I think we all know the fifth commandment in the Bible that says we are to “honor your father and your mother”. Well that was literally hell for me to obey growing up. I grew up with non-Christian parents and did not get along with them until after I moved out of the house. In fact, when I accepted Jesus into my life at the age of 12 it only made matters worse. In order to “honor” my parents, I just submitted to whatever they wanted (except not going to church) and took the punishments as they came. There was more yelling, more expectations, more rules, more of everything bad. I tried my best never to retaliate. But me and my parents never saw eye-to-eye on anything. Even my choices, friends, lifestyle, good grades, never satisfied their desire to turn their young boy into a successful entrepreneur. You can imagine how much hate and bitterness had welled up in my heart during that time. Also my rebellious nature made things worse. On the outside I would be obedient, but deep down inside I wanted to let loose and run away from them. I was like a volcano ready to explode. I cried out to God many nights, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our [my] blood?” – Revelations 6:10. Not in the right context, but that’s what I felt at the time. Living in a broken home was not easy for me.
Perhaps you can identify. Maybe you are still living with your parents today and you do not get along with them. If so, I’m sure that this commandment to honor your parents seems foreign to you. This is especially true if they hurt or take advantage of you in ways a parent should not. Or if they never tell you that they love you and show any signs of affection, your basic needs of human affection go unfulfilled. How are we to honor our parents if we don’t deem them worthy of honor in the first place?
First a word of encouragement. Don’t grow bitter. Some people are born into great parents, others uninspiring, and others downright oppressive. But in all things, God is always in control and has a reason he gave you the parents that you have. As it says in Genesis 50:20 – “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good…”. God always has your best intentions through suffering.
Second, I believe the solution has to be supernatural. You see, you can’t honor your parents in your own strength. You’re a sinful human being that only cares about self. That’s the whole point of the commandment in the first place – to say that God’s standard is that we have to honor and love our parents unconditionally, regardless of how they treat us, and regardless of whether or not they will love us back. That we cannot meet God’s standards because its not in our nature to do so. That we need him to supernaturally do it through us by a new nature – the power of his Holy Spirit. Romans 3:20-22 illustrates this.
The problem is not our parents, but ourselves. To start, we need to correct the error of our ways rather than trying to correct theirs. It starts by praying to the Lord saying, “I can’t, but you can”. Then listening and obeying to the leading of Holy Spirit inside of you. Did you know that Jesus did the same thing when his parents tried to restrain him? Just read about Jesus as a young boy in the temple Luke 2:41-52. Even God the Son honored his parents by looking toward God the Father.
That is not to say that to honor our parents we are to blindly submit to physical abuse, drunkenness, coercion, unreasonable demands for money and unbiblical (career/life choices) expectations. Ephesians 6:1 sublimely explains this – “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” We are to obey our parents “in the Lord” as in as far as it does not contradict the Bible. For example to endure physical abuse and not call the cops would be like promoting sinful behavior rather than discouraging it. With that being said, every situation is different.
Let me leave you with some practical ways we can submit to our parents:
- Household duties – doing dishes, throwing out the trash, cleaning up your room
- Career choices – respectfully listening to our parents and carefully weighing their advice
- Time – spending time with them doing what they like to do, eating at the dinner table as a family
- Money – helping them financially, if necessary and within reason
- Gifts – giving them a present on their birthday, showing signs of affection
- Weddings – doing cultural practices (tea ceremony) even if they have no relevance to us
Oh and the story with my parents doesn’t end on a bad note. I eventually moved back with them after being gone for 5 years and have a much better relationship with now. Just yesterday I picked my mom up from the airport and gave her a hug. God engineered many things to heal the wounds of my past. They are still there, but they don’t haunt me anymore.
Did that help? Please leave a comment below on your own experiences of how you honor your parents