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  • Chad Werkhoven

Ephesians 6:1-9 - Non-Toxic Submission

Learn how to deal with the toxic people in your life.

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Read Ephesians 6:1-9

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Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 104

Q. What is God’s will for you

in the fifth commandment?

A. That I honor, love, and be loyal to

my father and mother

and all those in authority over me;

that I obey and submit to them,

as is proper,

when they correct and punish me;

and also that I be patient

with their failings—

for through them God chooses

to rule us.



In general, we're accustomed to the New Testament reducing the burden of the law upon those of us who are in Christ. After all, Jesus met "the righteous requirement of the law" on our behalf and so "set us free from the law (Romans 8:2-4)." In looking through all of the strange requirements in the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible), it's relieving to know that most of the instructions we read were meant to make Israel look separate and distinct from the people around her (the definition of holiness), and are not ongoing expectations for people made holy in Christ.

But here, near the end of Paul's letter to the Ephesians, Paul does the opposite of what we've come to expect. Just like Jesus before him did in the Sermon on the Mount, Paul expands the implications of Old Testament law rather than restrict it.

Not only must you honor (give weight to) your parents, you must honor all those in authority over you! Even slaves must respect their masters (most people were slaves of some sort in the first century, so the relationship is akin to our modern relationship between employee and employer). And the respect you show to those you work for must be sincere, not just the plastic smile you put on when you're being watched!

This new understanding of the fifth commandment doesn't just have implications for children and employees! Those who have been given authority - fathers and masters (bosses/supervisors) - have even greater responsibility: Fathers must nourish their children in such a way they come to know the Lord and employers must honor God, who is Master over all.

Dig Deeper

Let's face it. Some people are way easier to honor than others. Some people treat you so well that honoring them is just a natural reaction. Wouldn't it be awesome if all your relationships were modeled after the fifth commandment and Ephesians 6?

But they're not.

It's so easy to let toxic people make you miserable. Sure, it's best to avoid toxic relationships whenever you can, but ultimately you're going to have to deal with people who drag you down, whether you work for them or they work for you (or whether you call them mom or dad, or they call you that).

So hold tightly to the Holy Spirit's instruction in v7 and "serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people." It isn't easy to look past the miserable immediate situation and instead see the Lord, who seems all the more invisible in times like this, but it's worth it, because "the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do," no matter what role you play in the relationship!

  • ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: Our Father, who defines goodness in His law and then rewards us for doing good;

  • ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Pray for the strength and patience to submit to those in authority over you, even when it seems impossible, and to nurture those you're responsible for;



Read the New Testament in a year, a chapter a day - Titus 2


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