Ephesians 6 is about submitting to authority. It begins telling us to honor our parents. Other translations use the word obey instead of honor. To obey is to honor our authority figures. After this verse it says those who do this live long upon the earth. Yes, those who submit to authority live longer. They get into less trouble. If children can submit to authority at home they can also do this at school and later on in the workplace and in society as a whole.
This verse doesn’t address what to do if our parents lead us to do illegal things. It doesn’t address situations of abuse. It’s assumed here that the child has good parents. This is a letter to the church who should be made up of believers, followers of Christ. Those who follow Jesus should be good to their children and lead them in the ways of God. No parent is perfect. Our job is to submit to Christ. In doing this we model for our children this command given to them.
There’s a domino effect I see in families. Disobedient parents probably had disobedient parents. What we experienced as a child has an incredible influence over us. This is so powerful that some say we even view God through the lens of our fathers. This is dangerous! If my father was stern I think God is stern. It’s best to consciously recognize this, set it aside and try to see our fathers through the lens of God. This is a whole new outlook on life. It can set us free from the shortcomings of our parents. Or, we can just move along in life and repeat the sins of our parents. We do this without even knowing it’s happening, or we can evaluate with God’s help how we parent. This is hard.
No matter who our parents are we are told to honor and obey, but if a parent is pushing a child towards sin, of course God stands with the child to disobey the parent.
I’m wondering if the commandment here is referring to the Ten Commandments? If so, the first commandment is, “Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.” This is from Mark 12 but quoting Deuteronomy 6. This commandment covers everything. If we can obey this one all else falls into the proper perspective.