“Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.”
When you read the Bible, DO YOU EVER ASK QUESTIONS? I mean, when you read a text that doesn’t make sense or doesn’t seem applicable, do you ask a question or two or thirty? I do and I hope you do too. When I read this passage, this commandment, I ask a few questions:
What does it mean to honor our parents?
Do children honor their parents no matter what?
What happens when parents are clearly wrong?
Does a child ever outgrow this commandment?
These are the kind of questions I bring to this passage.
One of the PROBLEMS WITH SCRIPTURE is that it will often give us a commandment, but it will not necessarily tell us how to apply the directive. We are told to honor our father and mother, but what happens when our parents aren’t honorable?
The way I see it, this passage needs two different forms of application. The FIRST APPLICATION is pretty simple. There are some people who have/had good parents; some have/had really good parents. These kinds of parents are easy to honor.
It is easy to honor parents who love their children.
It is easy to honor parents who selfless.
It is easy to honor Christ-like parents.
If I’m describing your parents, honor them with your love. Show your admiration for them by serving them. Value your parents, by not taking them for granted. You see, this is my story. It is easy to honor my parents. My hope is that I will bring honor to them through my life.
The SECOND APPLICATION is trickier. What if this isn’t your story? What if your parents were never there? What if your parents were anything but the model/ideal parent/role-model? What does honor look like in these situations? What does it mean to honor parents who are not worthy of honor? In cases like these, honor looks quite different.
In these situations, honor is not about emulating your parent’s example as much as it is about changing the way you parent as a result of your upbringing or lack of upbringing. I was talking with a friend whose father was an alcoholic and a jerk and his mother was never around. He was telling me about how difficult it was to hear the commandment: honor your father and mother. He asked me, “How do I honor my parents?” I told him that he is to honor them by changing who he is as a result of his upbringing. I encouraged him to honor them by not being like them.
My own father honored his dad by choosing to be a different husband than his father was. He honored his dad by raising his children differently than he was raised. My grandfather, until a few years before he died, was anything but a model parent or grandfather. His life was consumed by destructive vices that he chose over his family. As a result, he lost everything. When my dad had a family, he knew he wanted something different. In choosing a different path, my father honored his dad. In fact, if my grandpa were still alive today, he would tell you that he was honored that my dad chose a different path.
I AM NOT SURE IN WHICH CAMP YOU RESIDE. I don’t know your upbringing. All I know is that we are called to honor our parents and sometimes that is easy and sometimes that seems almost impossible. My prayer for you is that you would honor your parents one way or the other. If your parents are worthy of honor, honor them. If they are not, change the course and choose a different path for you and your family.
Grace & Peace, Marc