17 Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?”
18 So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God.
19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Do not defraud,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’ ”
20 And he answered and said to Him, “Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth.”
21 Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.”
22 But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. (Mark 10:17-22)
Jesus was speaking lovingly in counsel with a rich ruler of youth, who had asked basically, “What good things must I do to be saved, or to be assured of heaven when I die?”
Disclaimer: Jesus is not saying that keeping the law is the way to salvation. Faith in Jesus alone is the way to heaven.
Jesus reminded him that he knew the law; referring to the Old Testament law amounting to what we find in the Ten Commandments, which are pretty substantial though compact in constitution. The method of God’s delivering these to the Hebrew people strongly indicated that out of all the laws, these ten are extremely important.
In this moment of wise counsel, Jesus first pointed out five things the commandments tell us to not do. My experience tells me that most would be quick to express the ‘do not’s’ of the Ten Commandments, and some even quicker to claim that they do not break them.
In the structure of the Ten Commandments, the first five would be considered the “Do’s” and the last five are the “Do not’s.” The “Dos” are commandments concerning relationships; four of which are related to our relationship with God, our Heavenly Father. The last of the five is dealing with our relationship with our father and mother. “Honor your father and mother…” (Exodus 20:12).
God wants us to give distinctive consideration to our relationship with our parents. It is such a major concern with God that we see Scripture refers to God as being our Heavenly Father. Jesus constantly spoke of God as our Father and invited us to pray addressing Him as “Our Father Who art in Heaven…” (Matthew 6:9).
So, since this is found in the Ten Commandments, perhaps we need to pay close attention to what God is saying to us about our relationship with our father and mother.
What would honoring your father and mother look like?
When I was growing up I was taught to obey my parents no matter what, to be respectful, and not argue. But, what about those parents who do not deserve honor, from human perspective and experience? They may be bad parents, perhaps they have addictive behaviors, or mentally ill, or manipulate and abuse you for their own advantage. Perhaps your biological parents abandoned you when you were born and you do not know who and where they are. Then what? How can we be expected to honor our parents when they have not earned our honor?
Do parents have to earn honor from their child? Do they warrant it simply because they conceived us? These are hard-hitting questions for even families of certain normalcy and even more difficult if the degree of dysfunction runs extraordinary. Do we have to honor a parent who does not deserve our honor?
Well, first let’s take another look at the command: ‘Honor your father and your mother.’ Notice there seems to be no ‘except when’ clause. There is no plan ‘B’. God provided no excuse for disobeying this command!
To begin with, God knew you before you were conceived. God knew your name before you were born. He knew everything about you far beyond your conception. He designed your DNA from the beginnings of the world; He knew the ancestral DNA which would be necessary for your DNA to exist. So yes, it would be a good idea to honor your parents because God used them to bring you from His heart into reality. But, is that the basis for honoring them? Beloved, it is far more than enough reason to honor your father and mother simply because He commanded you to do so!
However, if you need a bigger foundation for your obedience, consider a few more Scriptures:
“But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44)
“If it is possible, as much as it depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” (Romans 12:18)
“Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” (Matthew 5:9)
We can, we must, honor our parents even when they don’t deserve it. It calls for major sacrifices in many family structures, but the child of God is called to live a sacrificial life. And beloved, if it is easy, it is not a sacrifice! If it costs you nothing, it is not a sacrifice!
What will it look like for you to honor your parent(s)?
It will require you to forgive them. All parents make mistakes; some mistakes are small, others will be major. But we are required by God to forgive them all. Understand this; forgiveness is more for you than it is for them. Your parent(s) may never say they are sorry about anything and they may never ask you to forgive, but forgiving is your choice. It is a choice to be obedient to God’s command to forgive, and it releases you from your prison of pain.
Next, demonstrate to them a healthy love. Know the boundaries of a safe and healthy love from God’s given wisdom and discernment. Next, be respectful to them. Speak kindly to them. Speak kindly about them if you can. Do not be argumentative toward them; walk away if you must to avoid conflict.
Remember, this is your commandment from God concerning your parents: ‘Honor your father and your mother.’
He expects that you will obey; He is ready to help you through this often challenging sacrifice of obedience. Obedience is Praise to God. Pray On!