their bubble of reality. If you stepped inside it they would scream you out. Because their parents were not teaching them to respect and submit to authority. This issue is single handedly destroying the integrity of our future.
Paul is asking us to treat our Masters as we would Christ. With reverence and sincerity as we would Christ. He asks us not to be people pleasers but rather suggests that the Master is ultimately not our focus. Christ, our true master. It’s almost a form of practice that Paul is calling us in to. Practice on your bosses the way in which you submit to Christ. Practice on your teachers the way in which you would obey God. Be diligent in your work in the way you would for Christ.
He suggest we are not employed by Keller Williams, We are not employed by Frost Bank, we are not employed by Bed Bath and Beyond, we are employed by Christ. So all the work to which we serve is for Christ.
This not only prepares us for a posture with Christ but opens the door to show our Masters who Jesus is. A non-believer will be grieved to understand why the Christian slave is so responsive, so gracious, and hard working. He will desire to know the source of your drive. And in so doing he might even want to employ more people with that same drive. The drive that is in fact JESUS.
To those of us who have authority over others. Whether we be teachers, bosses, preachers Paul brings you down. Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, know that his Master and yours is in heaven…and that God shows no partiality to them.
This was so dramatically progressive. Slaves…property that often didn’t have rights. Are people too.
In God’s eyes…they are your equal.
I mean WHAT! So you the Boss over your employees. In God’s eyes you are equals. He is feeding you humility.
Because the relationships are all connected.
Husband and wife, child and parent, slave and master, church and Christ.
What Paul is showing us is that in every relationship we can encounter the divine. In every relationship we can experience Christ. It’s what brings us to love our neighbors, to love our enemies. God is there because God is…here. There’s one God and father of all who is over all and through all and IN all.
He is in all because this divine breath that breathed out creation breathed us into existence. Breathed all men into being. And to this no partiality has been shown.
In Christ There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave[g] nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Because in this we find our unity.
4 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’
37 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? 39 When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
40 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters,[c] you were doing it to me!’
Because God is over all, he’s through all, he’s in all.
Because every person, every encounter, every relationship we have on this earth connects us to the divine. It’s why Christ calls his church his body. It’s why he says we can’t deny any member of our body. It’s why he condemns hatred of another. It’s why he calls us to help the orphans, to help the widows, to love our neighbors.
Because God is with us and God is in us.
Because if we say no to the homeless, we say no to Christ.
If we demean our wives and kids, we demean Christ.
If we disobey our Masters, we disobey our parents who are in the Lord, we disobey God.
Our world is broken. Our brothers and our sisters are being murdered. The least of these are being left without help or hope. Fear and hatred is robbing our world of compassion.
The enemy is winning.
Because the hungry we do not feed.
The naked we do not clothe.
The enemy we do not love.
God shows no partiality. God disregards our borders, our nations, Because we are all connected. We are all breathed into existence by the divine breath of God.
May we find the unity of God in our relationships with each other. May we serve others because God is in them. May we love our neighbors as ourselves. Let us spend time with the least of these because Christ is there.
So Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.