Monday, November 03, 2014

Striking Our Parents -- Exodus 21:15

“And he who strikes his father or his mother shall surely be put to death.”

Let me paint the picture for you.  God is giving the Children of Israel ordinances that He wants them to follow.  These are no ‘try to comply’ directions.  These are regulations that if not obeyed, have serious consequences that others can enforce.
And now we come to the edict regarding one’s parents.  Striking one’s father or mother will result in death.
Best we take a look at the word ‘strike’ itself.  When I did so on the dictionary built into my Word software, I was surprised to see thirty-six (36) definitions for the word as a verb.  Not all of them are relevant to our study here but the following ones need attention:
1.     Hit somebody (or something)
2.     Deliver blow
3.     Attack somebody (or something)
4.     Stop working as protest
5.     Affect somebody suddenly
6.     Affect with emotion
7.     Damage something or somebody
8.     Bite or sting suddenly

In my own life, I can say I have never exhibited any physical kind of striking behavior towards my parents.  On the contrary, it was the other way around. I remember my father striking me on several occasions as I was growing up.  There came a time when he tried to do so when I was eighteen years old and a little stronger than him at the time. In his rage over something I had said causing him embarrassment in front of his older brother who was visiting us from the family’s homeland, he attempted to strike me (perhaps with a belt in his hand).  I immediately grabbed his arm and pinned him against a nearby wall.  “Dad” I said, “please don’t do this and don’t cause me to hurt you.”  He retracted.  Not so much, I think, because he thought I could defeat him if necessary, but because he may have been struck himself with the guilt of hitting a son who otherwise loved him so much.  My dad and I went on to have a strong relationship many years afterward.  But many others are not so fortunate; they do carry out their impulse to strike their parents.
What about the non-physical striking of one’s parents?  Have any of us ever just quit on our parents, wanting nothing more to do with them?  Given up on trying to help them or understand them?  The last five of the eight definitions above may well apply.  I think when you combine Exodus 21:15 with the definitions of the word ‘strike’, the message is clear – godly men and women do not strike their parents physically, mentally, emotionally, economically, or socially.  Just as we are a gift to them, our parents, rightly or wrongly because of sin, are gifts to us.  You might say, “Well, you just don’t know my parents.  That’s one gift God could have kept for Himself.”  I understand, but remember this.  Just as many of us as children have, with our behavior and choices, hurt our parents to no end, so to, because of sin many parents have hurt their children to an extent that is even unbearable.  Yet, the ‘gift’ part comes to both parents and children in that we have an opportunity to belong to someone or to take care of someone, to have an identity that uniquely identifies us among billions of other people on earth and over history.  And God also gives us as children, through the opportunity of loving our parents to model for our own children not only what God wants but also what it means to be a loving and caring person beyond all adversity.
In his book, Night, by Elie Wiesel, the author is haunted by the fact that he stood by idly watching the guards in a concentration camp during the Holocaust while they beat and killed his father, the only relation he had left after several years of being prisoners.  Understandably he was too weak physically and mentally to attack them, and too afraid as well.  It would have done no good and both would have been dead. Wiesel survived, but the memory of that inability to do what God had commanded at that time stayed with him to this day.  Not being able to do so was just one of the things that contributed to his turning against God in his own life.  Yet, it was not God that prevented him from trying to stop Hitler’s regime from killing his father, it was the evil of man that made it next to impossible.
Fortunately, not too many of us are placed in those kind of circumstances.  Often there are real opportunities not to strike our parents, yet so many of us fail in this regard.  I do not know about you, but in the big cosmopolitan city that I live in, stories break out about this very thing.  We have read accounts of children arranging for the murder of their parents in order to inherit their wealth or cash in on their life insurance policies. We have seen children arranging for the death of their father in order to gain social freedom.  (This is a problem our western society faces more and more as newcomers from very strict family traditions about entertainment, friends, dating, and sex clash with teenagers and older children seeking their total independence in the North American culture.) There was one story of what appeared to be a wealthy couple, living in a very large and expensive home, yet keeping their aged parents in the closed off garage without heat or other critical facilities. While they got their just desserts in all these cases (not death mind you, as society seems to think it knows better than God), we are certainly observing signs of a society gone amuck.
Finally one of the thoughts that hit me as I was studying this verse was the fact that God, the giver of these dictums is indeed a parent Himself.  And it occurred to me that He Himself as our Father is not to be ‘struck’ in any way.  It is important that we stop at this point in our study of Exodus and consider two things:
1.     Have we ever ‘struck’ our parents in the past and not asked for forgiveness?  If so, and they are still alive, the best thing we can do is ask them for it now and then change our ways if we have not done so already.  If we are striking them now in any shape or form (physical, social, mental, economical, or emotional), we must stop it and also ask for forgiveness.  There is no alternative here in the eyes of God.
  1. Have we ever ‘struck’ our Father in Heaven?  Doing so does indeed result in death.  Repentance and a change of behavior is the only solution.

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