Thursday, July 17, 2014

Some Christians Would Rather Forget This Verse -- Exodus 20:12

“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you.”
The first four commandments that we covered above deal with our relationship with God.  The next six (beginning with this one) deal with our relationship with others and thus breaking one of these, commentator Chuck Smith says, constitutes unrighteousness before God as we would be breaking our fellowship with our fellowmen/women.
In a crazy world like the one we live in where God often does not figure into the equation of life for many, it is not unusual to find Christian sons and daughters, who for one reason or another have broken relationships with one or both of their parents.  And yet, they know the Ten Commandments and they know that the requirement to “honor them” is indeed one of them.
So what does this 5th commandment really mean?  I like what the Cambridge dictionary gives us as the definition of this word as a verb: “to show great respect for someone or something, especially in public”.  And the Merriam-Webster dictionary says, “to show appreciation, respect, or affection for (someone) with a public celebration”.
At face value we are to ‘respect’ our parents and to openly demonstrate that respect of them both to them and to others through our various acts of kindness and tribute.  That’s pretty strong medicine for many these days.  We are to ‘appreciate’ them and to show them that appreciation as well as our ‘affection’.  In short, honoring our parents is more than an attitude; it is also a behavior and an act of the will.  It often takes effort, and more and more of it, as they get older.
Much has been written about this topic over the centuries that we will not repeat here.  Suffice it to say that in this 21st century, there is global concern that we are moving towards less and less honoring of our parents.  Some may argue some of it is justified – “they neglected me” or “left me when I was a child”.  Others say, “they can take care of themselves, they don’t need me.”  Or, “I have my own life and so many other responsibilities.”  And then there’s my favorite one, “I didn’t ask them to have me.”  And yet God tells us straight, “Honor your father and your mother.”  And as a commandment, that means no ifs, buts, or whys.
Some commentators (like Chuck Smith) take the approach that a son or daughter does not need to ‘honor his/her parent(s)’ if they are not honorable, that is when they do things that their children cannot respect.  For example, an alcoholic parent, one who lives an ungodly life, one who sexually abuses their child, and so on.  According to Smith, a child of those kinds of parents is not obligated to honor them.  I am not so sure and here is why.
First of all, God (at least at this point in the Bible) does not make any exceptions to his commandment.  Secondly, the whole purpose of the commandments (especially the last six) is not for the beneficiary of the outcome of the command (e.g. the parent get honored), but rather for the benefit of the one following the command.  Honoring our parents is not about our parents; it is about us.   And God even says so in His next statement when He tells us the reason why we are to do so.  He says, that we would be allowed to live longer in the land He gives us, that is for us today, we would be allowed to abound longer in His blessing of us on the earth, in this life.  David Guzik in his commentary on this verse suggests that youth “rebellion is costly, and many have paid a high price personally for their rebellion against their parents.”  On the other hand, God is letting us know here that He looks favorably upon those who keep this commandment.
Admittedly, there is no requirement to condone what our parents may have done in many cases to harm us physically, socially, morally, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.  There is no excusing of their behavior.  But still God says, “Honor your mother and your father.”  We need to find a way to be like Jesus when it comes to our fallen parents.  We need to honor them without condoning their mistakes and sins.
David Guzik sees this commandment as an “essential building block for the stability and health of all society.  If the younger generations are constantly at war with older generations, the foundations of society will be destroyed.”
You and I may forget our parents and think nothing of it.  But that is not what God accepts or approves of in our lives.  It is interesting to me that of after the commandments dealing with our relationship with Him, the first one about our relationship with others deals with how we are to behave towards our parents.  Some would say that it is strategically placed there to indicate that our relationship with our parents is not really a relationship between equals as the other commandments that follow may imply, but rather a relationship with those who are our earthly ‘superiors’ in many respects.  That may be, but as a minimum, we know this – God wants us to honor our parents if for no other reason than their positional relationship with us in order that we (more so than them) may be blessed.  How are you doing in that?

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