Our passage today is Ephesians Chapter 6 verses 1 to 9 and looks at 2 more relationships in the extended household of that time, children and parents, slaves and masters. And I think that Paul’s teaching here is radical in 2 broad and similar ways in both instances.
Firstly with children and parents, “children, obey your parents”, or more simply “kids, do what you are told” is as old as the hills and in every culture. However, Paul gives a reason for Christian children to do this, a “why” if you like. He urges them to obey their parents ‘in the Lord’, that is because of the Lord, and in a way that would please the Lord. He also links it back to the 5th of the 10 Commandments from the OT, the first with a promise. Paul also gives instruction to the more powerful ones of the relationship, here to the fathers. They have a great responsibility, both not to exasperate their children and also to teach them in the ways of the Lord, NOT just to make the kids do what would please them. When my children were younger, I often found the command not to exasperate my children a very telling word into my heart as I reflected on my sometimes imperfect parenting.
Secondly with slaves and masters, again “obey orders, do what you are told” is a very universal idea. However, again Paul gives a reason for this obedience, that they should obey and serve wholeheartedly, as if they were serving the Lord, not men. If anybody is a Christian, they are a slave of Christ, in the sense that they should want to do the will of God from their heart. And in a radical (and perhaps a unique) way, Paul again gives instruction to the more powerful ones of this relationship, the masters. Treat your slaves in the same way, that is as if you were serving the Lord, knowing that the Lord will reward you for the good that you do.
Paul is sometimes criticised today for not calling for the abolition of slavery, but it would appear that the slaves then were much more part of the household, than anything in that happened in the 18th and 19th centuries or the trafficking of modern slavery today. And as we can see in his teaching Paul gave huge responsibilities to those who were in the more powerful position. Perhaps a more helpful way for us to apply this teaching today is to translate slaves and masters into employees and employers. And in whatever era, a Christian approach like this would transform every working environment, whether you are on the shop-floor or in the office, whether you are a worker or you are the boss.
Day off tomorrow, so you have a couple of days to chew this over, and as always, any questions or points of debate, don’t hesitate to ask/speak.
In our cycle of prayer, we are back to the beginning again, so let us remember today in our prayers,- Colin & Penny- Martin & Lucie
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