Ephesians 6:1-4. 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.” 4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Union with Christ changes everything. It is God’s process for accomplishing his will – the bringing of everything under the authority of Christ (1:9-10). Paul has taken us from the heavenlies to the house. From his cosmic plan for Christ to rule over the universe, down to the very earthly plan of Christ ruling in and through his church and in and through our homes.
All of our blessings in the heavenly places in Christ (1:3) have found a landing place. And it’s in our everyday relationships. This is the will of God (1:9-10). This is walking in love (5:2) and light (5:8). This is living not as fools but as wise (5:15). This is the filling of the Spirit (5:18). This is submission to one another out of reverence for Christ (5:21). It is the exaltation of Christ in and through our lives as both children and parents.
Just as with Paul’s teaching on marriage, the natural order of the family is not destroyed here, but it is placed under Christ. The beauty of the gospel seed is that it brings a new creation OUT OF the old. The old is made new. Family is not annulled it is restored to its proper Christ exalting place. Marriage and family are part of God’s good creation, but they are not ultimate. We will not live forever as married or in our natural family units. But rather than destroying marriage and family the resurrection of Christ and the indwelling of Christ has transformed them into the penultimate signs that they are. Pointers to Christ and God, and his family and his household (2:15-22).
Our union with Christ does not destroy marriage or family. It transforms them. It gives them new meaning. And a new power.
Look at Ephesians 6:1-3. Children are told to obey their parents in the Lord. Why? Because it is right, and because of the promise of the Law (go well with you , and live long). The natural order and the order of the Old Testament scriptures are not destroyed or even dismissed. But look at what Paul says just BEFORE these – obey in the Lord. Why should you obey your parents? How do you obey your parents? In the Lord.
Christ IN YOU and YOU IN CHRIST.
Our reason to obey our parents as children and to continue honoring our parents into adulthood is not simply because it is naturally right or the fulfilling of the law’s promise. Union with Christ the Lord has swallowed those reasons up. We obey and honor because of our union with Christ. Because the Christ in us would obey. And the Christ in your parents deserves to be honored. Because all things in heaven and earth will be brought into Christ, including your relationship with your mom and dad. Because the Christ in us is the crucified Christ who would sacrifice for those he loves. Obedience to parents is the cruciform life. The life of love.
We can see this same power of union with Christ in the command to fathers in verse 4. Is it naturally right for fathers to bring up (nurture) their children? Is it the Old Testament law’s desire for them to discipline and instruct them? Of course it is.
But union with Christ gives us an even greater power and motivation – of the Lord. We aren’t aiming for nice, socially acceptable, passive kids. Our goal is to be Christ to them and stir up the fullness of Christ in them as they come to know him. It is the Lord’s nurture, the Lord’s discipline, the Lord’s instruction that we are graciously sharing with each child.
Why do we raise our children sacrificially and dare I say submissively to them? Why do we give our lives for them in the nurturing, in the disciplining, in the instruction? Because this is the way of Christ and the cross. This too is the cruciform life.
And so here, just as we saw in the mystery of marriage, we see the cycle of love completed again. Parents giving love to their children as they bring them up. Children obediently receiving that love and then in honor giving that love back. Parents receiving that honor and returning it once again, submitting by respecting their children so as to not provoke them to anger.
“To live is Christ” has great implications for our families. If Christ is going to rule the whole universe can we start by letting him rule in our homes? As a child will you be Christ to your parents? Obeying and honoring them? As a parent will you be Christ to your children? Nurturing them through the balance of discipline and instruction? Together in our families we can complete the walk of love that Christ has given to us his image bearers. May our families reflect his glory through his cross each day.