“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother ” (Ephesians 6:1-2a).
The word ‘obey’ should remind us that this section, though part of chapter 6, is really an extension of a previous section starting in 5:21 which itself is a section staring in Ephesians 5:18. Christians are told there that they should be filled with the Spirit of God. We typically think that the Spirit-filled person has this tremendous ability to know and serve God. They have lots of spiritual experiences to share about and speak how God is working in and through their lives.
The apostle speaks about this filling of the Spirit in a far different way. The fourth means by which a person can be filled with the Spirit is through submitting to those that God has put in authority over us. He goes on and points out that wives, children and slaves all have this responsibility. We must conclude that one’s position has nothing to do with the filling of the Spirit and all the abuse associated with such positions. Even if you find yourself in such a position, you should be fully aware that the Spirit of God is desiring to fill you and reveal His glorious work right in those situations.
Being filled with the Spirit enables one to live in a way that pleases God despite the pressures and oppressiveness one might find in daily life.
Is it not true that a youngster often is convinced that a better and greater life is associated with their own opinions and choices? Does not the youth often feel that their parents stifle the ability for the young one to grow? I do not believe that these circumstances are always easy. They are often very difficult, but you can be sure if you are one of God’s children, these, we will call them oppressive, situations become the very crucible in which a strong faith and purity is formed. Being filled with the Spirit is not freedom to do what one wants but living a life of obedience. Jesus is the best picture of this for us. We think of all the great things Jesus did and taught but forgot that His obedience allowed the Spirit of God to greatly fill Him. Notice His humble subjection to His parents did not stop when He got to 12, the age of Jewish manhood but continued on.
“And He (Jesus) went down with them, and came to Nazareth; and He continued in subjection to them; and His mother treasured all these things in her heart” (Luke 2:51).
The word ‘subjection’ focuses on the placing one’s will under another in authority over him. The word is not essentially different than the word used here ‘to obey.’ The Greek word for ‘subjection’ has a sense of following the directions of the one in the post over himself. The Greek word for ‘obedience’, on the other hand, is a common word meaning to obey, literally meaning ‘to listen to.’ If one listens to a person, then he obeys them. He does not question what his superiors say but follows directions. Adam and Eve listened to the suggestion of one that was not in authority and cost them dearly.
Ephesians 6:1 commands the child to obey. The child might not want to obey, but God calls the child to obey his parents. Some ask, “What if the parent asks the child to do things that are improper like participate in immoral behavior?” Paul adds a qualifier to the child as he did to the wife. To the wife he says submit ‘as to the Lord’ while to the child he says ‘obey your parents in the Lord.’ We are not sure whether there is deliberate word difference. If there is a slight difference, the wives are called to imitate Christ’s subjectiveness (have the same attitude and way of submission as Christ) while the children are told to limit their obedience to those things that would please the Lord.
They are not to lie and do immoral things. But if a youth is upset because he can not go to a youth meeting because of his parent’s objection, then he or she should not go.
Children are directed to obey their parents whether they are believers or not. You cannot make an excuse for obedience based on their lack of understanding God’s ways. Neither should a child look for a way to get around the parents’ wishes. That would be devious. I encourage children to be upfront with their true desires and purposes. Many children fear their parents and the decisions that their parents make for then they cannot accomplish what they see as best. In many cases, however, the youth have never really told their parents what is happening in their lives. Some parents do not even know that their child has come to know the Lord.
I remember too how difficult it was telling my parents that I became a Christian. As children grow up, they can live a secret life from their parents. How can parents make wise decisions if their children keep their secrets and desires hidden from their parents. Sometimes, it is true, that parents are not willing to listen or they are just too busy. Ask God for wisdom Trust Him. Although Daniel’s parents were taken from him, he learned to trust God as he lived respectfully under his authorities.
At times, it will seem as if valuable time is quickly passing by whether it is in gaining a spouse or pursuing some course of life. Children obey your parents. If your parents disagree on advice, it would be wise to follow the father’s advice, if pressed, as he is the head of the household. On the other hand, we should honor our mother and discern what their real concern is for what they ask you to or not to do.
I have found a practical way of working through these difficult times is for the parent or the child to talk on a different level. In many cases, it is hard for the parent or the child to understand all the facts. It is easier for the parent to just say something without all the facts. On the other hand, a child will often not know or care what his or her parents say. They will despise what they say if it differs from what they want.
Both sides can quietly or aloud ask, “Why do you ask or say this?” “Why is this important to you?” Instead of dealing with only the superficial words, you value what God is doing in your children or as a child trying to honor your parent. You believe what your parents say is of importance (this takes faith). You believe that somehow God can and will speak through your parents. Your life is in their hands as their children. God made it this way.
A common question is, “How long does a child obey their parents?” It is clear that at marriage, the husband leaves his parents. This means he becomes his own authority before God. There is no elderly priesthood. Adam lived for 930 years. He did not make all the decisions for his descendants for 900 years. Instead, as we saw in Ephesians 5:31, the married couple are responsible for their own decisions.
Does this mean that the husband and wife are not responsible to honor their parents anymore? Not at all. Honor means respect. I have worked hard on trying to get myself to respect my parents. I have come to value their opinions. I understand that this is different than to obey or listen to them. Their opinions are important. Even after I get married, I value their judgment. I could give you a number of stories on how I was scared at honoring my Dad. That means I would have to put heavy emphasis on what he says. I found that my unbelieving Dad had great advice when I was launching out in faith on starting a new ministry even though he is not a believer. I honestly didn’t think he would have anything to say but he did!
What about those who have not married? The modern world despises parents and any authority that interferes with a person’s individual choice. If we are wise, however, we will see that God brings great blessing to those children who obey their parents.
The parent might say, “Do not go on a mission trip.” You accept it. But you will ask, “Would you mind talking with me about why you are against me going?” If your motive is to get around your parent, this would be wrong. But if you are trying to improve your character and understanding, the question is of great value. If you want to get around your parent’s decision, it is not honoring. They will pick that up. On the other hand, if you really want to know more how they make decisions because your honor them, then this respect will come through and strengthen your relationship with them.
Importance of Obedience
God, after all, has clearly designated our parents over us. Any rebellion against them is an attack against God. We are countering all divine wisdom and common sense to esteem our opinions above our parents. It would be more helpful for us to recognize that when in disagreement with our parents, and that whether we are trying to do something in direct contradiction to our parents’ decision or that we simply are living out a bad attitude, we are not listening to our parents. We are in disobedience to the Almighty God who created us. We have pride in our opinion, judgment and esteem what we want over what God wants. We might even be thinking that our decision is more Christian. It does not make a bit of difference.
There are, no doubt, many different situations that one can bring up. My point is to have you ask yourself whether you really desire obedience more than your own will. Are you really God’s child? Then repentance includes a humbling of your own will to do what pleases God.
At times, a child’s relationship with his or her parents is quite strained. In many of these cases, though not all–Paul will shortly address the fathers, that relationship has been strained by a whole list of violations where the child simply has not obeyed his or her parents. The child is and feels guilty. The parent suggests one thing and through the child’s reaction, it seems as if the parent has asked them to clean the world’s backyard.
We have such a difficult time with this because we have in many cases violated this command so many times over. Our noncompliance, bad attitudes, untimely responses, flat disobedience, lack of following orders or just plain disrespect have piled up over the years. We might complain that it is the fault of our parents, but whether you are forty or twelve or six years old, you are responsible for your obedience. When you disobey, then you sin. And this sin like grime grows and soon the relationship is so strained that it no longer is enjoyable. I have a Library player but after using it for a few years, the Library player could no longer read the Library because grime or dust got over the lens. I learned how to take the stereo apart, clean that lens and then reassemble. Then it works fine, at least for a while.
The same thing needs to be done with our relationship with our parents. We need to go through a cleansing time. Find what areas you have failed in. Start with the worse and ask God for forgiveness and apologize to your parents. I hated doing this because at times it uncovered many secret sins, but it cleaned out my heart and made my life so much better. This is the freedom that God has for us. His command is good, but where we have failed, we have Christ’s death to forgive us.
Let’s continue on by discussing the many blessings that accompanies obedience. Obedience is right but it also is good for you!