June 06, 2010

Respect for Parents (The only commandment with a promise clause?)

I titled this section as such because I think it represents one of the most destructive and misleading perspectives in Western adolescent culture. Many people are aware that the commandment to honor your mother and father is the only commandment with a promise. But many of us have taken that word promise at some point in our lives and replaced it with the word clause. That means we dismiss the brevity of the command and say to ourselves, “Oh, it’s not that big a deal; life has changed.” We reject the importance that God put on this commandment and excuse our behavior to cultural evolution.
Why do we do this?
Usually for one of two reasons: Either to excuse unrighteous behavior that is already present in our lives or to allow for unrighteous behavior we think we are finally entitled to express. The difference is past offenses you already committed or future offenses you plan to or want to commit. The rationalization sounds like this: “I will honor my parents if they respect me or treat me the way they are supposed to.”
The difference between the promise and a clause is that the promise comes with a commandment that requires specified behavior of us regardless of whether or not we want the promised reward, and a clause requires specified behavior from us only if the other party does what they are supposed to. God’s version of the commandment ends with a promise to reward obedience and discipline disobedience, not a clause. God is not saying, “If you want long life, then do this; if not, don’t worry about it.”
How many Christians do you know that live out this commandment as if it was only a clause? I was one of them. I acted as if I only had to honor my parents if they respected my rights as a teenager, didn’t embarrass or hurt me, didn’t betray me, listened to me sincerely, admitted their wrongs, and stayed out of my business. If they did that, then I would honor them. If they didn’t, then I was free to criticize them publicly, privately, and indiscreetly. That was not the image I was created to bear.
I heard Pastor James Macdonald say the following on the radio once:

God commands all of His people everywhere to “honor your father and mother.” From small children to middle-aged adults to older adults, we never outgrow the need to apply this biblical principle. It is for every race and every culture, regardless of your parents’ success rating, whether they are living or not, and regardless of how you may feel about it. God says straight up, “Honor your mom and dad.”

Honoring your parents is an attitude of respect. It’s the admission that says, “You are the person God sovereignly placed in my life.” They may have failed you or hurt or disappointed you at times, but God commands all children to honor their parents for what they did right.”
Pastor James Macdonald
“How to Honor Your Parents”
(2007, Walk in the Word)

The word honor is a word that means “weight.” To give honor to something is to give it “weightiness.” In other words, to give it value. To honor is to value. Do our lives give value to our parents for who God has made them to be? This is where we need to start.
Honoring parents in today’s culture is not as popular as proving one’s own autonomy and earning the right to be respected as an adult. Today’s culture encourages us to stand up for ourselves and demand respect. Everything from advertising to babies’ clothes and toys express the opinion that we all need to be seen as or treated as little adults. That desire for a common ground among children and adults has invaded the home and, in many circumstances, the church. This, in turn, is eroding the fabric of honor and respect for parents. Self-image has taken a priority over the family image and the intentions of God’s heart.
I believe if we trusted God’s heart when reading this commandment, we would walk in holy, humble fear—and it would become a lot more important.
When we are young, we can’t wait for adults to see us as equals and view us as mature. We forget that God is not only our Creator, but, if we are saved in Christ, He is our Father too. If we can’t honor our earthly parents, how is it possible to honor Him? Dishonor of human parents is disobedience to a direct command of God given to all people for all time. We cannot live in blatant disobedience to God and call it honor. We cannot represent his image to those who know us best if we do not learn to love through honoring those we were given to.

With you for His glory

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