Ephesians 4-6: Kindness, women, slaves

I beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling.  We cannot be like children, tossed back and forth by people’s trickery, but must grow up to be the body of Christ.  You can no longer live like the Gentiles, who abandon themselves to licentiousness and impurity; you must not hold grudges, steal, engage in bitterness, or talk in a vulgar way.  Instead, imitate God: be kind and forgiving.  Take no part in the works of darkness, but live as children of light.

Wives, be subject to your husbands in everything, since he is your head.  Husbands, love your wives, for you are one flesh.  Children, obey your parents; fathers, bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.  Slaves, obey your masters with fear and trembling; obey with enthusiasm.  Slave masters, do not threaten your slaves.  Be strong in the Lord, take up the armor of God, stand firm. Peace to the whole community.

Commentary: Here, Paul exhorts the Ephesians to obey the norms of the traditional Roman family.  Hence, wives should submit to their husbands, slaves should obey their masters, and in return, the husbands and slave masters should treat their subordinates kindly.  Don’t rock the boat, Paul seems to be saying; our enemies are not Romans.  Paul makes this point explicitly in 6:12:

For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

These evil cosmic powers are the reason that the Ephesians should “take up the whole armor of God” (6:13).

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