by Pastor David Groendyk
As Paul has been teaching on how the Christian ought to live, he is clearly very concerned with the way people interact with one another. In chapters 5 and 6, he tells us how to have godly relationships with certain people—husbands and wives, parents and children, servants and masters. For most of us, our relationships with our spouse, parents, children, bosses, employees, and co-workers probably cover about 95% of the interactions we have with people during an average day! So if we’re willing to listen to and follow Paul’s instruction on these very few relationships, our everyday lives would look a whole lot more like Christ.
None of these instructions in chapter 6 are terribly groundbreaking, but they touch on the most challenging aspects of these relationships. Children must honor their parents, and the primary way to honor them is to obey them. Parents (and primarily fathers as the heads of house) must not be harsh with their children or provoke them to anger. These are simple instructions that are hard to follow, aren’t they? It would be easy to rail on both children and parents for failing in these ways. I know I fail in my role as father even with a 10-month old. But rather let me point you to the positive benefits of obeying these commands. For both child and parent, the reasoning behind obedience is salvation. Children, honoring and obeying your parents includes listening to them when they tell you to put your trust in Christ for salvation. “That you may live long in the land” does not mean you’ll live to be 100 years old, but it’s a reference to Israel living in the promised land of Canaan. If the Israelite children listened to their Israelite parents, they would grow up trusting God and obeying him, and they wouldn’t get kicked out of Canaan for their disobedience. For Christians now, the Promised Land we look forward to is heaven. Listening to your parents when they tell you that you need Christ for forgiveness will result in an eternity spent in heaven. Likewise, parents, do not make the gospel of Christ a burden for your children! That doesn’t mean don’t have any rules or don’t chastise when necessary. But the gospel of Christ is an easy yoke and a light burden (Matt. 11:30). It is life-giving and fills you with the Spirit who helps you obey. Show your children not just that they have to obey but the joy of living a life in close communion with God while seeking to please him above all.
The servant/master relationship is much closer to an employee/boss relationship today rather than what most 21st-century Americans usually think of when we hear “slave” or “servant”. Employees ought to do their work as if they were working for the Lord himself. Not merely doing just enough to scrape by, not merely looking like you’re staying busy, but whole-heartedly and joyfully getting the job done that needs to get done. Just as God does not accept outward sacrifices when the heart behind it is far from God, so he expects a whole-hearted service in our work. Bosses, likewise, are not to be harsh task-masters or show special favor toward anyone. They are to remember that they themselves are under authority and that God himself is watching over their management style. They are to be fair and gracious in all things as God himself rules his creation justly and graciously. In both of these roles, we are called to a selflessness that sacrifices our own fleshly desires for the sake of obeying God.
Finally, Paul pulls back the curtain, as it were, and reminds us that he is not merely concerned with our physical actions. There is a spiritual significance behind everything we do. Notice what the weapons in the armor of God are: truth, righteousness, readiness, peace, faith, salvation, the Word of God, prayer. These are not material weapons but spiritual ones. Our ultimate struggle in this life is with sin and spiritual forces. Sometimes it’s the sin that comes from within us. Sometimes it’s the sin that’s taken over our worldly society. Sometimes it’s the sin that the devil tempts us with. Either way, we are fighting a spiritual enemy. Why is it crucial to remember that? Because the only way to defeat a spiritual enemy is with spiritual weapons. When we argue with our spouse or blow a fuse with our children or skimp on our responsibilities at work, our problems are not that we didn’t get enough sleep last night or that we’ve been under a lot of stress lately. Our problem is our sin. So study up on God’s truth, remember the righteousness Christ has given you, always be watchful for the enemy, increase in faith, know the Word, and pray continually. These are how you combat the spiritual forces of darkness. By wielding these weapons, you will persevere in the war.