THE LIMITS TO FREEDOM
Lord, Your rules are meant to be carried out.
Read EPHESIANS 6:1–9
6 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— 3 “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”[a]
4 Fathers,[b] do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
5 Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. 6 Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. 7 Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, 8 because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free.
9 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.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘Help us so to know You that we may truly love You, and so to love You that we may fully serve You, whose service is perfect freedom’ (Augustine of Hippo, 354–430).
In order to raise, teach, and socialize children, families need an authority structure. Paul chooses a different word for ‘obey’ here, better translated ‘listen’ or ‘pay attention’ (Greek hypakouo, meaning listen to, pay attention). In many languages, hearing and obeying are related – as in the older English ‘hearken’ and ‘heed’. Today, with so many other demands on children’s attention, it is difficult for them to know which messages they should pay attention to. Loving Christian parenting involves creating an environment in which children will listen to their parents. But bringing children up in the ‘training and instruction’ of the Lord (4) is not about rules and restrictions. It is about helping children to know Jesus, modeling Jesus to them, and guiding them in discerning His way through life.
Christians like William Wilberforce fought for the abolition of slavery, confronting the inhumane exploitation of human beings for profit, countless deaths on slave ships, and brutal treatment on the plantations. The Bible nowhere condones this depraved practice, and today’s passage expressly condemns it. A different kind of slavery, however, was a social reality in the ancient world. Many slaves became de facto family members with serious responsibilities. Slavery was a reality that early Christians had to face when both slaves and owners were becoming Christian. Paul dealt with this issue several times (eg., Col 3:22; Phlm). Authorities thought Christianity a radical threat to social order. The last thing the church wanted was Christian slaves revolting, bringing death to themselves and probably to their fellow Christians. The revolutionary idea here is not overthrowing slavery but the radical possibility of choosing to live a godly life within an unjust system.
Knowing what you know today, how would you have treated those under you during biblical times?
Father in heaven, help us to exercise responsibility thoughtfully. In our relationships with children, employees and whoever You entrust to us, help us to act with both wisdom and compassion.