Paul’s respect for children as fellow believers (Ephesians 6:1-3) heightens our concern for the ways in which children are treated in our world today. His word to fathers (Ephesians 6:4) invites us to consider parental responsibilities. Applying Paul’s counsel to slaves (Ephesians 6:5-8), and, especially, his counsel to slave masters (Ephesians 6:9), is more challenging, since the social setting is distant for many of us and because we know that slavery, in any form, is one of the greatest of moral evils.
Still, since these words are inspired ones that are part of Scripture, we should ponder how to apply them today. With the believers in Ephesus in the first century, we have the privilege and responsibility of applying the values of the gospel to our relationships. The discussion questions below are designed to foster that important work.
- What does it mean for Adventists that love for children is identified as evidence of “a people prepared for the Lord”? Luke 1:17 (quoting Malachi 4:6).
- Paul’s obvious respect for children suggests a searching question: What is our responsibility to extend the care of Christ to children who have experienced violence, sexual abuse, and shame in their early lives? In view of research on the profound impact of adverse childhood experiences (or ACEs; see https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/), what is our responsibility toward them?
- As an extension of Paul’s respect for children and Jesus’ care for them, what responsibilities does the church have to nurture and protect the children in its care? What systems and procedures need to be in place to do so?
- Paul’s counsel to slaves and slave masters, Ephesians 6:5-9, is often applied to the relationships between employees and employers. In what ways might this be appropriate? What dangers present themselves in doing so?
- Slavery remains a painful reality in our world, with more than 40 million people enslaved (according to “The Global Slavery Index,” http://www.globalslaveryindex[dot]org/). As free people whose spiritual forebears were firmly committed to the abolition of slavery, what are our responsibilities to these enslaved sons and daughters of God as we sing of Christ, “Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother, and in his name all oppression shall cease” (lyrics to “O Holy Night,” public domain)?