“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother,’ which is the first commandment with promise: ‘that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.’ And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord. Bondservants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ; not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, with goodwill doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men, knowing that whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free. And you, masters, do the same things to them, giving up threatening, knowing that your own Master also is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him.”
Yesterday, Myung-bak Lee was elected as the 17th President of South Korea. Regardless of the election outcome, we all hope and pray that God would hold the incoming president steadfast and watch over him so that he would provide a good leadership in all the affairs of the nation, from the military to the economy, diplomacy, and cultural policies. We should pray for the leaders of our country because national stability and prosperity directly influence our gospel-preaching ministry.
Earlier in Ephesians chapter 5, we saw how the Apostle Paul admonished every married couple to serve one another, and we also learned that the spiritual meaning of this admonishment is that God’s Church ought to submit to Christ.
Today’s Scripture passage is drawn from Ephesians 6:1-9, and Paul said here in verses 1-3, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother,’ which is the first commandment with promise: ‘that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.’”
This passage implies that neither any father nor any mother would misguide his or her own children to go astray. Spiritually speaking, the Apostle Paul was addressing our relationship with our predecessors of faith, saying that we should obey them so long as their guidance is congruent to our faith in the righteousness of God. We ought to obey our predecessors of faith in the Church according to the commandment that says, “Obey your parents in the Lord.” If we were otherwise to disobey our predecessors of faith rather than obeying them, then we would be standing against the righteousness of God in disobedience.
Paul said in today’s Scripture passage that it is right for us to honor our parents in the Lord. Spiritually speaking, this means that we must follow our predecessors of faith guiding us and learn from them. If we obey and learn from our predecessors of faith guiding us in God’s Church, then we will prosper on this earth.
It Is Right for Us to Follow Our Parents of Faith Who Believe in the Righteousness of the Lord
If your father and mother believe in God’s righteousness and obey Him, then it’s only right for you to obey your parents. As long as your parents believe in the righteousness of God, then the right thing to do is to follow their guidance. So, if your parents are righteous, then you should believe that it’s God’s will for you to wholeheartedly obey them and follow their guidance, and you should walk accordingly. You should trust that this is how Christ is guiding you. The Lord said that you will then flourish on this earth also and everything else will be taken care of.
There is no spiritual parent who wants any children to go astray. Far from it, all spiritual parents guide their children so that they would all prosper. However, parents who have not been born again cannot provide a good spiritual guidance to God’s children. That’s because even though they may care deeply about their children’s earthly welfare, when it comes to spiritual matters, they may actually lead them to a path of destruction.
That is why the Apostle Paul told us to obey our parents in the Lord. This means that our obedience to our parents is contingent on whether or not their guidance is congruent to our faith in the righteousness of God. Although all of us ought to honor our parents, we shouldn’t obey them unconditionally, for if we do so without giving any heed to the righteousness of God, we would go astray on the path of destruction and end up turning into Satan’s servants. Therefore, the right thing for us to do is to serve the righteousness of the Lord in unity with our spiritual parents and predecessors of faith.
Recently in Korea, an oil tanker collided with a crane ship on the west coast, and massive amounts of crude oil were spilled into the sea as a result. Countless volunteers are still working hard to clean up the oil that’s spread all along that coastline. The environmental damage is so severe that it’s doubtful that a full recovery could be made even after many years have gone by.
Although a new president was elected today in Korea, there still is a serving president right now. Although the current president’s term is about to expire, he ought to take command over this crisis and instruct his cabinet ministers to take appropriate measures to confront the crisis as soon as possible. And the cabinet members should move quickly according to the president’s instructions.
The same principle applies to God’s Church. If all the members of the Church obey their spiritual leaders’ instruction as Christ’ own order, then every problem will be easily resolved. But what would happen if the chain of command is broken? The Church would face many difficulties in all its endeavors.
All of Us Abiding in God’s Church Are the Soldiers of Christ
When you look at your predecessors of faith, you should see their spiritual strengths even if they don’t seem to have much to admire in worldly terms. It’s very important for you to see the good side of your predecessors of faith and leniently bear with their weaknesses with Christ’s love. As long as your church leaders are the people of Christ and they are giving you instructions to serve the gospel of the water and the Spirit, you ought to obey these instructions as the Lord’s own instructions. It’s to your own blessing to obey your predecessors of faith as you would obey Christ. This is the right thing to do.
The problem, however, is that few people actually think like this and live by faith accordingly. There are not that many saints who treat their predecessors of faith as their rightful spiritual leaders. Most people just approach them in fleshly terms rather than spiritual terms, regarding them as no different from anyone else. Whenever I deal with you, I can never to be rude to you because I treat you as God’s servants. It’s true that sometimes I find myself rebuking you and steering your direction even when this hurts your feelings and pains your heart, but I do this only for the sake of God’s work in order to guide you to the right path, never have I had any personal animosity towards you or any desire to make your life harder. It’s simply inconceivable for me to try to domineer over you in any shape or form. For the predecessor of faith, it’s their duty to nurture those whose faith is still young so that these followers would also be able to serve the Lord’s righteousness. This is the right thing to do for every church leader.
We are now preaching the gospel of the water and the Spirit all over the world. Until recently, visitors to our website could order only up to two books for the first time, and if they wanted to order more books, they had to register and get approved as our co-workers. But now we have decided to lift this restriction and allow all visitors with a valid address to order as many books as they want. Many people all around the world have come to believe in the gospel of the water and the Spirit after reading our books. We are also providing web space for our co-workers from all over the world to build their personal homepage, which will enable them to share spiritual fellowship with the other co-workers on-line. These blogs allow our co-workers to post their testimony of salvation, their confession of faith in the gospel of the water and the Spirit, their reviews on our gospel books, or whatever they have in mind to share their blessings with others. Like this, our co-workers will be able to share fellowship with one another on-line through their blogs. As our co-workers believe in the gospel of the water and the Spirit and are serving it together with us, we really ought to cherish them all. It’s only right for us to treat them with respect and honor just as we would treat Christ, and never be rude to any of them.
It’s very important for us to realize from the Word of God that we ought to respect and cherish all who share our faith and are serving the gospel together with us, and to conduct ourselves accordingly. Of course, there are times when I find myself rebuking my fellow ministers working together with me to spread the gospel. But I do this only when they are heading in the wrong direction and what they are trying to do is not beneficial to our gospel ministry. If I sometimes seem too bossy, it’s only because there is so much work that needs to be done to spread the gospel of the water and the Spirit all over the world, and I have to provide the right leadership to guide our gospel ministry. That’s why I have to interject myself from time to time and appear as though I am ordering you around obstinately.
The problem, however, is that some members, even though they understand the rational behind my instructions, are reluctant to follow my leadership as they are too skeptical that they can reach the goals that I set out for them. It’s true that of the many things that the Church does to serve the gospel, some plans in fact do not work out. Even a leader can make mistakes. But we can all learn from such trials and errors and adjust accordingly to accomplish our goals. Even though this may be hard on us, God’s work will be achieved in the end—that is, the gospel of the water and the Spirit will be preached vigorously only if all of us are united together in our common endeavor to preach this true gospel to every corner of the world.
Do Not Provoke God’s Children to Wrath
To understand what I mean by this, let’s turn to Ephesians 6:4 here: “And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.” If you are a church leader, it is fine for you to issue instructions to further serve God’s work, but when your followers do not understand your instruction, you ought to teach them with the Word of the Lord. The Apostle Paul said here to bring up your spiritual children in the training and admonition of the Lord, and that this is the will of the Lord. So, it’s very important for you to teach and nourish your spiritual children what must be done to fulfill the Lord’s will and how. As a church leader, you should do your best to clearly explain to your spiritual children why they should obey the decisions that you took, and humbly ask them to follow your guidance even if they don’t understand it for now. As a follower, on the other hand, you ought to obey the instructions of your predecessors of faith and consider them as Christ’s own instructions. The tricky part is that because everyone is an emotional being, sometimes even a church leader may let his emotion cloud his judgment to misguide his followers. But remember that our Lord warned us not to allow our emotion to get in our way.
God told us not to provoke His children to wrath. This means that although church leaders may drive their spiritual children hard for God’s work, they should never ask them for anything unless it’s for God’s work, nor vent out frustrations at them in anger for any personal reasons. The Bible clearly says that every predecessor of faith ought to bring up his spiritual children in the training and admonition of the Lord. The spiritual children, in turn, ought to be obedient to their church leaders as they are to Christ, just as the Bible says, “Bondservants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ; not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart” (Ephesians 6:5-6).
All of us should therefore obey our church leaders. Your church leaders also face many difficulties and problems when dealing with you. As they received the remission of sins earlier than you, they have the daunting task of nurturing your faith, nourishing you spiritually, guiding you to receive God’s blessings, and leading you well so that your labor would not be in vain. They have to lead you carefully to make sure that your hard work is indeed in the service of the righteousness of the Lord. Only when every church leader ensures this can you and your fellow saints all over the world be blessed.
Your Church Leaders’ Job Is Not So Easy
It’s not that easy to be a church leader. That’s because every church leader himself must follow the righteousness of the Lord. It’s written in today’s Scripture passage, “And you, masters, do the same things to them, giving up threatening, knowing that your own Master also is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him” (Ephesians 6:9). This passage means that the predecessors of faith themselves must also serve their followers with a sincere heart as unto the Lord, just as their followers must obey their instructions as unto Christ. In short, all the members of the Church must obey the commandments of the Lord regardless of whether they are leaders of followers.
What the Apostle Paul said here in today’s Scripture passage is the Lord’s commandment. That is why it is written in the Bible. God does not look at our outside appearances. Rather, He looks at the center of our hearts to see whether or not we treat each other as we would treat Christ. This is the key message of today’s Scripture passage. What’s our Lord is looking for, in other words, is whether or not we treat our church leaders sincerely as unto Christ, and whether or not the leaders also treat the followers sincerely as unto Christ. That is how all of us should treat one another, nourishing our followers with such a sincere heart, obeying our church leaders with a sincere heart, and living out our faith with a sincere heart.
It’s actually quite difficult for your church leaders to conduct themselves appropriately before you. Some of you are probably thinking, “Well, since Reverend Jong is our leader, he has no one to rebuke him, and so isn’t he better off than the rest of us?” But I am no different from you; just as you have many difficulties, so do I have many hardships. In your eyes I may seem to do nothing but order everyone around, but in reality, whenever I ask you to do any task, I have to consider carefully many different issues and discuss the matter with the staff before making any final decision. As your leader, I have to consider the whole picture before making any decision. And whenever I ask you to do anything, I do so only after weighing up all options thoroughly and evaluating them carefully.
So I admonish you all to realize this and serve both your leaders and followers as you would serve Christ by trusting in the righteousness of God. This is what all of us ought to do. Only then can we really be united together, serve the Lord faithfully, and work together to succeed in our gospel endeavor. If we otherwise let the Church order break down, and work under this condition without respecting our predecessors of faith or cherishing our followers, then all our labor will be rendered in vain.
We are growing shiitake mushrooms at our Discipleship Training Center at Inje, and since this is the first time that we are raising mushrooms, we’ve gone through many trials and errors and made quite a few mistakes along the way. But now that we have built up considerable experience, our skill at raising mushrooms has improved a lot. So we have been enjoying plenty of mushrooms lately. When I first decided to grow shiitake mushrooms, I didn’t think they required that much care, thinking that new mushrooms would simply grow again after harvesting. But I found out that this was not the case. To harvest shiitake mushrooms on a sustainable basis, the log on which they are cultivated has to be laid down and rested for a week once the mushrooms are harvested. I don’t know all the technical details as to why this has to be done, but apparently it’s a required step for new mushrooms to grow.
Aside from mushrooms, we also have some other vegetables growing at Inje Discipleship Training Center. We used to have quite a big farm there in the past, but now we have scaled it down in size. But the farm is still big enough that it produces sufficient harvest to be shared with every minister from our branch churches whenever they get together at the Inje Center. These farm productions are very dear to us all. Vegetables don’t actually cost that much; our ministers can buy them for a few dollars at any grocery store. Ten dollars would get them plenty of vegetables. So, when you consider this, some of you may wonder why I think it’s so dear and important to share half a bag of produce with each of our ministers. But it’s dear to my heart because this produce has been raised by our own hands. Even though our harvest may not be large enough to share in abundance, we still share whatever harvest we get with all the branch churches in Korea. Of course, some branch churches located near the Inje Discipleship Training Center, such as the Chuncheon Church or the Sokcho Church, probably get a larger share just because they are closer to the Center. Since these churches have many workers, their share is understandably larger. But we still do our best to share all the produce with every branch church.
The farm at the Inje Center is dear to our hearts not because of any material gains that we might get out of it, but because we can share organic produce that we have raised with our own labor. It’s the sharing that’s important. Even though our harvest of shiitake mushrooms still remains relatively small, all our saints in every branch church have enjoyed them at least once. Because we’ve raised these mushrooms with our devotion and care, they are all the more dear to us. Personally, I cherish every produce raised at this farm in Inje. Of course, the Inje Discipleship Training Center is not just a farm; it’s frequently used as a gathering place for our ministers and our saints from all across the country. Our ministers need such a place to get together from time to time, whether it’s for work or rest.
Some of you may then think that we could get together at the Chuncheon Church instead of the Inje Discipleship Training Center. We could in fact use the Chuncheon Church as our gathering place sometimes. But it can’t really accommodate all the servants coming from every branch church in Korea all at once. This might have been possible in the past, but it’s no longer feasible now that our number has grown. We need a place that’s big enough to accommodate all our needs. For example, we need a soccer field to relax our bodies and minds from the stress that’s accumulated while serving the gospel of the water and the Spirit. That’s why I love the Discipleship Training Center in Inje so much. It’s a place where we can all get together and share its facilities, a place that was built with our collective contributions. So the Discipleship Training Center in Inje is very dear to me.
Some ministers don’t think that the Inje Discipleship Center is that important. They don’t see any point in investing in the Center, wondering for whose benefit it is. But the answer is obvious: We built the Center for none other than ourselves. You may then say that you only go there twice a year. But regardless of how often our saints and God’s servants get together at the Inje Center, we built it so that all of us would get a chance to relax and get some rest. Getting together like this is very dear to me. Whenever people come to the Inje Center, whether they are ministers or new members who have come to listen to the gospel for the first time, are they not all your family?
Let’s say that your own family members came here to listen to the gospel of the water and the Spirit, but we had to run the gospel class for them in a rundown shanty because we did not have any decent building. Who would go in there to listen to the gospel of the water and the Spirit? In the early 1990s, when we ran the gospel class in a greenhouse covered with a single sheet of vinyl film even in the dead of winter, people still listened to the Word and slept just fine despite the cold. But nowadays, no one would come if we do this. So we need good facilities at the Inje Discipleship Training Center to provide everyone with good accommodations. That’s why the Inje Center is so important. And that’s why we have devoted so much of our hearts to it. Whatever we do, we must put our hearts to it as we would do when serving the Lord.
We are running some businesses to support the gospel ministry, and as this is also a way to serve the gospel of the water and the Spirit, we are devoted to it. To spread the gospel of the water and the Spirit to people all over the world is to serve the Lord, and that’s why we are serving this gospel devoutly with thanksgiving. This is the right thing to do. And we will also be rewarded for this.
So, everything that comes out of the Inje Center is dear to my heart. For this reason, I don’t break up and allot to each branch church what can be done collectively at the Center. Each branch church could easily cultivate a small field to grow and harvest some produce, but we don’t do this. It’s when we come together with one heart to plant the seed together and harvest the crop together that we can truly appreciate the products of our labor. If each of us were instead to cultivate the land individually, who would appreciate the farming that’s done at the Inje Training Center? We wouldn’t appreciate the work that’s done by our brothers and sisters there. And if we thought like this, we would have just put all the workers at the Inje Center on some other gospel work, closed the Center down, and used it only once or twice a year.
That’s why the Inje Discipleship Training Center is so dear to my heart, and that’s why I cherish everything that’s done at that Center. So I have no intention to change the way we run the Inje Center for the good of all of us. Everything ought to be done together in unity, even if some things could be done individually. For instance, we are raising some rabbits at the Inje Center. Children love rabbits. So if a few rabbits were distributed to some of our ministers with kids, their children would be very happy. They would probably be so happy that they would want to keep them in their rooms. But these rabbits are not raised just as pets, although this would be nice. Rather, they are raised at the Inje Center to be shared with all our ministers serving the gospel in each branch church in the country. Should there not be something to do at the Inje Center as well? How wonderful would it be if we could raise even more livestock at the Inje Center and shared them with our ministers?
Like this, whatever we do, we must dedicate our hearts to it in unity for the sake of the Church. Whether we eat or drink, in times of both joy and suffering alike, we must do all things for the glory of God. This is the right thing to do. And this is what the Apostle Paul is teaching us in Ephesians chapter 6.
If you are a follower, you ought to obey your church leaders as you would obey Christ by trusting in God. If you are a leader, you ought to guide your followers in humility so that their faith would grow and they would be blessed in both body and soul. This is how all the saints in the Church should treat one another. Only when each and every one of us does so can the Church grow together as the body of Christ. This is what the Apostle Paul is trying to teach us in Ephesians chapters 5 and 6 by using the relationship between husbands and wives, parents and children, and bondservants and masters to illustrate and explain his message to everyone in the Church. So we must believe in this teaching of the Word and follow it.
We need to look back and examine ourselves to see if we have not been too rude to our followers and hurt their feelings so much that they are unable to live out their faith. Every church leader has the duty to nourish his followers with the correct teachings of the Word and treat them all with love. As a church leader, you have to let your followers know that you love them wholeheartedly, and help them realize that the only reason why you ever rebuke them is because their spirits would perish if you just leave them alone. And as a follower, you have to obey your predecessors of faith with a willing heart. You will then benefit from this, and the will of the Lord will also be fulfilled.
What would happen if a church leader were too imposing to his followers? Some brothers and sisters find me difficult to approach. I guess they are afraid of me. But there is nothing to be afraid about me. If you are just afraid of me, then how could you ever follow me as your leader? You ought to have enough trust and faith in your church leaders. Even though they may sometimes come across to you as imposing, they still love you with all their hearts, they are trying their best to understand you, they are praying tirelessly for you, and they are working day and night to guide you to the right path so that your labor would never be in vain.
So you must trust your church leaders even if you don’t comprehend their instruction fully at first. Only when you obey your spiritual leaders can you carry out God’s work. I hope and pray that God would make all of us into such trusting saints.