In this sermon Tim continues our series on Ephesians, looking at the beginning of chapter 6 where Paul encourages families to honour and respect each in other with God’s help. Tim’s encouragement is for all of us to be a Godly family member and to lead our own families in the Lord!
Talking about families today! I love family… that is probably why I have ended up living in the same house as my parents!
- And families of course are so diverse and colourful… and it ain’t always straight forward!
- My son Luca who is 6, surprised me the other day.
- Out of nowhere he asked me if he was adopted.
- I paused for a second and finally said to him… “Yes Luca. At two you were adopted.”
- “But it didn’t work out and they sent you back to us.”
Well we are continuing today in this section of the household codes in Pauls letter to the Ephesians.
- And we are saying that in light of the amazing Gospel story of us receiving forgiveness and adoption into the children of God
- That we are encouraged to now live a life worthy of the calling we have received.
- So in light of the gospel, it reshapes all of our lives. Our virtues, relationships, priorities.
- And last week we looked at this beautiful picture of marriage where husband and wife are submitted to one another, loving each other like Jesus loved the church!
- So today we get to chapter 6 and the relationship between parents and children.
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honour your father and mother” which is the first commandment with a promise “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
It is interesting to me, that God’s redemptive plans have always involved families.
- And like a lot of our families, they have been complex, dysfunctional and even at time at war with each other…
- And yet God in his faithfulness remains true to his promise to bless the world through his family!
- It starts of course in Genesis 12 when God promises to Abraham that he will take his family and make them into a great nation, blessed by God
- And that through this family (verse 3) “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
- God uses a family to carry his blessing to the world.
It’s a pretty torrid tale then through the Old Testament of families that betray each other, cheat each other and so on….
- And yet through it all, God is faithful and the promise continues… because he loves his children, and he longs for the world, including families to be put right again!
- So the blessing continues in families by it being passed along through teaching our kids.
- Listen to Genesis 18:18-19. God says;
- “Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations will be blessed through him. For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.”
Are you still with me? Do you see God’s plan.
- He forms a blessed family to bless the world… but to do that, his children and household are to be directed to keep the ways of the Lord by doing what is right and just!
- God intends for families to carry his blessing by keeping the way of the Lord.
- Right? Parents are to model and teach what pleases God, and children are to listen to, honour and grow in the ways of God.
And when it works… it’s a beautiful thing! Generational blessings of faithfulness, honour, life and justice.
- And we see that today. Families that serve the Lord together and shine the light of their faith through faithfulness, compassion and love.
- And when it doesn’t happen… holy moly… the wheels fall off… and human nature, it’s selfish, controlling, coercive nature rears its ugly head.
- And it is so sad when families fall apart. For everyone!
So practically, the Genesis 18 thing of directing your children in the way of the Lord… how does that happen.
- Well practically, God gives his people a book of distilled wisdom called Proverbs that’s goal is to teach the next generations of Abraham’s family how to live.
- Or in general terms; how not to shipwreck your life and instead be blessed!
- The book explains the general pattern of life. It’s not a guarantee that you do these things and nothing will go wrong.
- But it gives God’s wisdom for a well put together life.
- Right? It’s all there… its not a mystery… its all there… you don’t have to climb a mountain and meditate on the meaning of life in Nepal….
- Parents were to take the wisdom of Proverbs they had learnt from their parents and raise their children in the knowledge and fear of the Lord.
Listen to Proverbs 1 and see if you can hear the echo of the command to Abraham…
“The Proverbs… for gaining wisdom and instruction, for understanding words of insight, for receiving instruction in prudent behaviour, doing what is right and just and fair… knowledge and discretion to the young.’
- Verse 8 “listen to your Father’s instruction, and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.”
- Then it gets pretty practical… I don’t have time to read you all 31 chapters today… but its good stuff.
- 1:10 “my son if sinful men entice you, do not give in to them.” Right? Keep good company.
- 2:12 “wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men, whose words are perverse.”
- 2:16 “wisdom will save you from the adulterous woman.”
- 3:3 “let love and faithfulness never leave you, bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your hearts. Then you will win favour and a good name, in the sight of God and man.”
Right? It goes on and on. This is how to not ship wreck your life. Teach your kids this!
- Warnings against get rich schemes, against lying, against using your words to cause harm and encouragements to trust the Lord, work hard, be honest and faithful…
- So Proverbs is probably the most helpful book on child-raising ever written.
- It is glorious, it is beautiful and of course we still have that mandate to teach our children the wisdom of God. And Jesus of course is called the wisdom of God!
So God loves families…
- And he uses them to pass on knowledge of the Lord and as the building blocks of cohesive, healthy churches, communities and even countries.
- Now if that is the goal… families as depositories of God’s blessings and righteousness…
- We know don’t we that sadly that isn’t the reality of the world around us… and it certainly wasn’t the case in Jesus day!
So we talked last week about how this section in Ephesians was written as a challenge to the prevailing norms of the Roman Household Code.
- So in the ancient world, as today, there was a well known code of conduct if you like for how society should function, particularly around three relationships.
- Husbands and wives, parents and children, slaves and masters.
- And in the ancient world, the head of all three sets of relationships was the same person.
- The Husband/Father/Master. He was boss over his wife, his children and his slaves.
- And in general the power dynamic was unbalanced, coercive and toxic.
- We noted for instance; Aristotle who wrote “hence by nature there are various classes of rulers, for the free rules the slave, the male the female, the man the child.” Not good…
When it came to children, under Romans law, they were simply not valued.
- Scholar William Barclay notes that under the Patria Potestas (which is Latin for ‘Power of a Father’), a Roman Father had absolute power over his family.
- He could sell his own children as slaves, he could make them work in his fields even in chains, he could punish as he liked.
- And this power extended over the child’s whole life, so long as the Father lived.
- I’ve mentioned before the ancient practice of exposure. It was within the rights for a Roman citizen who didn’t want a child to have them left in the city dump.
- There they would either die from exposure to the elements or be picked up by slave traders.
- So children really were treated as non-humans.
And while it may not be as extreme today, as then, I would argue that so many of the issues of children in our society is a different kind of exposure.
- Parents, basically absconding any responsibility to their children, letting them run a mock.
- Or modelling their own immorality to their children and then wondering why their kids have no sense of right from wrong.
- Recent issues around consent and sexual assault amongst school children highlights this.
- Speaks to children not being taught right from wrong, but being left up to their own devices, with alcohol fuelled assaults apparently being normal.
Into all of that… children an afterthought… not valued, not taught, not loved… Jesus!
It’s a little story… but again, hear it in light of what Israel was meant to be doing with it’s children, and listen to it in light of how children were treated in the ancient world.
- Jesus comes to set things right!
- Matthew 19:13 “Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them.’
- Now just stop there. Why do the disciples try and stop children coming to Jesus….
- My guess is because they were infected with this idea that children had no value.
- Verse 14: “Jesus said; “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
Right? DO NOT HINDER THEM! Hear that! Do not hinder them.
- Parents, don’t we dare do anything that stops a child from coming to Jesus.
- For me it is one of the strongest things that Jesus says in all the Gospels…
- I, we need to consider where we are in this story.
- Are we in any way hindering our children from coming to Jesus….
- Or do we demonstrate the value and love and dignity Jesus bestows on children.
- Through us, does the kingdom of heaven belong to our kids?
So we get to today’s passage… about children obeying and honouring their parents, and parents bringing up children in the training and instruction of the Lord.
- Does it make sense now? Should preach itself from here… haha!
- So… we were saying last week that in the household codes the only authority and power went in one direction… husbands over wives, parents over children, masters over slaves…
- Gets subverted by Ephesians 5:21. To the Spirit filled, Gospel filled children of God… Paul exhorts everyone….
- “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ….”
- So everyone… willingly… in both directions… serve one another… Get below one another in how you work out your relationships… in the Lord.
So how does it work for children and parents?
- Well, children the way to be subject to our parents is to obey and honour them as they teach you the ways of the Lord.
- And for parents being subject to your children happens by being intentional in the way you love them, and teach them and build them up to know and follow the Lord!
- Reshaped by the Gospel and empowered by the Holy Spirit… I serve my kids by actively investing in their lives and creating the paths for them to know Jesus and live well.
- And my kids serve me by listening and putting into practice the wisdom and ways that I try and instil in them.
So let’s just finish with some quick applications for us as kids… and for us as parents, or future parents, or potential spiritual parents that we can be!
Now the truth is, these 4 verses are not long enough to go into the complex nature of families, particularly when they are not functioning or have disintegrated.
- What we do have in this section of the household codes, is a high conception of how children and parents are meant to function
- And obviously we are not to obey and honour our parents if they are teaching us how to steal cars or enter the narcotics trade!
- Right? This is talking about an honour and obedience that works within the relationship of children and parents in the faith, filled with the Holy Spirit, and submitting to one another.
And I won’t say too much on children obey your parents as there aren’t too many young children in here listening to this sermon
- But I do think the bit about honouring your parents applies to all of us as this doesn’t stop after we finish school…
- Now the Greek word for honour is timao which means to prize or show high regard, respect or value to someone.
- If obedience is the duty we owe to our parents, honour is the disposition.
- So to honour ones parents means to show them respect and love and to care for them, as long as they need.
- So maybe there is a challenge there for us whose parents are getting older.
- What does it mean to prize and value them, and to keep including them centrally in our extended families?
And how does this work when child and parental relationships are strained? Well I believe…
- You can honour and respect them while still disagreeing with them about all kinds of things
- You can value them while still having good boundaries in place
- You can choose love for them no matter how they may treat you – that’s hard!
- But where we deposit and develop the honour, value and the love of Christ towards our parents, life will grow, and kingdom connection will grow.
Now let’s shift to raising children. And I am aware that has varied relevance across our community.
- But in one sense while there is direct relevance to parents of children, we are all the family of God and play our part in raising our community of children.
- And you know its funny… as I get older… there are lots of things I want for my children…
- Obviously I want them to be happy and healthy, I want them to have good friends and to be kind kids…
- But the greatest thing I want for them… above everything is to know and love Jesus and to follow him in how they live the rest of their lives.
- I want them to come to Jesus.
- And God calls parents to disciple their children. To grow and nurture them in faith!
Now lots of parents will attest to the fact that you can’t make your children Christians. And I know Godly, loving parents whose children aren’t following the Lord.
- But that doesn’t discount our responsibility to make it easier to love Jesus in your home.
- You can endeavour to make your home ring with gospel joy.
- You can endeavour to make your family not only a family of Christians, but a Christian family, that loves God and together loves people!
Right, so as parents we must be aware of the rhythms of life. How are our weeks structured?
- And do we make Jesus and our church community a priority in our family lives?
- Right? Is church and youth groups and so on in pencil while everything else gets put into our diaries in pen?
- Then that says something about the reality of God and priority we place on raising our children to grow in the community of faith.
- If you never pray or read the Bible in front of or with your kids, if you never talk about Jesus in any regular, open way, if you never invite others into your home for the sake of the gospel and hospitality,
- If you never serve Jesus together as a family, if you never ask your kids about who they think Jesus is, we may need to reset how we are raising our children.
Bible teacher Ray Stedman: There are two things which cause rebellion in children, two things which provoke a child ultimately to rebel against his parents: Indulgence and harshness.
- While we are told to “Bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”
- The opposites of these are indulgence and harshness. Those are the things which can lead a child to abandoning the faith of their parents.
- Now it’s a generalisation, but he says, “during the last century the father was often a tyrant in his family. Children had to toe the mark and often had very little contact with their parents in a loving relationship. Consequently there was a breaking out against this.
- In our day it is the other way around. We have swung to the extreme of indulgence. We give our children everything and let them have their own way, let them raise themselves.”
- Both hinder a child from coming to Jesus.
So let me encourage you… let me encourage myself to be wise in the way we disciple our kids.
- You can’t just fish it out to bringing them to church or school scripture.
- As important as that is in raising a community of children who know and love Jesus.
- Can I just say how grateful I am to the volunteers who help at kids church too – what an amazing act of service you do!
- But we need to take personal responsibility in doing this with our kids or spiritual children.
- I know I try and talk about the wonders of Jesus with my kids and on the way to school encourage them around what Christian virtues in action looks like.
- And I can’t recommend the Jesus Storybook Bible enough – what we give to all the families getting dedicated.
Well final thing today… and that is God is in the business of redeeming families.
- Because Jesus is a redeemer, it means no family is too far gone.
- You may think, “We’re a mess.” Well, ok. We all are. All you have to do today is say to Christ, “I’m your mess.” And he’ll come in and begin to clean it up.
- None of us have perfect families, and we belong to the faith that tells the story of the Prodigal Son as the highest conceptualisation of what God is like with wayward children.
- And so we pray for our families. We actively love our families. We always leave the door open for prodigal children.
- And God can do marvellous things even with the most broken and messy families.
I read a nice story about a man named David in Eternity News this week. He said;
- “I grew up in Willoughby. My dad was a sparkie. My extended family was a network of disasters.”
- At 14, he was sent to church and heard the glorious gospel.
- He said “That year I found myself sitting on the floor of my bedroom, reflecting on my extended family… the domestic violence, alcoholism, divorce, broken marriages, you name it. I got on my knees and I said, ‘OK, God, I know you’re there. I know you’re listening. I know you died for me. I’m yours. Please let the mess stop here.’
- He said; “God has been at work in my life ever since.”
- He goes on to say that he became an Indonesian teacher after studying at university and ended up teaching at a Christian school and influencing many for Jesus.
- He then talked about marrying his wife who came from a faithful Christian family and now having four believing children and eleven grandchildren. God he said, graciously answered his prayers.
- I love that story… because it shows how God can take someone from such a broken family and create something so beautiful.
- Jesus breaks the chains of destructive behaviour and relationships.
Our God is the great redeemer, and he can be the great redeemer in your life and family.
- But you need to come to him and trust him and follow him.
- God loves you. God loves your family and he wants your family in his family – the children of God!
- Will you come to him today?