Many of us can relate to the endless cycles we have with parents as we grow older, whereby they offend us with their words or inaccurate understanding of a situation we’re experiencing coupled with what seems like them forcing their advice and opinions on us which sometimes are actually incorrect or misplaced in terms of our lives at a particular point. If you have no idea what I’m on about, then lucky you!
For those who do know what I’m talking about, I wonder if anyone has actually stopped to think whether they have fallen foul of the 5th commandment in Exodus chapter 20 verse 12: “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.“
A lot of us, myself included, struggle with this verse because sometimes we can’t quite understand giving honour where we deem honour is not due. How does one honour the mum or dad that walked away from the family? How does one honour an abusive parent? How does one honour an overbearing parent? These all sound like legit reasons as to why we would withhold our honour but that doesn’t make it right.
As I write this I chuckle to myself because my parents (read: my dad) upset me in the family Whatsapp group last Friday and I left the group and have refused to answer any of his calls since then. Mind you, I’m logically justified to be upset at him but in light of the 5th commandment, I started to wonder whether maybe I’m out of line. So, I attempt to get some clarity as to how this whole “honouring” thing is supposed to work:
1) What “honour” actually means: The hebrew word from which honour in the 5th commandment is translated is kabad which means “heavy, weighty, grievous, hard, rich, glorious, burdensome” (ref: NAS Exhaustive Concordance). The same commandment is reiterated in Ephesians chapter 6 verse 2 but this time honour is translated from the greek word timao which means “properly, assign value (give honor), as it reflects the personal esteem (value, preciousness) attached to it by the beholder” (ref: HELPS Word-studies).
In essence, honouring our parents is about making our parents a significant priority in our lives and taking into consideration, their needs and wishes in everything we do. It also means that we place high value on them and treat them in a way that signifies that high value. It is not intended to mean blind obedience to their will and dictates, even more so if it is contrary to the word of God.
2) It is NOT about our parents: As I alluded to earlier in the post, it can be very difficult to honour our parents when we feel they don’t deserve that honour but unfortunately, the command does not limit honour to only those parents who are deemed honourable. The idea behind this commandment was that our parents will be leading us in God’s way always and also have insight into God’s will for our lives as their children but even God knows this wasn’t always going to be the case. He knew we won’t all have godly parents neither would our parents always know God’s will for us. He also knew that sometimes our parents’ desire to protect us can overrule even them trusting God for all things to work out for our good so they would often be blinded by their emotions and forget God’s hand over our lives too.
This is where a change of perspective will do us some good if we are to adhere to this commandment as often as we can manage.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who, as I got older, began to see my parents as these “adults just trying to figure everything out too”. Growing up made me understand they’re not superhuman and they’ll let me down sometimes just like every other human being can. But because they are my parents, my expectations are much higher of them – albeit unrealistic but higher nonetheless. And the higher the expectation, the higher the bar I set for them and therefore the higher the likelihood for them to fall short and make me feel super hurt sometimes even from the most irrelevant misunderstandings. But this is also followed by a higher level of forgiveness and love I have to extend to them by virtue of God’s command of how I treat them.
Our “honouring” regardless of what they do or don’t do is not for their sake but actually for ours because the obedience of this commandment has a promise attached to it for our benefit – indeed, it is the only commandment with a promise attached: “that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.”
3) Everything times TWO: So how exactly do we show honour? Well, take everything the Bible states about how we are to treat others and double our efforts when it comes to our parents.
- Nothing less than agape love: “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians chapter 13 verses 4 to 7 NKJV).
- Excessive display of the fruit of the Spirit: “But the fruit of the Spirit [the result of His presence within us] is love [unselfish concern for others], joy, [inner] peace, patience [not the ability to wait, but how we act while waiting], kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Galatians chapter 5 verse 22 to 23 AMP).
- Speak about them and to them with respect: “Do not let unwholesome [foul, profane, worthless, vulgar] words ever come out of your mouth, but only such speech as is good for building up others, according to the need and the occasion, so that it will be a blessing to those who hear [you speak]. (Ephesians 4:29 AMP).
- Only wholehearted forgiveness will do: “Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!”
(Matthew chapter 18 verses 21 to 22 NLT).
- Continuously seek reconciliation whenever issues arise: ““If a fellow believer hurts you, go and tell him—work it out between the two of you. If he listens, you’ve made a friend. If he won’t listen, take one or two others along so that the presence of witnesses will keep things honest, and try again. If he still won’t listen, tell the church. If he won’t listen to the church, you’ll have to start over from scratch, confront him with the need for repentance, and offer again God’s forgiving love.” (Matthew chapter 18 verses 15 to 17). – I would love one person to tell me if they’ve ever gone through this whole process literally (haha!). I haven’t made because it is usually settled before we have to bring in the church lol, but you get the idea.
It’s really not a matter of blind obedience but rather respecting and holding in high esteem the position and authority of a parent as opposed to the person – that way, it becomes less about whether our parents deserve it but more about our obedience to God because trust Him and know that His instructions are always to our benefit.
May we all be doers and not just hearers of this because Lord knows it is hard but with the help of the Holy Spirit, we shall make great strides. Still frontin’ for my dad though…for now lol.
Lots of love,