Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you. (Exodus 20:12)
Honor... wow. Coming from a home that has had to endure the after effects of an abusive step father, this command continues to be a very prickly and personal topic for me. Sure, it would have been easier if God had instructed His people to honor parents who clearly displayed a sincere goodness, kindness, and love toward their children. But God did not put any restriction around parental character when He gave this command. No, He merely tells us... ALL OF US... to honor! No matter who our parents are... no matter what they have said or done, we must honor them. Wow. That's hard.
Since starting this series, the fifth commandment has been the one I have prayed over the most. Not because I don't "get it", but because it still hits home and makes me squirm to accept. However, in His grace, the Lord keeps bringing me back to three simple truths about honoring one's parents. (1) You cannot honor someone without love. (2) You cannot honor someone without forgiveness. (3) You cannot honor someone without God actively present in your life.
A child's spirit may easily be broken due to parental neglect, legalism, absence, ridicule, physical betrayal or worse. With so many forms of abuse, one must question how God could expect honor to be accomplished in such horrible situations? Even if a child is fortunate enough to be removed from an unhealthy parental situation... even if they now are living a "normal" life... it seems that nothing can remove the stains of damage or the accepted belief systems that were once implanted into their minds by the person(s) responsible for their care. So, how could this child honor? It seems impossible!
Fortunately, nothing is impossible with God.
Christians are told in scripture to love their enemies... to turn their cheek when they are wronged... to show the same care to others as they would wish for their own selves. As challenging as this concept may be to follow in the general sense, it doesn't seem as difficult when the "enemy" is a random acquaintance or stranger in your life. But when it comes down to your parents - the folks holding the keys to your own upbringing... hmmmm... it is not so easy. That complicates things... that steps it up a notch... that changes the level of intimacy in loving those who do not seek our best interest. I can attest to this first hand. For it is difficult to be able to look into the eyes of an abusive or irresponsible parent and still choose to honor them. Whenever a parent has crossed over the sacred line of correct, biblical care for their child, it is not so simple to turn a cheek and express love and forgiveness. But that is precisely what God has told us to do.
As with all other commands, our Heavenly Father gave us commandment #5 of "the ten" for our ultimate good. If we truly desire to obey and follow His ways, no matter how impossible they may seem, we must trust that God will help us learn to do so. He will give us His heart so that we may honor those who have acted dishonorably against us. For when it comes to sin, we really are no better than anyone else. Who of us can throw the first stone? We all have acted dishonorably at one point or another in our lives. But God still decided to forgive us, to love us, and to honor us above Himself by sending Jesus to die on our behalf and take on the punishment for our sin. Jesus is the answer. He is the only One who can change our attitudes and mend our damaged relationships and broken hearts. He is the key to living freely in love. In Him, we have that hope.
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11)
"The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed." (Luke 4:18)
Honoring your parents is the decision to follow Christ's example to always be respectful in word and action while maintaining an inward attitude of esteem for their position. It is giving respect not only for merit, but also for rank. For example, you may disagree with the decisions made by those in power over your government, but you should still respect their position and pray for them as leaders of your country. Similarly, children of all ages should honor their parents, regardless of whether or not their parents have led, provided or treated them well. Honor is not a reward for good behavior. It is more a respect toward position and authority coupled with God's love for mankind.
It is interesting that this commandment is the first command that actually offers a promised reward: long life in God's fullness. God has promised to bless those who honor their parents. I don't know about you, but I want God's blessings! Even if we are no longer living directly under parental authority, we cannot outgrow this command and we should always seek it's reward. It is a lifelong commitment - something we must bring to God daily. We should seek to honor our parents in much the same way that we strive to bring glory to God - in our thoughts, words, and actions.
Please understand, by no means does this include following ungodly parents into sin. If a parent expects a child to do something that contradicts God’s word, the child must obey God over his parents. For in the end, parents are people. And people are tainted with sin. All people need God to live righteously. If a person deliberatly chooses to go against God, we must be very cautious to keep regular company with them. That said, we can still choose to honor their position from afar and pray for the Holy Spirit to soften their hearts to seek His holiness. Our first and most important relationship objective is to seek and follow our Almighty Heavenly Father. He is the ideal, perfect parent and should forever receive our highest honor and praise. For backslidden or unbelieving earthly parents, we must trust God to work in their hearts all the while praying for their salvation, revival, and redemption in Jesus name. Honoring is not easy, is not always fun, and it certainly is not possible to achieve within our own strength. However, honoring our father and mother will lead us down the correct path as it glorifies and pleases our Master.
“Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.” (Colossians 3:20)
For those who have suffered a painful childhood as I did in my teenage years, I give you this encouragement... with God ALL things are possible! With God, you can forgive, love and honor in Jesus name!
"Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God." (Mark 10:27).
Bitterness, resentment, hate and mistrust are all forms of spiritual poison that Satan wants us to digest. He wants our souls soured to hinder us from moving closer into the court of our Redeemer. We must pray past the enemy's tricks and submit to Jesus any insecurity or dissatisfaction we hold toward ungodly parents. He is able to change the hearts of men. We must trust that our Savior is able and willing to teach us how to love and forgive all parental... all human failings. We must trust that He will work in our lives and bring us into His glory.
One last thought... the commandment to honor our father and mother not only applies to parents who are alive today, but also to parents who have passed on. Also, it applies to individuals as well as nations. We would be wise to honor the biblical objectives of our deceased parents, grandparents, forefathers and the legacies offered by the great Christian leaders of our faith.
"Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith." (Hebrews 13:7)
Ladies, God commands us to honor our parents to prevent us from holding ourselves back with the sin of unforgiveness and selfishness. He desires for us to receive His true joy through the Holy Spirit and the fullness He has prepared for our lives. To move closer to The Anointed, we must openly express our human viewpoints to God in prayer every day. He wants us to freely come to Him and share our emotional dissatisfaction and uncertainties regarding those who were entrusted to love and nurture us as children. From there, we must learn to trust God's word and adopt His love, compassion, and mercy toward others. We must strive to mirror His holiness by following His example to forgive, love, and honor those put in a position of authority over us.
Our Eternal Father is faithful. He will light our path. He will bring us to His green pasture and restore our soul. Believe in His power to redeem, ladies. Obey His commands. Forgive, love, and honor your parents. He will bless you for it.
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