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“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12).

It has been said many times that when one considers the Ten Commandments, it is not long before one notices the “geometric” approach taken by the Lord. In other words, the first four commands have a vertical approach to life, that is, in relationship to God, and the last 6 commands are focused on a horizontal approach, that is in relationship to one’s neighbor. Take note how this compares with the words of Jesus in Matthew 22:34-40, when Jesus said the two great commands are to love God with all of one’s being and to love one’s neighbor as one loves (takes care of) self.

The family is the basic community-unit of society. To break it down further, the basic unit of society is the individual, but the single person connects with one of the opposite sex in marriage (not otherwise) and forms the family. The dictionary defines a family as a “group of individuals living under one roof and usually under one head” (dictionary, p. 660). Though not a narrowly defined matter, it is a starting point for a conversation to begin. There are two perspectives to consider when seeking how one should understand the word “family.” First, the perspective of God; second, the perspective of the community as set forth by man. From God’s perspective, the family is established in matrimony. From this family comes children. The following words teaches us where it all begins:

And Jehovah God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof: and the rib, which Jehovah God had taken from the man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And the man said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed (Gen. 2:21-25, ASV).  

With children coming forth from the mother and father, the parents are to instruct their children in God’s way. From the Lord’s perspective, if the children refused to submit the authority of the parents, there was severe punishment forthcoming. From parents comes wisdom that helps the youth to get along in life much better than if they did not have instructions in wisdom. If children are thieves, the Holy Spirit speaks of them as worthless (Proverbs 28:24). The negative qualities that are in children currently (perhaps) and in those who have grown up exist because, in part, parents have failed the children in upbringing. The children will learn if the parents compel it; the children will adjust to the correction if the punishment has meat to it, so to speak. As a parent, you are not your child’s best friend, you’re are a parent, a role of authority and responsibility. Whatever may be said about a “best friend” application in the rearing years of the child, the primary role of a parent is to nurture, teach, and correct so the child will be productive in his/her adult years, but more importantly, so the child will walk in the Lord’s ways. Parents are to be understanding of the children and they are to discipline as required (Proverbs 13:24; 23:13). As much as possible parents should stay away from, “Do as I say, not as I do.”

There is no way a child can honor parents when the chosen life to live is contrary to the guidance of their parents, just like there is no way to honor God when people choose to live life contrary to His holy way.

What it means to honor your parents then? The English word “honor” conveys the idea of respect, deference, esteem and give precedence to them over others. This is best understood by asking the question, “Do we honor the Lord?” We do this not only because of who He is but also on account of His love. To honor one’s parent/parents is to respect, defer, esteem and give precedence to them over others as one would do so to the Lord. Some parent/child relationships are scarred from earlier years, thus there may not be a direct emotional connection between the two. As much as is in you (those struggling with this), honor your parents because you want to please the Lord.

How do you honor someone who d/n deserve it? An admitted difficulty. Perhaps along this line we can make an application. It’s not the particular people and their behavior (past or current), but the fact you have life. To the degree that you can honor parenting, even when your parents failed you, to that degree you might be able to make sense of what should have been done even though it was not. It’s hard to respect and honor people who live in rebellion to God; nevertheless, because of your love and devotion to the Almighty, honor Him and what He says.

How does a person show any love or honor to parents who abandoned him? How does God show love toward one who not only spit on Jesus, but nailed the pegs into His flesh and watched as He writhed in agony?