Respect your parents (and all authority)


The book of Ephesians. Let’s actually go to chapter 6. We spent a little time, two Saturdays ago on the end of chapter 5 talking about wives and husbands and how they should relate to each other in marriage. Now, let’s enter into two other groups that the Bible addresses as to how they should relate to each other, one is children and parents, and the others, of course, in the light of the Greek and Roman world that the Apostle Paul was writing to, in light of slaves and masters, but there’s a lot of things that we can adjust to make it applicable also to the time that we’re living in today.

So, chapter 6, verse 1 says: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord for this is right….”

Guau! Let me read that again:

“Children, and all of us can fall into that category, because we are children in the sense of sons and daughters – sons and daughters obey your parents in the Lord for this is right. Honor –everybody say, ‘honor’ – 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. Fathers, -says the same thing about mothers I suppose – do not exasperate your children, instead bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”

And then it talks about slaves “…Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear and with sincerity of heart just as you would obey Christ. Obey them, not only to win their favor when their eyes are on you, but like slaves of Christ doing the will of God from your heart. Serve whole heartedly as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he’s slave or free. Masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their master and yours is in heaven and there is not favoritism with him.”

Thanks God for this word. You know, these 3 groups, because there’s another group before which I mentioned, wives and husbands, they form part of a set of relationships that the Apostle Paul is addressing in this part of the letter to the Ephesians which is very pastoral, dealing with human situations and how to solve different situations, how to address them as Christians and as believers.

And so we saw that wives and husbands are to relate to each other with the mutual respect and that yes, I mean, there is a certain headship that the male has been given by God, but that headship is not to be used to oppress, to exploit, to abuse or to take for granted. On the contrary, they headship of the man in the home is an opportunity to do what?, To serve, to serve and to express the character of Jesus Christ, who himself, being Lord, he once said, you call me Lord, and you are right because I am. I mean, Jesus knew that he was the Lord, but then he took the basin and the towel and he washed the feet of his disciples to show that he was a servant leader.

That’s what he came to do, he came to serve and to give his disciples a graphic example of how they were supposed to conduct themselves, because one day they were to become the Apostles of the church, the spiritual leaders, the highest authority in the church. So, he wanted to graphically sort of inscribe in their hearts this idea that when you are put in a position of authority, you’re not to exploit or abuse, you are to serve. It’s an opportunity to express the servant part of Jesus Christ. The people that you’re given authority over, you don’t Lord over them. You don’t exploit the opportunity that you have of power, exercising power on their lives, to extract benefit from them, but really you change things and then you are looking for opportunities to serve them, to bless them and to bring to the highest level of their expression.

And it talks about Jesus deals with the church. Jesus dealt with the church and still deals with the church in such a way that he wants to bring us, the church, into our highest level of gifting and expression and service. This is why he assigns tasks to us, so that in carrying out those tasks we can become more God-like.

You know, this is why God has allowed this mystery of the family of God in the church and a community just like here. As we learn to relate with each other and God gives us his gifts and he delegates to us tasks and we enter like that situation that I was describing a little while ago, you know, a couple of days ago. These are opportunities for the children of God to learn and to become stronger, better, and the Holy Spirit is brooding over those situations and saying, ‘yes, come up to a higher level’.

And God doesn’t treat us like slaves. Jesus said, I’m going to treat you like friends because friends they know what the other is doing. And God, that’s the way he treats us and that’s the way we are supposed to treat those that are, let’s say, below us in authority. Because a woman is never below a man in, how should I say, in her dignity, in her humanity, in her position as a child of God, ontologically, this is the word I was looking for in philosophy. Ontology means being, in the sense of her beings, she is equal to the man in every sense. She is a co inheritor actually. That’s the way the Bible describes a woman of the male.

Therefore, you know, we are supposed to always understand that humanity. And I think here, as I say that, it’s one of the common threads between these 3 groups, it’s that whenever you’re in authority, whether you’re a master, and we’ll talk a little bit about that in a moment, whether you are a husband in authority, or whether you’re a father in authority, you should always be in touch with the humanity of the people that you are exercising authority over.

I think that’s something that is there in those 3 groups. You know, when you realize that you are exercising authority over another human being who is your equal, ontologically, using that word, I mean, in terms of their being, their essence before God, they are exactly the same as you are. Therefore you cannot violate them. You cannot exploit them. You cannot abuse them, because when you are doing that to the very image of God that is them, you are violating the essence of God, the image of God that is in that person. Therefore, even though outwardly they may occupy an inferior position to yours in a sense, although outwardly they may not be well dressed or well educated or whatever, inwardly, in the way they are, they are God’s image, they have a spirit, they have a soul, they have the impart of God’s presence in them and therefore you have to treat them that way.

You know, I think that that’s so important in any relationship that we have in the world, whatever it is, whether you are CEO of a corporation, whether you are a pastor, whether you’re a parent, whether you are a teacher with students, whether you are policeman or whatever it is, you know, what God says is, look at your relationship with me and look at their relationship with me as well, and see the fact that you’re both under my authority and you both reflect my image and therefore treat everyone the same way.

I don’t have to go into a catalogue and say, ok, what does the Bible say about how should I treat my wife or another catalogue, how I should treat my children, or another one, well, how about a CEO or a teacher or in a factory, being the foreman. It’s all the same really. It’s the same principle of respect for the humanity that is in that being, for the mysterious relationship that that individual has with God that you cannot get into. You cannot mess around with that. You cannot interfere with that in any way, because when you do that you incur the wrath of God, the judgment of God immediately. That’s why in one passage, I think it’s in First Peter, it talks about husbands, do not be rough with your wives, do not treat them roughly, do not abuse them, do not scream at them, do not oppress them, so that your prayers, it says, will not be interfered with.

Boy, that’s a powerful statement! I mean, if you take it and you deconstruct it. What is God trying to say with that? Husbands, treat your wives gently and kindly so that your prayers will not have a problem when they come before God. You know, it’s because when a man mistreats his wife, whether by speaking roughly to her or treating like a servant or like a property, God gets angry, because you’re messing with one of his children. You’re messing with the princess of the king. You’re messing with somebody that has the imprint of God in their life, and therefore God is not going to be listening very nicely to your words. You know, he’s not going to be in a mood to honor your prayers, in other words. So, you’d better deal with that before you go on. I mean, that’s the word of the Lord, I have to apply that to myself and all of us have to apply that to ourselves.

You know, many times we, husbands, have abused this privilege that God has given us of being heads of the home and really what the Bible is saying is, no, it’s an opportunity for you to recognize the humanity in your wife and to treat her gently and to treat her with love. And so see this thread going through all these different groups here. You know, one speaks, yes, acknowledge authority; to the people who are under authority it says acknowledge authority, don’t rebel against it. But to those in authority it says, hey, don’t abuse your authority, make sure that you use your authority well, responsibly, in the spirit of Christ, like Christ himself would use it.

So, for example, in this passage when now it refers to children and parents, it speaks to children first, because children are under authority and it uses the same pattern. It speaks first to the one under authority and then to the one in authority. So the ones under authority, which are the children, it says, obey your parents in the Lord for this is right. So here’s one thing, it is saying to all of us really because even though we’re young adults, or older adults or whatever, some of us are married, it is this thing about obeying your parents and honoring your parents. It refers to that commandment: honor your father and mother.

And I’m going to deal with honor because I think if you deal with honor, obedience comes along with it. That fifth commandment is it, I think, of the sixth, honor your father and your mother, you know, the rabbis thought that that was one of the most important commandments of all, and that it wasn’t just about honoring your dad, your mom, it was about honoring authority as a whole.

And you know, God has been speaking to me, I don’t know if I shared that with you last time, more and more in my life and in my ministry, about addressing that issue of respect for authority and honoring authority and honoring your parents. Maybe because I’m a father and I have two daughters, college age, one graduated, one going into college now and you know, I’m more sensitive perhaps, because of my age and my station in life to that whole issue of children honoring. But I don’t think so, because I’ve always felt that call, even as a young man, to honor and because maybe in my culture, some of that is stressed and many of us who come from foreign cultures perhaps feel more maybe than those who grow in more modern cultures.

But, as Christians, we’re called by God to honor our elders, to honor our parents. And it is something that can be lost in the modern era where there’s a kind of a…. sometimes suspicion about authority. You know, we treat authority with skepticism and question authority, and so children are taught, you know, your parents have to explain things to you before you decide to do them or not, and on and on and on. And I think slowly this concept of reverence or authority sworn down and even among Christians slowly I think we have been contaminated by that spirit of the age, of not having reverence for authority. And I am so delighted when I meet young people who understand this issue of having reverence for your elders, sometimes having reverence for your ancestors, not adoring them, not worshiping them, but man, this thing of, I come from a lineage, I have grandparents, I have great grandparents and having this pride and when you see white hair you bow before it, you immediately adopt and attitude of respect. There’s a blessing in that. And I believe that many young people really experience a lot of heart break and pain in their lives and not just young people, but even older people many times, experience this kind of sufferings and sometimes even neurosis and emotional problems because they have not resolved that issue of honoring their parents.

And by the way, when I say that, that is why we, parents, should take very seriously what the Apostle Paul says here of not exasperating our children. One thing that a parent should be careful to do is not to abuse their children and mistreat them to the point where you lead your children to rebel against you, to resent you and have this seeding anger and resentment against their parents.

I was just speaking to a woman a couple of days ago. She told me, I had to spend 10 years without being in touch with my family in order to heal myself, and then when I came back I was able to find more healing with them. Boy, it is so sad that many parents lead their children to that kind of painful situation where the children then feel all kinds of seeding anger, sense of oppression and having been mistreated.

Ages ago, when I came to this country we lived in Brooklyn, in the Williams First Section of Brooklyn, and here’s a little story of something that happened in my house that I will never forget because it was such a graphic thing. I must have been about 11 years old, even 12, but, the entrance to our apartment, when you opened the door from the stairwell you had to go through a long corridor before you came into the main body of the apartment and one day for some reason, a mouse got stuck in the apartment, and my father ran after the mouse and cornered the mouse in that long corridor. The mouse ran and of course he had nowhere to go because the door was blocking him. So, this mouse that was panicking and scared to death and was running away from my father, all of a sudden, turned against my father and this little thing, turned into a ferocious little beast, wanting to attack him because he had nowhere to go. And you know, that image came into my mind, just a few seconds ago when I think sometimes of us parents. We drive our children to that point where we abuse them, we mistreat them, we beat them, we are not consistent in the way that we deal with them. And you know, children take it, and take it and take it and over the years they accumulate all this anger and all this sense of offense and then they turn against us.

And you know what we do? That is the biggest damage that a parent can do to children because many times then, I think what happens is that we force them into an unnatural position because we have been created by God in such a way. I think in our psyche, in the very structure of our psyche and even of our biology, we have been encoded by God to love our parents, to respect them and to honor them. So when we are forced by our parents into a position of resentment and rebelliousness against them, we are forcing our children into something that does damage to them, because they are acting against the nature that God has inscribed in them. You see what I mean? So we should be very careful how we treat our children so as not to drive them.

I think this is what the Apostle Paul is saying here, do not exasperate your children. You know, the word in the Greek original is, do not lead them into this orgy. There’s an element of orgy in the sense of paroxysms of anger. Don’t drive your children to that point when they become angry at you, they become resentful at you.

Now, it doesn’t mean that we won’t correct our children. It doesn’t mean that we won’t discipline them, because it talks here about that as well. You know, it talks about instructing them and about training them. The with training, by the way, is paideia, which is the word where the word pedagogy and pedagogical come from, that referrer to teaching, paideai is training systematically. Paideia is the way a philosopher would take a disciple for example, and train him in all the different disciplines and it has this idea of consistency, of teaching your children day by day, instructing them carefully, systematically, consistently, on and on and on.

And so, this is the way we should treat our children and that means that sometimes here we have to discipline our children, sometimes we have to confront them, sometimes we have to say, you can’t do that and sometimes even, our children say, why can’t I do it? And sometimes it is right for a parent to say, because I say so. Because I think we have to teach our children also to obey us. I mean, we have to break the natural rebelliousness in a child. But when it is at all possible we should also reason with our children and we should teach them why you got to do this and so on, but then there’s a point when you have to say no, you just do it because I’m your parent and you have to learn to respect me.

But as much as we can, we should deal with our children in such a way that we do not lead them to desperation, that we do not harm their soul, that we do not lead them into a position of having to do something that a child should never do, which is to turn against his parent and retain a sense of offense.

Now, let me say something about that as well. If any of us is in a position where our parents have hurt us, offended us, mistreated us and distorted that godly relationship that we should have them and they with us, you know, again, recognize that you are in a position of disadvantage and you’re also in a delicate position that I’m not sure how to resolve that, because I think many parents are so abusive that sometimes it’s better for the children to keep their distance. But at the same time, I do want us to understand that it’s not the ideal position to be in. It’s not a good position to be in.

I think with our parents we should always seek reconciliation, we should always seek to forgive our parents, even when our parents have offended us and done great harm to us. You know, for some reason, these are the mysteries of the universe that when we are in rebelliousness against authority, against God-constituted authority, as I say, you know, we are all of a sudden we’re standing on our head. I mean, you may have a right to stand on your head but, man, it’s a bad position to be in. The body was not built to be standing on its head and so you are wearing down your body.

And I think that when you are in a state of rebelliousness against your parents you are wearing down some parts of your emotions. And I think it is in your own interest, you know, like in any case with forgiveness. We should forgive not necessarily for the benefit of the one that we are forgiving, but for our benefit because when we retain any kind of resentment in our soul, it’s like driving…. You know you can burn the clutch in a car if it’s a standard car, many of you who don’t drive standard cars don’t know what I’m talking about, but you can burn the clutch in your car by simply, without realizing keeping the clutch pressed while you are accelerating just a tiny, tiny little bit. That little bit wears it out slowly. I think our emotions, you know, when we have resentment, I think what happens our emotions are like always running, we’re always expending a little bit of energy, we’re bleeding emotionally, just a tiny little bit because we’re retaining this sense of anger that is unresolved and so it’s like a woman with the flow of blood. Even though it’s just a couple of drops, here and there, you are anemic because you’re losing blood, and in that same way, when we retain resentment we are losing emotional and spiritual energy, we’re bleeding it, drop by drop.

And so the best thing is to forgive. Forgive. You’re not forgiving, by forgiving you’re not validating what they have done, understand. You’re not saying, what you did to me is right, but what you are doing by forgiving is simply releasing them.

You know that the word forgive has in the Greek original this idea of opening the door to a cell, releasing like a captive. Many times when we hold resentment towards people, we’re keeping them in a cell. As I said before, we open a little door in the cell, we give them a little piece of hard bread and some rancid water through there and we close the cell again. And we keep them there for years and years languishing and God says, forgive, open the door. Let them go.

At all possible, if you have been offended by a parent, if you have been lead to rebelliousness, forgive. Resolve that. It doesn’t mean, again, that you have to be chummy with them, it doesn’t mean that you have to relate to them as if nothing had happened, because we don’t get amnesia from God when we forgive, but it means that, you know, I’m not going to hold this against you any more. I’m going to let it go and I’m going to go on with my life, and if at all possible try to bless that parent, because sometimes in releasing them you release them also maybe to come into the kingdom. Because holding resentment towards someone is almost like having a curse upon their life. You are cursing them indirectly and sometimes that curse can withhold the blessing of God in that individual.

When we release them, when we bless them they may repent and God may be able to speak to them and bring them back into an understanding of what they have done. So, it’s a very powerful thing and really you are healed. You are healed because you know, when we have resentment against our parents, as I say, it’s one of the most harmful things that can happen to a human being. We are doing something that no human being should have to do. So, again, you see both of us need to have balance.

The other thing is this, by the way, you know, I see so much critical attitude from the particular of young people particularly in our modern world toward their parents. There’s a lot of critical attitude. I mean, understand this, young adults and even older types, in this modern world we have been given some very powerful critical fools that I don’t think that any other generation has had the privilege of having: television, the Internet, the highly developed level of the intellect in our culture, and all these different things have enabled us to see so much…. We don’t realize what a highly developed culture we are intellectually in the XXI century. I mean, our critical powers are very high, higher than most generations before us, because of the way. You know, how much psychology we read even in little magazines, silly magazines, in People magazine or whatever? There’s all kind of psychology being taught to us and in school. So that we have this capacity, we don’t realize it, to see through people, to criticize the motives of people. In this world we are like that, and so children are able to see through their parents more than ever before. And we, parents, are very fragile in that state because we have highly critical minds looking at us and focusing with their cannons, their analytical eyes and seeing all our mistakes and they’ve been given the critical tools to do that by this society that loves to deconstruct authority.

So, what I ask you as believers and as Christians to do, is to take a dose of innocence daily, in order to counteract the skeptical attitude of this culture and try to every once in a while, put a little bit of son tint into your glasses, so you can see your parents with a little bit less light, you know what I mean? Make it for the benefit.

Here’s a story, and I’m going to just leave it here. I’ll deal with the other one. That’s the problem, when you get to these things you get bogged down because they’re profound, they’re deep. I want to go into the other stuff, but I won’t complicate matters, I’ll just leave it here.

Look at the story of …… Noah and his children, you may go back. You may remember Noah as the guy who built the arch, but we don’t remember sometimes of Noah, a little story that I think it’s one of the most revealing stories in the Bible. Noah, this man of God, one day got drunk. I guess he didn’t realize that that merlot that he was drinking was stronger than he thought and you know, he just got really happy, and he enjoyed it, ‘hmmm, this tastes really good’, and before he knew it he was dead drunk, I mean, he was so drunk that he took all his clothes off and he was laying naked there on the ground. He was drunk like a skunk. I don’t know if a skunk gets drunk but it rhymes. So there’s Noah on the floor totally naked, has lost completely his dignity and here comes one of his sons, who happens to be walking by and sees dear old dad thrown on the floor, totally naked and gone. He thinks it’s the funniest thing in the world, so he goes back to his two other brothers. This guy’s name was Cam, at least in Spanish, I don’t know how to say it in English. Yes, so it’s Shem, Cam and Jafet or something like that, but anyway, Cam goes back and he says, ‘hey, guys, you should see dad. This is incredible. Let’s get a picture of him’. You know, he calls them and brings them over to see poor old dad on the floor drunk and naked. And this is what he says, you know, Shem, one of the three sons, instead of thinking this was a funny thing, he was struck in his heart. I mean, he couldn’t ….. the idea of seeing his father in his nakedness and his humiliation. So what Shem did was so graphically about honoring. He took his father’s clothes and he walked backwards with his clothes so that he wouldn’t see his father’s nakedness and he threw the clothes on his father before turning to see him in order to protect his father’s dignity.

Now, when Noah was through with his headache the next day, and I guess he found out what had happened, he cursed Cam. He said, since you did this, I mean, don’t get any ideas when you get children about cursing them and so on and so forth, but that’s what he did, he cursed him and that kind of society was a very serious thing what he had done so he cursed Cam. By the way, and he blessed Shem. Now, here’s an interesting little thing, throughout history Cam gave birth to the Canaanites, these were the tribes, he was the ancestor of the Canaanites, these were the tribes that the Lord destroyed later on in all the area of Canaan because they became so spiritually corrupt that God couldn’t do anything for them any more and he threw them out of Canaan and gave that land to the Israelites. Do you remember? And who did the Israelites come from? You know the Jews are Semites, you’ve heard of Semites, Shem, Sem, Semites, they were the descendants of that young man who decided to walk backwards and defend his father’s dignity.

And so there’s a story here, guys, you see, this is why that commandment and what the Apostle Paul says is that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth. You see, when you honor authority, when you honor las canas, the white hair, when you have this natural reverence toward authority and towards age, there is something… the blessing of God is upon your life in some very mysterious way.

That blessing follows you. It talks about long life that it may go well with you, that there’s a mystery there. Would you believe that or not? I mean, that young person, as you honor authority, as you honor your elders, as you honor your parents. And honor means, by the way, we won’t even get into that, it means to actively bless, respect, show dignity, acknowledge the dignity of a person, prefer, express preference, serve with gusto. That’s what honor is.

When you honor your elders and your parents actively there’s a blessing on your life, there’s a blessing that will go with you as you walk in life and will follow you, just as it followed Shem. And by comparison when you rebel, when you have a natural rebellious spirit, that’s why I’m so concerned sometimes about some of the young people in my congregation here, because I see that there is this growing sense of irreverence and disrespect, many times even among Christians. And you know, it’s something that we should not tolerate and we should tell our children, when you have, for example, young adults who are here and so on, you know, this is a very serious thing that we are dealing with here. It means about the blessing or the curse of God. It means about prosperity or hard ache for the rest of their life. So, it is a very serious thing, and this thing of respecting your parents, again, it’s not about just parents, it’s about authority as a whole and so we should, as believers, there is no place for a naturally rebellious attitude in us. Let us always reject any kind of rebelliousness against authority, when we do that, we fall under the judgment of God, very serious.

So this is the word of the Lord. I’ll leave you with Romans, chapter 13, verse 2, it says:

“Consequently he who rebels to authority is rebelling against what God has instituted and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.”

And then it says in verse 7 of Romans 13, “… give everyone what you owe him. If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor”

You see, that’s where it comes down to. the Apostle Paul in Romans 13 started speaking about respecting policeman and tax collectors and he ends up saying, hey, you know what, guys? It’s not about just one particular position, it’s about respecting authority, the principle of authority. Do not owe anyone what you have to pay then, whether it’s money, whether it’s respect, whether it’s honor, whatever it is, make sure that you give it to that person. Always relate to people according to that.

If a policeman stops you, you know, honor the badge that he wears. If your pastor disciplines you, or teaches you something, not because I’m a pastor, but honor that. If your parent gives you an instruction, even when you’re 30, 40 or 50, honor the authority of your father or yor mother and do it in the Lord.

I’m going to resist going back from my sermon right here, but he speaks about doing it in the Lord. Go back and you’ll see that expression there in the passage that I read in Ephesians, chapter 6, ….in the Lord. Because many times you know, I don’t really want to respect a certain authority, a certain figure, a certain person but I’ve learned that I have to do it because I’m a soldier and I am under the word of God. I have to respect the word of God and this is a mystery. There’s a principles which is one of the most powerful governing principles of the universe.

So, I submit to the Lord and as I submit to the Lord then I submit to authority and I am blessed, and I am prospered mysteriously. It goes well with me, and who knows I maybe have a long life. That’s another mystery, we can’t get into it, but let us respect authority and let us use authority appropriately as well in the spirit of Christ. Amen.