Yesterday, Paul urged us to imitate God as we live our Christian lives. We saw at the end of chapter 5 some of how that works out in inter-personal relationships, starting with how husbands and wives can reflect something of God in their marriages. The first half of Ephesians 6 sees Paul expanding his application to other inter-personal relationships: children and parents; slaves and owners.
Children, he says, should obey their parents because the children belong to the Lord; it is right for Christian children to honour their mothers and fathers. That this is important to God is clear, given that this is the first of the ten commandments to come with a promise. Of course, there are limits to such obedience: but Christian children should show something of God’s character towards their parents; even as, I dare say, Christ showed obedience to his Father.
Parents, on the other hand, are to be God-imitators towards their children, treating them in such a way that doesn’t provoke their anger. Like God does us, Fathers are to discipline and instruct their children in the ways of our Lord.
Slaves are to serve their masters as if they were serving Christ. Actually, says Paul, one’s station in life doesn’t count with God… what we do with our life is what we will be rewarded for. Masters, likewise are to remember that ultimately everyone is equal before God – he is the master of both slave and slave-master without favouritism.
The implications extend, I would say, to every interpersonal relationship that exists. At every point, we need to ask ourselves how we can show something of the character of God in how we relate to another person. Note that our behaviour isn’t to be defined by the character/behaviour of the other person – we are to be God-imitators whether they are good “masters” or bad.
How can I even think to undertake to be an imitator of God; an imitator of Christ? It is only possible if God himself works in and through me. I need to be strong in the Lord and his mighty power. The fact of the matter is that being a Christian is about more than “being nice” to people. If I am a reflection of God, then it stands to reason that the enemy of God – Satan – is also my enemy. He has plenty of strategies, and would defeat us. He would even have liked to have defeated God – why else would he have sought to crucify Jesus?
As Christians, our battle is against the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against the mighty powers in this dark world, against evil spirits in the heavenly places. By myself, I cannot prevail against them. But I am not by myself. Christ has died for me, and God is with me. He has given us all that we need to stand against the foe. His armour has been given to protect us. The armour of God is my protection. The belt of truth – the truth of what he has done for us in Christ holds my uniform up and stops it falling off. God’s own righteousness protects my body from the accusations of the foe that I am not worthy of God, that my righteousness isn’t sufficient for GOd to love me. My feet are shod with the shoes of peace from the Good news: what keeps me standing is the truth that there is peace between God and me because of what Jesus has done. The shield of my faith stops the fiery darts of the devil: when Satan tempts me to despair I can trust that Jesus Christ has made an end to all my sin. My salvation is a helmet upon my head: when Satan would tempt me to “give it all up” I am reminded that Christ will never give up on me; that he has already beaten Satan and that the victory has already been won by him. And the sword of the Spirit: God’s word in my hand is the weapon to both reply against all of the lures and temptations and accusations of Satan and to drive him away as I speak the words of the Victor.
And in the armour, I am to pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Pray that God would keep me alert for the wiles of the evil one, pray for my Christian brothers and sisters who are enduring the same as I am. Paul, like all of us, knew the need for prayer. He knew the temptation to stop speaking boldly – to not “imitate God” because of the weight and weariness of his chains and circumstances. All of us experience such temptation at different times. So let us pray for each other; let us ask God to strengthen each other.
Lord, help me to reflect who you are in every relationship that I have. I’m sorry for all the times that I have not done so. Thank you that you have forgiven me; please keep forming your Son in me. Jesus – help me to be prepared for the battle. Help me to know your power and your presence in my life. Thank you that you are with me. And please help my Christian friends and family in this struggle too. Please strengthen your church here in Australia and around the world to boldly stand firm for you, and boldly reflect your character to a dark world.