Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Ask the Pastor: How do the Ten Commandments Apply Today? Part 5



 
 Honor your Father and Mother
 
            Not many Christians debate the validity of the fifth commandment, especially since Paul reaffirms it in Ephesians chapter six. The question that arises in debate is, “how do we do this?” Believe me- inquiring minds want to know, especially since this is, as Paul puts it, “the first command with promise.” In Ephesians six, Paul slightly modifies the promise contained in the Old Testament to a promise of a long and blessed life. Now, who doesn’t want that? So, let’s talk about honor.

            The nature of the command. There is something very interesting in looking at this commandment, or I guess we should say that there is something very interesting missing from the command: qualifications. Yes, in a world of loopholes, qualifying statements, and plausible deniability, we find a timeless command with no qualifications placed on it. We are to honor our parents…..period. 

Are all parents worthy of honor? No. In fact, some parents are despicable, abusive, violent, molesters, and disgusting examples of what God intended parents to be. And yet we are to honor them. How exactly, do we do that? The word “honor” carries the idea of “lifting up” or “giving a high place to.” This is what we do with the people who occupy the role of parents in our lives. For as long as they live, we are to “hold them up” or honor them. We will look at specific responsibilities in a minute, but let’s further address those parents who are “dishonorable.” 

Sin is nasty and devastating, and can leave scars on children who grow up seeing it expressed in one of its more debilitating forms. If that was your home situation, please understand that I am in no way suggesting that you submit yourself to any form of abuse or harm. However, there is a two step process of showing honor to parents who are not deserving of it. First, you must forgive. Even though that parent may reject your forgiveness (and therefore not be reconciled with you), you must in effect release your right to retribution before God. Many people confuse forgiveness and reconciliation. You can forgive your parents, but reconciliation does not happen until they repent and accept that forgiveness. Second, you seek to show honor to them in whatever ways you can. For one woman, this is simply sending her mother flowers on Mother’s Day. For others, it might be maintaining the best possible relationship without exposing yourself and your current family (spouse, children, etc) to ungodly behavior. In all situations it means not slandering your parents or taking every possible opportunity to make sure everyone knows what kind of home you grew up in. This kind of behavior usually comes from sinful motivations, and is not honoring.

            The role of the parents. Parents, did you know that you play a huge role in how your children will later respond to you? Our society is falling apart, largely because the American family is falling apart. There is little respect for authority anymore, and that starts in the home with the parents. Parents, you MUST teach your children how to honor you, and use that as a model for honoring all legitimate authority in their lives! I see this frequently in sports teams, workplaces, and churches: children who are not disciplined and taught to honor their parents do not show proper honor and respect for outside authority, and do not honor their parents when they are grown. This must change! We as parents need to constantly, consistently, and lovingly (NEVER out of anger) discipline our kids and teach them the proper role of authority figures in their lives. The words of their teachers, coaches, pastors (and so on) should be law providing they are not contrary to scriptural or parental teaching. This is an area that requires a great deal of time and effort, but we must make that commitment if our families, churches and nation are to thrive and grow!

            The role of the young child. For young children in the home, your role is pretty straightforward: obey your parents with a proper attitude. You may disagree with them (especially you teens!!!), and you may think that their rules are dumb. Guess what, God did not ordain the child as the arbiter of valid and invalid rules! He simply expects you to say “yes mom” or “yes dad” and follow with an attitude that is honoring to Him! No one says you have to have the same rules and guidelines in your own family that your parents had in theirs! But, if you sow dishonor while under your parent’s authority, you will reap it in your own life.  Now, as in all situations, I am never advocating the abuse of children. If a situation is truly abusive, then steps need to be taken to remedy the situation, whether the solution is legal charges or simply removal from the home.

            The role of the older child. Every child eventually transitions from under the authority of their parents into a role of starting his own family unit, but still honoring the parents. The time that this happens is a little different for each person. Definitely, once a young person moves out of the home, he or she is on his own and must learn to make his own decisions. If a young man or woman lives with his parents for a period of time in young adulthood, it is important that parents help them transition in their relationship. There will always be guidelines that must be followed under the parents’ roof, but the relationship must mature from complete obedience to more of a mentorship type situation. From that time on, the command to honor takes on a different appearance. Things like seeking wisdom and advice from parents, making sure their needs are met, watching out for them, and making sure they play an active role in the lives of their grandkids are all ways that we honor our parents. 

The question arises, what about when they are elderly? I believe that the decision about care for an elderly parent must be made carefully, prayerfully, and with all possible information handy. Those who put their parents in a nursing home because they would be too much of an inconvenience are not showing honor to their parents. Instead, the medical needs of the parent should be assessed, as well as their desires and level of functionality. Their safety must be taken into consideration. If the decision is made to put the parent in a facility, care should be taken that the parent is not neglected, and is made to feel as much as possible part of family life. Having a wife who has worked in an assisted living situation, I can testify that institutional care can be a huge blessing to a family in the right situation. When a parent is receiving all their medical care and daily maintenance, the children are free to take mom or dad out for family events, dinners and such, without the stress of performing medical treatments and functions at home. This helps them to do more as a family and make mom or dads remaining years good ones. The opposite can also be true. Mom or dad is left as an afterthought in a home without visitors or phone calls. This must be avoided. 


            A final thought. The fifth commandment is unique. It contains something that no other commandment does: an ending point. It only applies during the lives of your parents. That places extra importance on it for genuine believers who may not be honoring their parents like they should. If this is the case, repent, seek their forgiveness, and make the most of the time you have remaining! If your parents are passed away and you have major regrets, seek the Lord’s forgiveness, and move on! There is never a good reason for a true believer who has sought forgiveness for sin to live in guilt from that sin! Let’s seek to honor our imperfect parents as we hope that our children will one day honor their imperfect parents!



I’d love to interact on this subject or any others through this blog (by leaving a comment below) or my email: pastorbrian@hughes.net. God Bless!!!

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