By Raymond Harris
Regarding Scripture: Ephesians 6.1-4
Note to the Reader – I encourage you to invest additional time reading the letter of Ephesians in conjunction with this article.
Living the True Life – Part III
Welcome back to our examination of Ephesians. This lesson will conclude our brief look at this rich book. You may recall that the previous two lessons each narrowly focused on one of the “thirty-five directives” 1 for Living the True Life. Again, the count of the 35 “directives” might be dependent on the reader, but both Ephesians 4 and 5 contained 11 directives giving 22, interestingly enough, I found 13 in the closing chapter of Ephesians, giving 35. The thirteen I found:
- 6.1 – Children: Follow Parents
- 6.2-3 – Children: Respect Parents
- 6.4a – Fathers: Encourage Children
- 6.4b – Fathers: Instruct Children
- 6.5 – Servants: Follow Masters
- 6.6-8 – Servants: Serve God
- 6.9a – Masters: Respect Servants
- 6.9b – Masters: Show Impartiality
- 6.10 – Be Courageous
- 6.11 – Spiritual Enemy
- 6.12 – Spiritual Conflict
- 6.13-17 – Spiritual Armament
- 6.18 – Prayerful Vigilance
While disciples should walk upright before all people, Paul spends much time specifically speaking about the family. He described a general concept for personal relationships in chapter 5.15, then immediately moved into a lengthy discussion of nurturing the matrimony. But here in chapter 6, Paul spends time speaking specifically about the parent/child relationship and the worker/employer (servant/master) relationship. While both have merits, we are obligated to limit our discussion, so we will discuss the first of the two relationships – that being family.
The Parent / Child Relationship
Many books have been written about family dynamics. Some of these books are profoundly helpful, others seem to be a dramatic expenditure of time – and all books should be filtered by and through the Scriptures. However, there is a basic struggle within all families – how do we get along. This is why the concepts presented in these few verses become valuable. In my mind, Ephesians 6.1-4 gives a principle for scriptural peaceful family harmony that speaks volumes: there is to be a mutual respect (1. child for the parents; 2. fathers for the children) under the canopy of being submissive to the Lord.
Possibly the hardest thing for children to do is obey (follow) their parents. It seems it is natural for a child to stand at odds with the parents. It also seems that as we mature, we become aware of our parents’ failures and want to rebel all the more. For whatever reason, God has placed each of us within a specific family and not all families are the same. Some families seem to really struggle, while others seem to catch all the breaks. Unfortunately, our article is limited and forces us to avoid a discussion of family problems caused by sin. However, we must recognize the ideal: God truly wants children to follow their parents, and a child who obeys their parents is a godly child demonstrating proper attitude.
Ephesians 6.2-3 is probably just as difficult as obedience. While obedience is a form of honor, honor limited to obedience is, generally, an honor that evaporates upon moving out from under the parent’s roof. In fact, honoring father and mother it is probably the greatest challenge to any child. It is true, some fathers and some mothers deserve neither honor nor respect. The challenge then is: why should a child of such parents give something that the parents have not earned? The answer is simple, but application is not. Christ gave himself, thereby honoring an undeserving race to save them from themselves – that includes you and me. Let me offer this thought for all children, since I too am a child. We must recognize and accept the fact that our parents are human – they will fail us, because they, like us, are frail, weak and unstable – they get hurt and they succumb to the end (the grave) the same as you and me. Truly, life is too short to carry dislike, ill will, and hatred for our parents. May we succeed at the most difficult of challenges – honoring both father and mother.
Ephesians 6.4 is concise, but a challenge to all fathers. Being a godly father is very difficult. As fathers, we have demands on us from our boss to our colleagues, from ourselves to our families. But upon a private, honest self-examination, there are times where we fail on both items in this verse. A father can knowingly and unknowingly incorrectly provoke his children. And how many times do we fail to instruct them in God’s word?
Fathers, for a moment, consider yourselves. As a child, you wanted (and as an adult you may still want) your father’s approval. Inside we know that if he would only express his love and appreciation, we, as sons, would feel accomplishment and acceptance. If you happen to be a son who has not received proper encouragement, don’t deny this from your children. As a father, accept the fact that we have to sometimes carry unfortunate things, but let us not pass those burdens to our children. The greatest gift we can give our children is not a disdain for God, but a love for God. But when love has been either denied or negated toward us, love is something that is not easy to give others.
I almost hate to write this article because it is too brief to do anything other than give some initial thoughts. It is my hope that God will grant us the ability to give better obedience and greater respect to both father and mother; and as fathers may we be more involved in our children’s lives. Let us take the time left in this year to initiate something better for our family. Even if the relationship is strained – someone has to break the tension, someone has to begin the healing. May the Lord bless each of us with such a family so that upon our deathbed we will have no regrets.
- 1 Nelson’s Complete Book of Bible Maps and Charts, Ephesians, p. 406, ISBN 0-7852-1154-3.