Verses 1- read,
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.”
There are two intertwined commandments here. First children are told to obey their parents. It is not easy for every child, probably the majority of children to obey their parents. When I look back at my childhood, I can tell you that I wish I had obeyed them better. They knew what they were talking about when they did not permit me to do something I wanted to do or told me I had to do something I didn’t want to do. Were they perfect? No. They were human, flawed like we all are, but they loved me and wanted the best for me. They wanted me to avoid some of the hard life lessons they learned and so had rules for me to live by. But when I disobeyed, I had to learn the lessons the hard way, by suffering consequences. The word obey not only means to submit to authority, it also means to listen attentively. Heeding the words of one’s parents is another way that we honor them.
Honor your mother and father is the second of these interconnected commandments. It is not addressed to children only, but to all of us with parents whether we are grown or not, whether our parents are alive or not. We are to honor our mothers and fathers. To honor is to prize, value, and revere. Parents usually treasure their children highly, but too often we as children overlook the worth of our parents until we do not get to see them everyday or perhaps until it is too late and they are no longer here with us. We hold on to the mistakes they made and overlook the sacrifices they made for us, the instruction they gave us, and the care and love they gave.
The relationship with our parents like marriage is an allegorical picture of the relationship we have with our Heavenly Father. We learn to obey our earthly authority so that we can understand obedience to our God. Children are learning and they will 100% chance get it wrong, make mistakes, and have times of disobedience. Until we came to Christ, we were called sons of disobedience (Ephesians 2:2, Ephesians 5:6). Though Jesus was never a son of disobedience, God’s only begotten Son learned obedience when He, Almighty God With Us faced His upcoming crucifixion and begged His Father for another way. His suffering and His desire to honor the Father, brought about His obedience and the ability for us, once we become followers of Jesus, to become obedient as well. Hebrews 5:7-10 tells us,
In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. 8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. 9 And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, 10 being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.
If even Jesus had to learn obedience, the lessons learned from expecting children to obey really becomes a lesson for the mother and father. Parents learn that every rule they have is because of the love and hope they have for their child to enjoy life, accomplish good things, and realize their potential. If imperfect earthly parents know that obedience will lead to these good things for their children, how much can they understand what it is God wants for them?
In our earthly realm, especially it seems today, we have a difficult time honoring parents because it is popular to blame parents for all of a child’s flaws. The parent wasn’t strict enough or was too authoritarian. Whatever a child’s difficulties, they blame the parents and honor flies out the window. “I am this way because my parents were that way” is heard repeatedly by young adults and even older adults. At what point do we take responsibility for our actions and behave the proper way, regardless of the mistakes other people have made?
In Christendom, we are expected to forgive, to exercise self-control over our behavior, and to demonstrate Godly love. We not only honor our mother and father, we are to honor one another in an extraordinary manner. Romans 12:9-10 says,
Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.
Honoring our mother and father should go above and beyond the honor we clamor to demonstrate to one another. It takes forgiveness and humility to honor others. Imagine what it teaches and how it will make us grow in Christ to love each other so much and so genuinely that we outshine one another, compete with one another to see who can show the other the most honor! Imagine what that kind of honor to one another, including those who have hurt us and who have been in a position where hurting us, even mistakenly, was so easy, could do for building us up.
The Father loves us purely and wholly even though we have consistently disobeyed Him, even though we failed to honor Him. We learn something about godly love when we strive to love as He loves. Our earthly relationships are a reflection of our relationship with God not only to teach us but to show the world how good He is. In my counseling classes, I learned an amazing fact; when we are in a position of authority, be it the position of parent, expert, counselor, or mentor, the way we express our position in the relationship becomes a representation for the other’s view of God. The scientific term is transference. This is not overt or obvious, it is subconscious. The way we treat people can work to reconcile them to the Father. Consider your own relationship with your earthly father. Was he distant, hovering, strict, thoughtless, angry, serious, lighthearted, or absent? Now compare that to who you think God is? How do you relate to God? Do you think He is distant, doesn’t care for your personally, angry, strict, funny, absent, or hovering? Chances are you relate to God in a similar way as your earthly father. That is why God asks us to treat people in a certain way and to love them as He does, as Jesus showed us, as the Spirit teaches us. Verse 4 of Ephesians 6 reads,
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Our Heavenly and Everlasting Father does not provoke us to anger even when we provoke His. Instead He is patient, He is kind and gentle, He forgives, He disciplines us, and He does not punish us. Why because He loves us and wants the best for us. He edifies through instruction and discipline. Harshness, punishment, and authoritarian rule discourage. What is the difference between punishment and discipline? Punishment seeks to break a spirit in an attempt to gain obedience; discipline seeks to teach and foster a spirit therefore creating a person who does what is right out of their free will. Punishment is fear-based, discipline is love-based.
Parental authority is not the only authority we deal with. Most of us also deal with jobs or other kinds of work where we are subordinate to someone or supervisor to someone and often both. Paul had instructions about these relationships as well. He is clear to point out that these relationships will affect our view of God but especially will influence others’ views of Him. Verses 5-9 read,
Bondservants, obey your earthly masters 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 or is free.9 Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.
We do not obey with an attitude that says, “I am obeying because I have to obey, but I don’t want to” we obey with fear and trembling, deep respect which says, “I recognize your authority and respect you.” This is vastly different form the way the world acts. This behavior is so remarkable it will point people to the Lord. How can you be so loving, kind, and submissive to even the harshest, angriest boss? It is the Spirit of God in you. The phrase fear and trembling is also used in Philippians 2:9-15.
Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. 14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world
As your obedience to your boss matures you all the more in Christ, it also shines a light on Him for others to see. The world may obey, but they often do so with complaining, protestations, and arguments. We can love as Jesus loves by answering even the unkindest demands with a yes, right away, or of course. I have seen it happen. I had a manager who screamed and yelled, called all the employees horrible names, and took every chance she had to belittle others in order to make herself feel better about herself. She wielded her power like Atilla the Hun wielded his sword. I very consciously chose to smile and immediately obey her even when I thought my way would work better. It gave me the opportunity to tell her many times how good Jesus is. It made me know I could love anyone. I grew in Christ through that job, my self-control was strengthened. I learned that I could choose not to be offended by anyone because I am sealed with the Holy Spirit. It gave her the opportunity to see that Christians were not who she thought we were. She often asked me how I could be so peaceful, easy-going, and diligent. She was never able to say I didn’t work hard or didn’t care about the job. Did she stop yelling and calling names? Maybe slightly, but I know the seed of God’s word was planted.
How we treat people matters. It affects us and it affects others. Authentic love is demonstrated in the fruit of the Spirit which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). It is described in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 and how it is lived out in our relationships is described in several places throughout the Bible including Colossians 3:12-25. In The Message that passage reads,
12-14 So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.
15-17 Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.
18 Wives, understand and support your husbands by submitting to them in ways that honor the Master.
19 Husbands, go all out in love for your wives. Don’t take advantage of them.
20 Children, do what your parents tell you. This delights the Master no end.
21 Parents, don’t come down too hard on your children or you’ll crush their spirits.
22-25 Servants, do what you’re told by your earthly masters. And don’t just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, confident that you’ll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you’re serving is Christ. The sullen servant who does shoddy work will be held responsible. Being a follower of Jesus doesn’t cover up bad work.
Believer, you are not of the world and that should show in your relationships. Though choosing to respond with genuine godly love may not be natural it will have immense results in your heart and those of the ones with whom you interact. It is okay to humble yourself and obey those in authority, honor others, to one another, and love one another.