Summary: This covers the commandment to honor our father and mother. Rather than looking from a legal standpoint or even looking at how they could do better as parents, the Bible is telling us that we are responsible for giving honor to those God has put over us.
Honor Your Father and Mother
"Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.
With the start of the fifth commandment, we move from a framework of relationship to God and start to focus on the relationship we have with ourselves and others. Verse 12 in particular is dealing with our family relationship. Specifically the child’s duty to the parents. Honor your father and mother. This includes respect to their persons (esteeming them inwardly and out, expressed by our conduct toward them), Obedience to their lawful commands, submission to their instructions (rebukes and corrections), trying to be a comfort and help.
As we can see from the above statement, this verse is about more than just not talking back, insulting, or disrespect as we would normally think about it. What God is telling us is to treat our father and mother like we would treat Him. The intention of the Heavenly Father is that our earthly father would provide an example of who God is and how God loves. Our fathers make lots of mistakes and sometimes can even skew our perception of the Heavenly Father. But we are responsible for what we do and how we react. And since He knows our hearts as well as our actions, we cannot comply with the framework for our family relationship with just what we do. Our attitude needs to be one of submission. Our inner feelings need to be respect and love. Okay, maybe we can do that with good parents but what about the bad ones, the ones that abuse or are lost or confused on right and wrong? Let's look at another passage to get a feel for this:
Listen to your father who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old. Buy truth, and do not sell it; buy wisdom, instruction, and understanding. The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice; he who fathers a wise son will be glad in him. Let your father and mother be glad; let her who bore you rejoice.
This passage as well as the commandment for today are addressing the duty of the child. The child cannot dictate what kind of parent they have but they are responsible for what they do and how they react to things. Every child feels misunderstood, undervalued, and maybe even unloved at times. Our reaction should always be one of respect, listening, not hating. Looking for truth, wisdom, instruction, and understanding. In cases of abuse it is not dishonoring to report illegal behavior. In the distant view, these parents need help that they won't get apart from the involvement of others. But in the areas of just being mad or misunderstood or whatever we convince ourselves is a good excuse, we are held accountable for what we do and think. We can choose to respond in love. We can choose to forgive. By doing these things we show respect for the ones that brought us into the world, and for the One who holds us now.
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. "Honor your father and mother" (this is the first commandment with a promise), "that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land."
As Paul restates the commandment we can now look at the ending of the passage- 'that it may go well with you and you may live long in the land'. The thought is not so much about the individual but as a nation. Although in the Old Testament disrespecting your parents came with the death penalty (so you certainly would live longer if you acted right), this thought of living in the land was a companion to the reminder that God brought them out of Egypt and into this place. As part of their relationship to Him, they needed to be obedient or risk losing that which the Father provided.
As believers, the Spirit of God lives in us and we have been given a new home. Somewhere not of this world. And as travelers through this place we need to remember the relationship that will bring us to Heaven some day.
On a life application note, we need to recognize the great blessings that our parents are to us. And realize that of all the commandments, this one has a limited time for us to act on it. Some of us have already lost a parent, or both. We can only honor their name now. If you have a parent still alive, act now. Love them, honor them. Comfort them. And know that God will remember those actions that bring honor to His Word.