A sermon on  Epesians 5 v. 22 – 6 v.4 , first published in the Baptist Times on Thursday May 6th 2010

Sermon outline

 When atheist author Douglas Adams described Christianity as ‘one man being nailed to a tree for saying how great it would be to be nice to people for a change’, he tapped into a popular perception of the Christian church.  We are seen as nice, harmless, largely truthful and contributors to a stable society.  Statistics, however, do not bear that perception out.  If the church is meant to be influencing society and relationships for good, it is failing.  In order to transform relationships there are things we must do.

 For a start, we must abide by the example of Jesus.  His love is shown over the long term, with all humility, fully cognisant of the costs and always favouring the welfare of the other.  As one commentator put it ‘he loved the church not because it was perfectly lovable, but in order to make it so’.  In order to transform relationships we must abide by the worked example of Jesus.

 We must also abide by the word of God.  Instead of softening the Old Testament requirement for children to ‘honour their parents’, Paul makes it far less ambiguous by saying that they should ‘obey’ them in v.1.  This might seem like a bald statement, but one of the transformations Christianity must bring to many relationships is a demonstration that God’s instructions are worth obeying, no matter how puzzling or counter-cultural they might seem.

Scriptural questions

  •  Much of Pauls’ advice about relationships within marriage and family could have come straight from the pen of any contemporary philosopher.  The difference lies entirely in the motivation for the way we behave.


  •  Fathers are told not to exasperate their children, whilst on the positive side they are to give them ‘training and instruction – a phrase used to describe rabbis and their students.

 Current questions

  •  How should we interpret the submission of wives to husbands, and does the relationship of the church to Christ give us any pointers?


  • Does v.3 imply that our failure to experience long life and wellbeing arises from a disobedience to God’s commands, or would that be taking it too far?

 ‘In the run up to the general election, every major political player has claimed to set great store by the family.  The battle for the soul of the British family, though, will not be won in parliament but around the kitchen table.’