Slavish obedience – Wednesday, 30th week in ordinary time – Ephesians 6:1-9
Today’s text is a continuation of yesterday’s teaching. Three analogies are presented in 5:21-6:9; husbands and wives, children and parents and masters and slaves. While the modern world may read these texts critically and even judgmentally, one has to keep in mind that these are but analogies to support the principal teaching of this text; obedience to Christ.
This does not mean that each of these analogies do not give us food for thought or content for debate. All of these analogies are applicable to the modern world; the relationship challenges between husbands and wives and parents and children are fraught by modern day challenges and while slavery may seem a thing of a bygone era, its ugly head has reared in the form of modern-day slavey; prostitution of young girls and women and child labour, to name a few. So, while we give a thought to these issues that serve today’s texts as analogies, the idea is not to lose the plot.
The author to the Ephesians is calling the Church to be obedient. This is the heart of the teaching. True obedience stems from love. When you love you may question; but your love pushes you to do that which the one you love desires from you. If that be so, then the Church will follow in obedience the commandments of Christ and embrace it with love; if not, every commandment becomes a burden and IF it is followed it is done so from a sense of duty or fear, certainly not love. Sunday mass being a case in point!
We have seen how marital relationships have been presented as a model of love and obedience. The author to the Ephesians now settles on parents and children (especially fathers). The commandment to obey one’s parents is grounded in the fourth commandment (Exodus 20:12 and Deut 5:16). This as we are told is the only commandment with a promise; if kept, we are blessed with a long life on earth. Seen in all the three analogies of obedience is a reciprocal action. Here fathers are called not to drive their children to resentment. To this is also linked the counsel to fathers; to bring up their children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Interestingly while the husband had the ‘apparent privilege’ of being the head of the wife he is also given a share of the responsibly that comes with ‘privileges. A father is called to be reasonable in his expectations from his children but is also it is his task to nurture a love for Christ in the hearts of his children.