SanLo Community, an update for the week of March 11, 2018…
Thank you Greg Ng, for the message from Ephesians 6:1-9, “Can You Relate” – part 2 of a miniseries on Christ centered relationships. The question that I want to answer in this two week series is this – when it comes to our relationships with one another, what does grace require of me?
To understand this question, we need to look back at the context for this question. The prevailing thought in the first century was that Christianity was seen as a Jewish only belief system. Gentiles could become Christ followers if they “became Jewish”. But even then, the Gentile believers were seen as second-class citizens. There was a division between the Jews and the Gentiles within the church.
Ephesians 3:6, Paul explains that the Grace of God through Jesus Christ was given to the Gentiles in the same manner as the Jewish people. Last week we looked at perhaps the most infamous passage in the Bible because wives were instructed to submit in everything to their husbands. However, in the first century, Ephesians was infamous and perhaps scandalous because the Apostle Paul tells everyone to submit to one another.
Jesus summarizes all the commands from the Old Testament to two commands: to love the Lord your God and love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus teaches that we are to love one another irrespective of race, gender, age, or position. Paul extends Jesus’ command by instructing us to mutually submit to one another, husbands and wives to each other, parents and children to each other, masters and slaves to each other. Since the master/slave relationship doesn’t exist within the church today, we will change that relationship to the manager/worker relationship.
First, I will cover the children and workers together. I will call that section, “Oh no I’m not in charge, what do I do?” Second, I will cover the parents and managers together. I will call that section, “Oh no I’m in charge, what do I do?”
Let’s start by looking at the instructions to the children and employees in Ephesians 6:1-3, 5-8. The first thing we see is both children and workers or bondservants are to obey their parents and managers. The logical question that comes out of this is, “Should I obey my parents or managers if they are asking me to do something wrong or illegal?” “Should I obey my parents or managers if they are asking me to sin, to lie, to cheat?” The context is Christian relationships, so ideally as Christian parents and masters, they would not be asking the children and slaves to sin or to lie or to do evil. We don’t always have Christian parents or Christian managers. Even if we do have Christian parents and managers, they may not always be good and right. The passage tells us that our obedience to Christ needs to supersede our obedience to our parents and managers. It says, “in the Lord”, “as you would Christ”, “as bondservants of Christ”, “doing the will of God”, and again “as to the Lord”. Remember that we are saved by grace and not by works. This is what grace is all about, if we did not earn our salvation because of our good works and deeds, we will not lose our salvation by our evil works and deeds. The question isn’t whether I should obey my parents and manager if they ask me to sin, lie or cheat. In grace, the question is “where is my heart?” Is it sincere? Is it directed to God? We are to focus on the promises of God – the promise to children is “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” The promise to the workers is “that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord.” We see here that the promises are not present focused, rather they are future focused. That you will live long in the land and that you will receive back from the Lord.
What does Grace require of me? Grace Requires Envisioning to Future Blessings. Grace requires us to envision, to look past our current situation, the current tensions and difficulties and to look forward toward future blessings.
2 Corinthians 12:7-10 illustrates the concept of desirable difficulties. Paul boasts of the thorn in his flesh, his weaknesses, hardships and challenges so that God’s grace and power can be made perfect in and through him. The reality is that there is tension in our family and work situations when it comes to obedience, honoring, work and service. We can embrace the tension as a desirable difficulty because we have our eyes fixed on the future and not the present. God may put desirable difficulties in your life so that God can bring you future blessings.
Next let’s look at the parent manager instructions in Ephesians 6:4 and 9. The first thing we see is are the instructions of what not to do. Parents, specifically fathers are not to provoke their children. Managers are told to stop threatening their employees. Parents and managers are using provoking and threatening to bend the will of their children and employees. This isn’t what mutual submission is about. Instead, parents are to leverage their authority to bring up their children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Managers are to leverage their position to render service to their employees with a good will as to the Lord.
The key phrase here is “bring them up”, and in the Greek, it means to nourish, to feed, to fatten. The idea is to nurture towards maturity – it is a picture of feeding and watering a plant until it bears fruit. What does Grace require of me? Grace Requires Nurturing to Future Fruit and Blessings. Grace requires us bring up, to nurture, to nourish our children and employees towards maturity, independence, and productivity.
We can illustrate this with a plant with leaves and roots. The leaves represent all the things in your life that make you successful, feel satisfied or valuable. They are your talents, abilities, spiritual gifts, the things that you do help you be the person God wants you to be. The roots are the things you need in order to be able to grow and become this person. It’s what we need to be able to produce these leaves.
The Bible warns us parents and managers to not focus on the leaves, but to focus on nurturing and nourishing the roots. If we want the plant to grow, if we want the plant to bear fruit, we need to feed the roots. One way to practically feed each other’s root is to use the “The 5 Love Languages.” The 5 Love Languages are: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch. Think about the significant people in your life and try to figure out what their love language is and speak their love language to them and see leaves and fruit develop in their lives.
I made a lot of mistakes in this. I put too much focus on the leaves and not enough focus on the roots. We focused too much on raising great kids when we should have focused on raising kids that will become great adults. God’s grace is amazing and the Lord is redeeming our family through brokenness, humility and love. This is what grace requires of us, it requires that we nurture towards future fruit. It isn’t about raising great kids, but rather raising kids who will become great adults, great employees, and great managers. It is about raising kids who will become great husbands and wives; it is about raising kids who will become great parents. It isn’t about raising great kids, but it is about raising kids who will become who God wants them to be and not who we want them to be.