Back to the Holy Fire – a study in Ephesians
“The First Commandment with Promise”
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.”Honor your father and mother”–this is the first commandment with a promise: “so that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.”
In addition, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:1-4
When I think of this passage in terms of relevance for society today, I think of the millions of fatherless children, and those that are in abusive situations. In America alone, over 44 percent of children live in a home that is totally without the influence and support of a loving father. Mothers must be mom and dad, homemaker and provider. It is not an easy task. In Africa, many children left without both parents due to AIDS or other epidemics and the tribal and political violence that murder hundreds of thousands in war. Orphans are lefts to salvage trash for meals, and sleep in the defenseless cold nights.
I would have a hard time telling any of them the advice that St. Paul is giving to children in the opening of this passage, without first attaching the responsibility of the adults that he goes on to give in the balance. The key phrase for me here is this: “do not provoke your children to anger…” The King James is more direct here because it connects the word “wrath” to the indignation of the Almighty. In other words, parents, be good parents. Adults of this world, lets fix the root causes of unhappy unions and homes. Let us fix the immigration problems by fixing the economic conditions of the third world countries that live in poverty, and raise families out of their distress. Adults, let us learn how the heavenly Father loves us, so that we in turn can love those He has entrusted to us. Let us pay attention to two things, Paul says, instruction of the Lord (wisdom) and the discipline of the Lord (self-love and ethics). We can pay attention to these things as adults by developing them first in our lives, and then living them out for the younger ones to see and imitate.
It is then that respect will be developed. I was always taught as a child that if I wanted to be respected, I needed to act respectful. What I wanted most I needed to give to others first. To honor a mother and father (with promise) presupposes in the Hebrew mind that the mother and father are honorable. That they live out the ethics and values God has given them, and that they honorably pass those along to their progeny. Children will have no trouble respecting these kinds of parents, and certainly will find truth in the promise of long life.