The question above is a loaded one. You could answer in a myriad of ways. Wherever you serve, the questions remains: Whom are you serving? Last week I talked about authority and how it should be handled. This week we are looking at our response to authority. WARNING: The following may be quite challenging. Take a deep breath and read on!
The author of Ephesians begins with the first authority we meet in this world, that of our parents, and instructs us to obey them, but he qualifies that statement with the phrase “in the Lord.” Since most of you reading this are probably adults, it won’t be necessary to say much more than this: Obey our parents in the Lord means we obey them but always measure that obedience against the Lord’s commandments and conscience.
We’ve all been quoted, and maybe even memorized, the commandment, “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise—“so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth” (vv 2-3, quoting Deut. 5:16). Honor your parents, listen to them, give them respect, each of these are included in the concept of honor. For many of us this isn’t a terribly hard task. I recognize that some of you have a harder time with this commandment because perhaps your parents weren’t as supportive, or helpful, or present as others might have been. Why should I honor him? What about her deserves honor? And I suppose I can understand; nevertheless, the commandment still stands: “Honor your father and mother.”
This brings our conversation far beyond the realm of “normal” human relationships. You see, at our foundation we reach one another at a very basic level. I do for you, you do for me. Tit for tat. Your smile is returned by me. Your frown will most likely get you one back. In this fallen world, the self that lives at the base of each of us is self-ish and self-serving. Paul calls this the flesh, the fallen man. We give honor and respect to those who deserve it, to those who earn it.
Throughout this passage, which I hope you have read, we are not told to “honor your parents when they are good to you and are perfect. Give respect to your master when he or she treats you right.” The command simply tells us to give honor. I have heard the comment many times: “I’ll respect him when he shows me he deserves it.” And again, “She doesn’t deserve my respect.” How funny that we, sinners as we are, find ourselves in a place where we feel worthy of determining who in God’s creation deserves our respect, when God in the flesh laid down his own life for us, who often betray him and sin against him.
The author tells us in verse 5 to obey our masters (bosses, supervisors, etc.) with respect and fear and with sincerity of heart. Not an easy thing to do, this respect and fear, but the sincerity of heart, well that is even harder. I wonder, if I took a poll and asked you if you sincerely respect your boss, what the answers would be? Sure this would be hard to do, nigh impossible for some of us, but the instruction remains.
I would be unable to follow this instruction if not for the rest of the paragraph which, once again, gives me the rationale for giving respect and honor to whomever I meet: “Just as you would obey Christ . . . doing the will of God from your heart” (verses 5-6). The way we respond not only to peers, but even more so to those in authority over us, reflects on who we are as people and our response to Christ. So why do we respect and honor our “masters”? What does this have to do with our faith in Christ?
This is where my question comes in: Whom are you serving? Are you serving God or man? The truth that many of us miss is that everything we do is to be done as a part of our commitment to God. Although we do so, we are not to worship God only at church and then live the rest of our lives as if what we do does not matter. What we do each day, whether in church, in the work place, on the playground, or anywhere, is to be done for the One who gave His life for us.
Is your “whole heart” in your day-to-day activities, how you respond to those around you and especially those in authority? Just as I spoke to authority figures last week, everything we do should be considered service to God, no matter how hard it seems. Don’t withhold your heart, but open it and let God’s grace fill it so you can “wholeheartedly” serve God in your daily life.
Just a reminder to all you out there to join us at the Senior Center in Greenfield on Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. as we study the Bible using Chuck Swindoll’s Dropping your Guard: The Value of Open Relationships in the Church. Everyone is invited—you don’t have to be a senior to attend!
Mary Kay Glunt, Pastor
Ebenezer Presbyterian Church