28 November 2015

Ephesians 6:1-20

"And, masters, do the same to them. Stop threatening them, for you know that both of you have the same Master in heaven, and with him there is no partiality." (v.9)

Psalm: Psalm 138


How can a passage about relationships between slaves and masters be relevant to us today? Even the instructions for children and parents can seem difficult to apply or inappropriate in many situations.

It may be helpful to remember that this passage was written for a context where households were being challenged by the freedoms of the gospel (good news of Jesus). There are challenges here for Christian slaves of pagan masters and for Christian children of pagan parents that may be very relevant to us in our post Christian world.

While we may now find it difficult that this passage does not explicitly challenge slavery, it was still ground-breaking within the culture of the time. For us today that can be a helpful reminder of the often pragmatic radicalism in Scripture. Rather than being daunted by the challenge for perfection, we can still work for significant change that moves us forward. As much of British society is still based on power and riches from slavery this may be a relevant reminder that we have not yet moved on as much as we like to pretend.

A key challenge to those in power comes from both the section on children/parents and slaves/masters. That is clear in verse 9 above as well as verse 4. This challenge to power is relevant in many other situations such as work and communities, as well as in our homes. Abuse of power and struggles against power are significant causes of conflict. For the gospel to be truly one of reconciliation for our world today it needs to address power issues.

One of the ways the gospel of reconciliation does this is through challenging and overturning power. Even though this is clear in the passage, unfortunately we are often adept at pretending it does not apply to us (as we are not slave owners). However, to do so ignores the ability of the passage to point to ways we have power and to challenge the use of that power. Surely we should be asking the Holy Spirit to heighten our sensitivity to power and free us to wield the power we have more appropriately, as well as to respond effectively to others who have power?

To Ponder

  • In which areas of your life do you feel you have power over others? How do you wield this power?
  • How do you relate to the people around you who have power?
  • How is the passage calling you to change in your use of, and response to, power?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dave Warnock

Dave Warnock is a Methodist minister in the Leicester North Circuit based in Syston, Leicester. He is passionate about lots of things (including Scripture, discipleship, gender/sexual equality, pacifism and cycling) and loves being part of the Methodist people.