Instructions for Christian Households. This is the heading in my Bible for Ephesians 5:21-6:9. It is way too generic or vanilla for my liking. And it certainly doesn’t motivate me to read further. I mean, who wants a bunch of boring instructions?
Let’s face it, simple instructions just won’t do when it comes to handling the complex and often complicated dynamics of relationships. As we all know, family life can be tough, painful and sometimes too much to bear, even for those families who know Christ and are in Christ.
Household is another word I’m not crazy about. Again, it reeks of everything plain, common and domestic. It misses the “wow factor” of the passage. This section of Scripture is about people – husbands and wives, moms and dads, brothers and sisters, and sometimes, other folks as well – who are sharing life together in a very intimate setting.
The point that Paul is making is that families can experience powerful and genuine relationships. The home does not have to be a place of tension and stress and angst. Living together under one roof, we can get along.
Paul begins this section with these words: “Submit to one another out of reverence to Christ.” Yes, he is specifically writing to Christians, Christians who know after reading his letter that they
- have been given every spiritual blessing in Christ (Ephesians 1:3),
- have been adopted to sonship in Christ (Ephesians 1:5),
- have redemption through the blood of Jesus, and the forgiveness of sins (Ephesians 1:7),
- have been marked with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who guarantees their inheritance (Ephesians 1:13, 14),
- have been given God’s incomparably great power, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead (Ephesians 1:19)
- have been made alive together with Christ (Ephesians 2:5),
- have been saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8),
- have been created anew in Christ Jesus for good works (Ephesians 2:10),
- have access to the Father through the Spirit (Ephesians 2:18),
- have the freedom and confidence to approach God through faith in Christ (Ephesians 3:12),
- have Jesus Christ dwelling in their hearts through faith (Ephesians 3:17),
- have the power to know and experience the love of God (Ephesians 3:18),
- have been added to the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:16) and
- are light in the Lord (Ephesians 5:8).
The entire book of Ephesians provides the context for Paul’s vision for family relationships. This vision is moored to the wealth of riches that are ours in Christ Jesus, and it is animated by the incomparable power God has given us through His Spirit.
Submission one to another, wives submitting to their husbands, husbands loving their wives as Christ loved the Church is the fruit of God’s grace and power. Otherwise this section can be reduced to a set of instructions that are impossible to carry out.
As children of God, we are alive in Jesus Christ, empowered by His Spirit, and blessed with all the treasures of God’s grace. Perhaps we should give this section a new heading – Grace Filled, Spirit Led Relationships. This tells us that yes, we can get along, really!