Ministry of Dignity
Father's Day is just around the corner, so I thought I might pay heed to the Hallmark Holiday!
In Ephesians 5:21 through the beginning of chapter 6, we see Paul speaking about submission. It's a beautiful text that challenges us to love one another and value the needs of others before our own.
"Father's, do not exasperate your children," Paul says.
I suppose, centuries ago, the exasperation that took place for children would have been for negligence of proper care and protection. I don't know of any "children's rights advocates" back then. What Paul said here, is, most likely, unheard of in his day. It's the father's in the relationship who had the right to be as harsh as they wanted, I imagine. I'm sure kids got the table scraps after the meal too.
Today, I think children experience a different exasperation. Children are exasperated by the complete lack of boundaries. Exasperated by a lack of a presence of a father, or father-figure in their life. Children are exasperated by an over saturation of media and content to consume.
For wildly different reasons, on basically two ends of the spectrum, we see the need for father still not not exasperate their children.
We've effectively exasperated our children by not wanting to exasperate them.
The point of the scripture isn't that we let our children get away with anything, having whatever they want. The text obviously is opposed to any sort of child neglect and abuse. So, what is the text teaching us, specifically fathers about their relationship with their children?
I draw our attention to the entire passage because I want us to see something that is underlying. That is, the ministry of dignity. Do we bring dignity to those that society says has none? Women/wives, often excluded to the outer margins of importance in Paul's world, suddenly are worth loving as Christ loved the church. Husbands are to love their wives as Jesus loved the church.
That's changing things! And fathers are challenged to care for their children in a new way as well. They bring them dignity and worth.
The more I think about this interpretation, the more I simply reflect on the life and ministry of Jesus. How much of Jesus' ministry was simply about giving dignity back to people who were excluded from society, cast off as sinners, who were best left alone, avoided and ostracized? Jesus speaks with a woman he culturally wasn't supposed to with the woman at the well. Throughout the Gospels we are told that Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners.
Jesus was willing to associate with the lowly, the outcast, the poor and the forgotten of society.
People without any dignity by our measure, Jesus not only talks to them, he eats with them too!
I've tried figuring out each day what it means to seek first God's kingdom. I'm convinced that the most simple form of pursuing the kingdom in application is to say, "How might I bring dignity, value and worth to someone who feels like they don't have any at all?"
That might mean caring for the poor one moment, listening well to someone who never gets listened to, or simply playing with my children letting them know I value them more than the next thing on my list. It varies each day, but every day is a day to show people they are loved by God, are His Children and can have a place in God's Kingdom.
Who in your circle of relationships is a person neglected and viewed as a lesser person?
How can you show them specifically that they are valued by God, loved so much that Jesus gave his life for them?
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Jordan Ickes, Minister of Etna Green Church of Christ.