Ephesians 6:1-3 (JDV)
Ephesians 6:1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, because this is right.
Ephesians 6:2 Honor your father and mother, which is the first commandment with a promise,
Ephesians 6:3 so that it may go well with you and that you may have a long life in the land.
honoring parents and mutual submission
That mutual submission which Paul encourages the Ephesian Christians to practice is seen in more than one type of relationship. That is why Paul will go on to highlight the employer/ employee relationship in 6:6-9. But now he proceeds logically from marriage to parents and children in 6:1-4. In each of these subgroups, he begins by addressing the party considered lesser in society (wives, then children, then slaves). Then he proceeds to the part with assumed authority over that group (husbands, then fathers, then masters). Is Paul endorsing the patriarchal hierarchy of Greco-Roman culture – essentially Christianizing it?
No way. What Paul Christianizes is mutual submission of all these believers to one another. Remember that Paul taught that Christians should no longer live like the Gentiles live (4:17). Instead of lording it over others, we should be submitting to one another (5:21). In this context, Paul mentions the fifth commandment of the Decalogue. He then goes on to add an admonition to fathers (6:4) because his point is not the submission of the lesser to the greater, but the mutual submission of everyone in Christ to each other.
Christian children of all ages should honor their parents of all ages as a way of showing this submission – which is a mark of our identity in Christ. When we are younger, honoring our parents means obeying them. When we are older, honoring them means taking care of them. The authority structure changes, but the respect and care should not.
Lord, thank you for our parents in the Lord. We honor you by honoring them all our lives.