The word authority raises all sorts of emotions. From the freedom-hungry teen to the disgruntled worker, it is natural to resist those in charge. It is easy to build a case for rebellion. Perhaps we have been unfairly treated or misunderstood; either way we often push against those in a position of authority. Yet in today’s text, Paul calls us to submit to authority.
Last week, we discovered that Christian marriage is a relationship of submission. The wife is called to submit to the husband; the husband is called to love (give his very life) for his wife. This week, we focus on the parent/child, slave/master relationships. Right away, this text raises the question of slavery. Why did Paul not speak out against this atrocity? Does he seem to condone slavery? Without going into too much detail, it is worth noting that Paul’s understanding of slavery is a radical departure from his culture’s understanding. Some have even credited Christians with the abolition of slavery. Yet in this text, Paul is simply addressing the reality of first century culture. Slaves comprised about one third of the population in the Roman empire. They were considered a part of the family unit. Therefore, it is appropriate to address them along with parent/child relationships in Ephesians 6:1-9.
Paul begins by addressing children. He calls them to obedience in relationship to their parents. Following Old Testament guidelines, Paul highlights the appropriateness of children obeying parents. At the same time, he calls parents to instruct their children rather than provoke them.
(Ephesians 6:4 NIV) Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
There is responsibility on both sides. Children must obey; parents must train. In the same way, Paul calls slaves to live lives of submission to their masters. And masters are also admonished toward submission.
(Ephesians 6:9 NIV) And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.
Those placed an authority have responsibility under God. It is clear, in this text, those under authority and those in authority must live lives of submission. Both must place themselves under the authority of God.
As we reflect on this text, we admit our reluctance to submit to authority. It has become stylish in our culture to reject authority. Yet God calls us to place ourselves in the posture of obedience and submission. We must respect those that God has placed over us. Whether they are parents, coaches, teachers, professors or bosses, we must see their authority as God-given. And as we acknowledge and respect their authority, we are living in obedience to God. Join us on Sunday as we explore Ephesians 6:1-9. May we be challenged to appropriately respond to the authorities in our lives.