Last week, we talked about how the grace of God changes our marriages. This week, we examine more of how God’s grace changes other relationships in our lives.
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother (this is the first commandment with a promise), that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land. Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”–6:1-4
Peace in the home creates more opportunity for holiness and godliness, whereas strife and fighting tends to lead to more and more sin. When we understand that God has treated us with grace in Christ, and that we now have peace with God, we will seek to be people of peace.
Children in Christ ought to obey their parents because God has become their heavenly Father, and in showing honor to earthly parents, they show honor to God. All people are then called to “honor” their father and mother.
But what if my parents aren’t Christian? Paul doesn’t seem to clarify and give exception. He simply says to obey your parents, and to honor your father and mother. Now, Jesus makes it clear you cannot serve two masters (Matthew 6:24). So obedience to God must come first. But unless that obedience is threatened, one of the best ways a Christian youth can glorify Christ and point their parents to Christ is to obey them, regardless of whether or not they know Jesus.
But there’s a second part to this: Fathers ought to bring their children up “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord,” and not provoke them to anger.
Some of the most controversial videos posted on social media over the past few years have been those of parents shaving their kids hair, or something similar, as “punishment.” Some people think this is acceptable, because it teaches their kids “accountability.”
Instead, I believe this “provokes” your kids to be angry. That’s not the discipline and instruction of the Lord, that is shaming your children on social media, which is not the same.
Just as our heavenly Father disciplines us, so we are to discipline our children. It is never out of anger, but out of love. It is out of a desire to see our children grow to trust and love God.
And in the same way our Father assures us of His love, so we are to assure our children of our love by providing them, telling them, and prioritizing their needs over ours.
I experienced the discipline of the Lord from my mother and grandparents, who taught me the love of God, as well as what the Christian life should look like. Because of that, when I became a Christian, I was better prepared to live the Christian life.
The goal of the Christian home is for children to reflect the grace of God by honoring parents as we honor God as Father and for parents to raise children who know the grace of God expressed in love and discipline.
“Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free. 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.”–6:5-9
Slavery existed in some form in biblical times. Bondservants were able to buy their freedom and typically had a better life than slaves in 19th-century America. However, they weren’t always treated well, hence the need for Paul’s admonition to Christian slave-owners. There is no condoning of slavery, but there is truth to be found in this passage as to how we treat those in authority over us.
Our “earthly masters” today may be bosses or school teachers, or even the government. The same principle from the first part of this passage applies: No authority can supersede that of the Lord’s authority, but up until that happens, we are to honor God by honoring others.
And this is not meant to be done with rolling eyes and an insincere heart—we are to truly serve others. The Christian life is meant to be genuine, not faked.
In the same way, masters, those with authority, ought to treat their employees as they would the Lord, with respect and humility. Christian bosses should treat their “lowest” employees like the CEO, because though we had earned nothing before God, He called us to be His children at the cost of His Son. We can only reflect that grace.
When grace permeates our relationships, pride, anger, and strife ceases, and gives way to grace, humility, and selflessness. May God give us more of His grace.
Lord, may we always treat others with the grace you show us. May we seek to treat our parents, children, bosses and employees with that grace. May we live all of our lives for your glory.