There are many spiritual lessons we can glean about our relationship with God from the verses in Ephesians 5:21-6:9. In this segment, I want to look at some of the lessons Ephesians 6:1-4 teaches about the parent/child relationship and how this passage serves as a model for a particular aspect of our relationship with God.
Being the child of two really awesome parents, you would think I’d have this segment of Scripture nailed down perfectly, no? Well, as it happens, it was actually a young mother around my age who opened my eyes to a whole new angle of this passage. She and I were discussing the journey of motherhood and I asked her if there were any spiritual realities she became more aware of after becoming a mother.
Her answer stuck with me: “Obedience. I understand better why it honors God when we obey Him out of trust because I feel honored when my children trust and obey me.”
Think deeply on these verses:
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), so that it goes well with you, and you live long on the earth.”
In our previous blog that addressed the husband/wife aspect of Ephesians, we saw how each of these temporal relationships in Ephesians 5:21-6:9 models a greater spiritual reality. With that in mind, what are some of the lessons we can glean from this one?
- The parent/child relationship on earth is a mirror of the parent/child relationship we have with our Heavenly Father.
While God had to add in this segment that parents must be obeyed “in the Lord” (i.e. when their moral compass is sound), we know that with Him, all things are godly. Therefore, just as it’s plainly stated that it’s right to obey our earthly parents in what is righteous, we’re meant to obey God in all things because He is righteous. Period. This is right. In a similar spiritual parallel, when we honor Him—just as when we honor our mortal parents—life goes much better for us.
Another aspect to this section is that through showing honor to our parents—and thus to the natural order and structure of the family as God designed it, which is host to a plethora of spiritual examples and types—we honor God. This section is rife with both paralleled and direct paths to blessings!
Similar to the way the submission/sacrifice interplay between husbands and wives is a holy charge to model the spiritual reality of the Church and Christ, the parent/child relationship shows the honor/discipline interplay between God and us, His children.
- The way parents treat their children has a formative effect on the child’s view of God.
As a young girl, I heard it said many times that a woman’s relationship with her earthly father will profoundly impact her outlook on God. We often subconsciously project a perception onto God that has its roots in how we perceive our dads. I believe this segment of Scripture speaks to that for both male and female children.
God gives a warning for parents not to provoke their children to wrath—i.e. antagonize or exasperate them. They’re to train their children in a godly way, in the love, discipline and instruction of the Lord.
From this, we can see the way that God is with us as His children: the things He tells us to do, the paths to avoid, and the rules to abide by are not to antagonize or anger us, or to provoke us to wrath! His purpose by His instruction is always to train us up and bring us to a place of better understanding of Him so that our obedience flows from a place of trust and wholehearted submission, not from grudging anger or because of injurious provocation.
Thus, the way that parents teach, discipline, and interact with their children is meant to model a godly love: with concern for the spiritual and physical wellbeing of the child rather than with any interest in goading or upsetting them.
As The Message version of Ephesians 1:18-19, exhorts in Paul’s prayer:
I ask—ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory—to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for his followers, oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him—endless energy, boundless strength!
In the previous segment on husbands and wives, I mentioned my friend’s quote that “Submission flows from intimacy.” This principle applies perfectly to the parent/child relationship, as well: when we comprehend our God’s love for us and why He gives us the commands and commissions He does, why He interacts and teaches us in so many ways, we come to fellowship with Him on a deeply personal, relational level of intimate love and trust and our submission to Him flows naturally.
The parent/child relationship, built intimately on obedience, trust, training, and love, is one of the most profound and beautiful examples of God’s relationship with His people. It’s up to each of us to wholeheartedly pursue a healthy, godly relationship within these parameters—both with our earthly parents and with our Heavenly Father.