The Lord has led a few people in my life who struggle in this area of honouring their parents. Each one has a unique situation and trial with their parents. Are you struggling, teen girl? So many teens disrespect and dishonor their parents today. They have no shame whatsoever and speak unkindly to their parents. I thought it would be helpful if we did a little study on exactly what it means to honour our parents.
No matter what the trial or circumstance is, the Scriptures do not put any “what if’s” on God’s commandment to honour your Mom and Dad. I personally did not have these struggles. But my oldest sister certainly did. For years I was the “bridge” between her and my parents. My sister was not a born-again Christian, but I was. I understood the hardships she suffered as a child at the hand of my father. I understood her contempt for my mother because she felt my mother allowed it. But my sister could not understand it. She was eaten up with bitterness because of it. Both my parents became born again later on in their lives. Both had sought her forgiveness. But because she had never been saved, she did not forgive them. She said she forgave them but she clung to the memories and never forgot! Instead, in her short life, she lost her husband to cancer, she had no children of her own, and she succumbed to cancer in 2001, dying in a hospital room all alone. She alienated herself from the family all those years and finally those final two-three years, she alienated herself from me. I was her only contact with the family but she finally allowed that separation to happen as well. Her best friend told me that my sister hated the fact that I kept witnessing to her about Christ. My sister just could not see her sin. In her eyes she was a good person. A born-again child of God would be humbled that someone cared enough for their soul to continue witnessing to them – they would not be offended or angry. This is what my sister went to the grave thinking and it breaks my heart :'(
One morning, as I sat praying with a dear friend, the Lord revealed to me why I was allowed to be that bridge for my sister. I was allowed the awesome privilege of hearing the harsh truth of what a child goes through when they have been treated badly by their parents. I have seen first hand how the bitterness and contempt ate up my sister to the point she had cancer in her body. I have seen first hand how this bitterness totally consumed her. In my conversations with her, she did not want to hear anything about what she had to do to heal these relationships. All she could think of was what they had to do to heal their relationship with her. Her eyes were focused on self – a very natural thing for a person who is lost. How she resented my parents – she alienated herself from them all in the guise of protecting herself from their manipulations. Her heart and mind were so obsessed, she became consumed with this contempt for them. It came to the point where I tried to talk some sense into her, the contempt spilled over to me. :-(
So, I am sharing with you what the Lord has laid on my heart, teen girl. Hopefully those same people He has led to me will be blessed by what God allowed me to go through. I pray I use it to His glory and honour.
Just what does honour mean in today’s Bible verse? Noah Webster defines it as:
1. To revere; to respect; to treat with deference and submission, and perform relative duties to. Honour thy father and thy mother.
It does not say to love them. I found this interesting. Most of us have a natural affection and love for our parents. But what about those children who have been estranged from their parents for one reason or another? How can they honour their parents if they don’t love them? According to Noah Webster, honouring parents means to:
1. Revere them – To regard with fear mingled with respect and affection
2. Respect them – To view or consider with some degree of reverence; to esteem as possessed of real worth
3. Treat with deference – A yielding in opinion; submission of judgment to the opinion or judgment of another. Hence, regard; respect.
4. Submit to them – the act of yielding to power or authority
5. Perform relative duties to – The acts and tasks children do requested of them by their parents.
Naturally, these actions are a result of loving our parents. However, no where does it say that we must love our parents. We are to obey our parents and honour them. These are the only commandments to children I have found. A child who obeys and honours their parents will love them but a child who has been abused or hurt deeply, it is not natural for them to love at all.
But again, what about the child whose relationship has been damaged or strained with his parents? He can still honour his parents according to Noah Webster, can’t he? He does not have to love them. However, he does have to honour them. If he still lives under their roof, he still needs to obey them. This is what God commands. I found it interesting that a child is never commanded to love his parents.
I believe from the bottom of my heart that a son and daughter who have been hurt deeply by their parents can heal their broken relationships by honouring them the way God intended for them to honour their parents. Taking Noah’s definitions, let’s look at some ways this can be fulfilled by what God has commanded:
1. Revere them – You may not regard your parents with respect and affection but you can regard their “office” with respect and affection. Your Heavenly Father is the ultimate Parent. Revere the office because it is desired of your Heavenly Father. This will please Him. Use His office as the ultimate example and apply it to your parents’ office. The love you have for God should be your driving force in this effort.
2. Respect them – The office of parent is not an easy task. For those reasons alone, this should be enough for you to respect their office. Honouring this office is not a choice but a command, according to Exodus 20:12. Parents deserve respect because of the position they hold, not their actions. When one can look beyond the person and the hurts and focus on the “office” it removes the emotion and personal involvement with the people and places it on the office.
3. Treat with deference – There is nothing more common today than children who have a difference of opinion from those of their parents and they strive to prove their point or make their opinions known no matter what the cost. Just because one disagrees with parents does not mean they have the “right” to “speak their minds” and disrespect them. Deference is a yielding in your opinion to their opinion. It does not mean your opinion changes, it just means that you are not going to argue with your parents because you respect the office they hold. Would you argue with your Pastor? Would you argue with the President of the United States? No! You would respect their office and watch your tongue. You might even keep a few things to yourself for fear of hurting them. That is all part of honouring them. This reminds me of the verse, Proverb 15:1 A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.
4. Submit to them – As long as a child lives under his parents’ roof, he is under their umbrella of authority. Like an umbrella protects one from the rain, the umbrella of authority keeps the child from being accountable in situations. The parents absorb any bad judgments. God will hold the parents responsible for their abuse – for their unwise decisions on behalf of their children. To the child who doesn’t know any better and his parents do him wrong, God’s hand is on him and will keep him through it. But the moment this child steps out from underneath the umbrella of authority in his life and takes control, he is subject to the devil’s trials and tribulations. Not only will the child suffer the consequences of the trial but he will suffer the chastisement of God for not honoring and obeying his parents. Submission keeps things in order. We are not commanded to honour only when parents are good parents. We are not commanded to obey our parents only when they are saved or if they are good parents.
5. Perform relative duties to – Because your parents hold that office, it is the child’s duty to help them – to aid them in their time of need. One of the greatest testimonies I know is a friend of mine. His parents never displayed love toward him. After his salvation, he changed dramatically. His brothers were involved in the sodomite lifestyle and his parents accept them openly. But they do not accept my dear friend and his love for the Lord. They despised his stand on sodomy because it affected their other sons. Does this stop my friend from being kind to his parents and honouring them? Absolutely not. He is usually the one who goes to their house and fixes things, paints, etc. They can always count on him to help them. Today they call him if they have a need because he has honoured them – his testimony has ministered to their hearts. Will he ever be able to lead them to the Lord because of his actions? I don’t know. But what I do know is that even though he is in his 50′s, he is still honouring his parents and doing God proud. :-)
So, teen girl, are you struggling in your relationship with your parents? It’s not what you think or what your parents think. It is what God says in the Bible that you must do as a child: honour and obey. Do you honour them in the manner defined in Noah Webster’s Dictionary? You don’t have to love them – but you are commanded to honour them.
This is the only commandment with a promise attached to it, Exodus 20:12 Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.
God shows it is that important.