Can You Honor Dishonorable Parents?
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MAGNIFIED: Can You Honor Dishonorable Parents?
Are you struggling to respect your parents because of their dishonorable actions? If so, you're not alone. Join us in this episode as we navigate the challenges of following God's command to honor our parents.
Micah: When you think of your parents, what do you feel? Admiration and love? Or maybe anger and fear? Or maybe it's all of the above. Because let's be honest, there are nuclear families and there are nuclear families, and sometimes that just depends on the day. But regardless of our differing relationships with our parents, the thing that brings us right back together is God's expectation for our attitude toward them. Because, ultimately, our attitude toward our parents informs our attitude toward people as a whole and even towards God himself.
As Jesus tells it, when you love God, you love your neighbor. And when you love your neighbor, you love God. By the same token, when you honor your parents, you honor God. But as crucial as this commandment is, keeping it isn't easy. Growing up, my whole world revolved around the belief that my parents had it all together. They knew what was right and wrong. They knew what time things needed to be done. They could practically read my mind. They had money, they had jobs. They were in control. But as I got older, I realized just how much they were still figuring life out for themselves. They forgot things, they misbehaved, they fell short, and they sinned. Because they were people, not gods. This realization changed my world, even though my parents were actually pretty great.
So, as difficult as it was to recognize that they were only human, I quickly learned to honor my father and mother anyway. Unfortunately, some people don't have the luxury of learning this lesson through relatively harmless mistakes like the ones my parents made. Maybe you've seen your parents do things that are despicable, evil, and even malicious. If that's the case, obeying this commandment might seem impossible. Pursuing and maintaining these relationships isn't only painful, it can even be dangerous. So, how do you keep this commandment if your parents have been abusive, neglectful, or entirely absent?
To address that, let's go back in time to when God gave this command. In ancient Israel, family played a crucial role. Beliefs, businesses, culture, everything was handed down from parents to children, and they didn't have the medical advancements we have today. When you got old, you eventually grew weak, and your children acted as your 401(k). This tight-knit community grew up watching their parents wander faithlessly in the wilderness for 40 years. This first generation of Israel was the same that witnessed God's love for them continually when He brought them out of slavery and oppression in Egypt, fed them in the wilderness, and showed them compassion and forgiveness through His law. But this was also the generation that continually disregarded their creator.
Man: A golden calf.
Micah: Worshipped false idols and sinned against one another. They had a good God acting in a parental role, and they did not act or treat Him honorably. So, when Moses reiterated the Ten Commandments 40 years after God first delivered them to Israel, how do you think this new generation felt when they heard the command to honor their fathers and mothers? Let's look at that question literally for a second. In the original Hebrew, the word for honor here is kavod, which comes from the word for weight and typically refers to something heavy. But many of the times this word shows up in scripture, it's used figuratively. It can mean glory, honor, respect, distinction, and importance.
So, let's plug one of these English synonyms into the fifth commandment, respect your father and mother. The emphasis of this commandment goes from action to attitude. And we actually have a concept for that in English. We refer to experts or anyone carrying a lot of influence as heavyweights. And when we're dealing with a serious of something, we say...
Man 1: Whoa, this is heavy.
Man 2: There's that word again, heavy.
Micah: And that's how you honor dishonorable parents. If you can't have a relationship with your parents, you can still keep this commandment in your heart by exercising forgiveness and mercy, by recognizing they're also children of our Father God. And it's part of God's plan to address their shortcomings in His time. We don't need to take on that responsibility for ourselves. And this extends out to all people. It's not about loving people because they deserve it or treating people well because they deserve it. That's not what Christ did, and that's not what God the Father does. Christ sacrificed His life while we were still sinners so that we can repent and receive salvation from Him. Over and over again, the story of the Bible shows us that God wants us to learn to love the way He loves.
So, what are a couple of ways we can start to learn to do that? The Jewish understanding of this command sheds a lot of light on what this means. Their rabbis teach that honor and reverence means that the son must neither stand in the father's place nor tip the scales against him in an argument with others.
Honor means that he must give him food and drink, clothe and cover him and lead him in and out. This means that you allow your parents to make choices for their lives and you don't try to humiliate them in contradiction, even when they're wrong. You can disagree, you can suggest, you can be a good example, but you don't tear them down. Especially in front of others. And in keeping this as a standard for how you treat your parents, you will be respecting and honoring them and showing yourself to be respectful, even if they might not personally merit that respect based on their actions.
You and your family share a commonality. You are in your family's line, and as a member of that line, you have an opportunity to reflect positively on your family by your interactions with others. And because your parents are responsible for bringing you into the world, you dignify them by living righteously yourself. Because now you've made them responsible, at least, in part, for bringing good into the world through you. When you honor God and live as an example of righteousness, you honor your parents by association. And when you honor your parents, as God commands us to do, you are honoring God as well.
Think about this. God's plan is to have a family, and by bringing you to life, your parents fulfilled a part of that plan. His plan includes you. And your parents are the ones He worked through to get you here. After honor your father and mother, the rest of the commandment reads, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you. This is a commandment with a promise. And it doesn't mean your respect for your parents will make God grant you a miracle of long life, but that your life will be best served and most fulfilled when you obey what God commands here. So, when you think of your parents, what do you feel?