Ephesiansby Robert M. Solomon
Paul now moves on to another familial relationship—that between parents and children. This is the second of three sets of relationships examined in the light of the call for submission (Ephesians 5:21) that results from being filled with the Spirit. We have already seen that submission is to be performed according to the order established by God, and should arise from reverence (or fear) of Christ.
In describing each set of relationships, Paul begins with those who are to submit to the other (wives, children, and slaves) before moving to the other party, who must approach the relationship with responsive and responsible love.
In the case of parent-child relationships, children are to obey their parents (6:1). This obedience is further described as being “in the Lord” and “right” (v. 1). This is the order established by the Lord and is correct regardless of culture and era.
Jesus himself demonstrated it when He was 12 years old. Luke 2:41–51 recounts how His parents had left Him in Jerusalem without realising it when they headed home. When they returned to the city to search for Him and found Him at the temple, Mary was cross with Him. Jesus explained that He had to be in His Father’s house, but His parents did not understand what He meant. Nevertheless, Jesus went home with them “and was obedient to them” (Luke 2:51). Jesus obeyed His parents because it was the right thing to do; it reflected God’s order.
The fifth commandment to honour one’s father and mother (Exodus 20:12) is the only commandment that comes with a promise—long life in the Promised Land. God blesses those who obey Him. It is not that we are saved by obeying, but that we are saved to obey (1 Peter 1:2, 22). The Old Testament prescribes capital punishment for the child who curses or hurts his parents (Exodus 21:15; Leviticus 20:9) or disobeys them (Deuteronomy 21:18–21). This shows how seriously God views the matter.
Today, it is increasingly common to see children disobeying their parents and openly showing disrespect. Elder abuse is on the rise. The breakdown in parental authority mirrors the breakdown in many other forms of God-ordained authority. Our challenge is to encourage all children to follow Christ’s example by obeying and respecting their parents and God’s order.
How can parents and the church teach obedience? What common obstacles to this can arise from popular culture and prevailing values?
Why do you think the fifth commandment has a promise attached to it? How would obeying it benefit people? Does a person ever stop “obeying” his parents?