Good morning! Welcome to worship! Today we continue our study of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Our focus is relationships! We all know about relationships. God is big into relationships. The Bible tells us that God is love – and that means relationships.
God has revealed himself to us as Trinity, three persons, Father, Son, Holy Spirit, existing together as one God, functioning in perfect relationship, unity, harmony, and joy. His family is the model for our families. We are to treat one another in our families as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit treat one another in the first family. Are you with me so far?
God wrote the owner’s manual on relationships. He knows how to operate them and how to fix them. What a mess we make when we ignore what he has to say. Are you still with me?
Paul tells us in Eph 1:10 that God’s purpose in sending Jesus was to bring all things back together again under one head, Jesus. That means Jesus came to heal and restore our relationships with God and with each other.
Chapter 5 began with these words, “Imitate Christ”. Let me give you a little test. Are healthy relationships about demanding entitlements and ducking responsibility or laying down entitlements and stepping up to responsibilities?
What did Jesus do? He laid down his entitlements as the Son of God and picked up the responsibility his Father gave him to become Savior of the world. How much of the selfish, childish bickering in our culture could be eliminated if we were to do the same? If in our relationships, we laid down our entitlements and laid hold of our responsibilities?
Imitating Jesus requires that we grow up and stop acting like spoiled children. Let’s see how Paul applies this to our daily relationships. Paul begins with marriage. Eph 5:21…
“Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.” Eph 5:21-24
This is one of the most misunderstood and abused verses in all of Scripture. Note that before Paul ever mentions wives, he tells us all to submit to one another in love!
The whole creation story is about God bringing order to chaos. What we see here is God bringing order to chaos in the family. To submit doesn’t mean one person is of greater honor than the other. In the Trinity, all members are coequal in majesty, authority, and honor.
Husbands and wives are coequal in majesty, authority, and honor. Wives, to submit to your husband as to the Lord means to imitate Jesus, who trusted, respected, honored his Father enough to cooperate with him rather than resist him.
The opposite of submit is resist, disregard, refuse to cooperate or trust. Treat with contempt. Sounds like kids spatting on the playground or the politicians in Washington. Healthy relationships require respect, cooperation, trust, and a willingness to give up our entitlements and pick up our responsibilities. Are you still with me?
Wives, this is about more than just you. If you want your children to respect authority, including your authority, God’s authority, the authority of their teachers or law enforcement, you must model respect for authority in the way you treat your husband. By the way, wives, if you respect you husband’s authority, you might be surprised at how he responds!
Husbands, God has given you an even tougher job. “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…” Eph 5:25
Men, the position of leadership God has given you is not an entitlement, it’s a responsibility. You are to lay down your life for your wife and family. You don’t demand respect - you earn it by the love, courage, and integrity you demonstrate in your relationships every day.
God has given you the responsibility to be the head shepherd in your family. Jesus said the good shepherd loves his sheep. He calls them by name and leads them through dangerous places to still waters and green pastures. The good shepherd gives his life for his family.
Husbands, you model what God is like for your family. If you’re too busy to be there for them, that’s how they will understand God. If you are rude, critical, judgmental, that’s how they will understand God. If you neglect God as unimportant, that’s what they will believe.
Your submission to God’s authority will teach your family to submit to God’s authority. Your family is watching you. It’s the way God created the family. You can’t lead your wife and children where you refuse to go yourself.
Will you submit to God and ask him to help you love your wife and children as he loves them? That’s the only way you can pull this off. Will you treat them with the same respect as God does? If you will, you might be surprised by how your wife and family respond!
Next Paul moves to the relationships between children and parents. Not all of us are married, but we’ve all been children and most of us have parents and many still are parents. Remember healthy relationship are not about demanding entitlements and ducking responsibilities, but laying down entitlements and stepping up to responsibilities.
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” – which is the first commandment with a promise – that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” Eph 6:1-3
When the Lord gave Moses the 10 commandments, they were on two stone tablets. The first was about our relationship with God, and the second our relationship with each other. And the first commandment on the second tablet was “Honor your Father and Mother”.
The 10 commandments are God’s owner’s manual for healthy relationships. Honoring our parents means ‘to love, obey, honor, respect, them’. The health of a culture is measured in how it values and cares for parents and senior citizens. The collapse of the family always spells the collapse of the culture. Don’t expect your children to respect and value any authority, if you don’t model that by valuing your parents and the seniors among us. Healthy relationship are not about demanding our entitlements and ducking our responsibilities, but laying down entitlements and stepping up to responsibilities.
Paul says, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Eph 6:4
Almost all the problems we face in America today are connected to absent fathers. Either dad isn’t there or he’s disengaged. Fathers, it’s time to man up. We need to take the helm in teaching our kids about right and wrong. We need to tell them about Jesus and what it means to follow him. We need to teach them what healthy relationships look like. Don’t cop out by saying, “I’m too busy bringing home a paycheck.”
Your kids need you more than they need your paycheck. If you will take the risk to provide spiritual leadership to your kids, God will bless your efforts. But you can’t teach your kids what you don’t know yourself. The only way you will pass faith on to your kids is if you are growing yourself. Faith isn’t just taught, it must be caught.
A survey done some years ago evaluated the role of parents in passing faith on to their kids. The survey found that if both parents attended church regularly, 70% of the kids attended regularly when they were grown. If only dad attended church regularly, 51% of the kids attended regularly when they were grown. If only the mom attended regularly, the retention rate dropped to 15% and if neither parent attended regularly it was 6%.
Dad, don’t neglect your children’s spiritual health. You have more influence than you think. The priorities you choose will be passed on to your kids. Ask God to help you lay down your entitlements and pick up your responsibilities no matter how young or old your kids may be.
Paul’s final command concerning relationships involves us all. It’s about employers, employees. We are to do our jobs as if were serving the Lord. We are to treat our employees justly and fairly because God will hold us accountable for how we treat them.
Life is about relationships because God is about relationships. Satan is big into destroying relationships. He tempts us to demand our entitlements and duck our responsibilities. Jesus teaches us the way to healthy relationships is to lay down our entitlements and pick up our responsibilities. For the sake of our nation and the world, let’s imitate him in our marriages, our homes, and in our community.
Let’s make the Trinity our model for our relationships with one another.