Summary: The Lord has his family; five words from the Ten Commandments describe the major characteristics of this family -- this one is STRONG
The Lord’s family is our focus this month as we take a look at five words that describe the character and function of a church. Last week’s word was loyalty, and we discovered that a loyal member of God’s family (God’s church family) is one who gives unguarded worship to only God; he has no other gods in front of Jesus!
This week’s word is strength. And our text is Exodus 20:12:
Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you. (NRSV)
Frankly, when I was a little guy I had my own ideas about that business of honoring parents so my days would be long upon the earth; I thought it meant that, if I didn’t honor them, Dad would kill me! But, back then I always looked at things from the negative side.
In fact this command is a positive one, “do this” rather than “thou shalt not”. It also carries a promise of longevity.
However, the real focus is on the first word, “honor”. That is the connection with “strength”. Honor is what brings strength. A person who lives his life to bring honor to God is a person who receives the strength of character to be the kind of family member worthy of the kingdom of God. That builds strong homes and churches and nations.
How do you define a “strong” church?
What would you say are the marks, or characteristics of a strong church? Is it the numbers? You know…number of people attending, amount of money given and Christmas shoeboxes sent? Is it the numbers alone? No! I rather think you define a strong church by its character.
A fact which is evidenced over and over is that a church with a strong sense of honoring God, a character of worship and total abandon to the purposes of the Father is the kind of church where you will see the numbers increasing. By comparison, churches that are clubs or merely exist to serve the needs of its members do not have that kind of commitment to God’s direction, and you always see the numbers decreasing. A strong church gives honor to God, and it brings strength! A self-centered person or church gives honor to what has always been, what they’ve always demanded.
• “Honor” is a matter giving weight to something. To honor the mother and father is giving weight to God’s commands to respect authority in all forms
• “Strong” khawzaq’ means to fasten-on or seize. In other words, to take hold.
God’s definition, then, of a strong church, or family member is one that takes hold of the concept of honor…giving weight to the fact that there is an authority that is over us all.
When God says to the children (of any age) “honor your parents” He is helping us see that we must be that way towards the Heavenly Father as well. The parental injunction is representative of the greater relationship of God’s authority. We must recognize and respect the command or sovereignty of God in order to be strong.
Just like the Holy Spirit (through Paul) compared the church to a Bride, with Christ as the head…and the relationship a marriage, we must honor the authority that is God’s in order to be God’s family member.
In a strong marriage the wife and husband have taken hold of the Biblical admonition to leave and cleave….to become “one flesh”. They honor, or give weight to God’s command to let nothing separate them but death!
In the Exodus text, the Lord uses the parent/child relationship together with the word “honor” to tell us to give weight to the authority that exists over us…it is there for our good; we will be strong in the land if we honor authority.
So, then, last week’s loyalty in worship, putting every other god out of our lives, begins the presentation of the God-kind of family; it describes our relationship with God as vital, vibrant or holy. This is not something the Pastor supplies by preaching you a good sermon. It is not something conjured up by a good choir special, or a good Sunday School program or membership in a class. Vibrant relationships of a church with God as well as people with God are carried out one-by-one as people dedicate themselves to worship Him!
Today’s word, strength, carries that respect into the relationship we have with other members of God’s human family. We are to give weight or honor to them, respect them. God himself modeled this for us as he respects all life. Again, this is less a corporate reality than a personal responsibility. Each of us creates a little bit of the character of our homes, community and this church with every relationship we carry-on; we either make this church and our communities a little more like heaven or a little more like hell. We create honor or dishonor with our choices.