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Summary: An application of the 5th commandment, describing what it means to honor one’s parents at different stages in one’s life, first learning to obey, then respect, then care for them, which results in a long-lasting society.

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The Promise of Respect

Exodus 20:12

Comedian Rodney Dangerfield, who died October 5, 2004, at age 82, made a living making fun of himself and the difficulty of getting what we all desire: a little respect, please. Some of his best lines were:

“I tell ya I get no respect from anyone. I bought a cemetery plot. The guy said, ‘There goes the neighborhood!’”

“Last week I told my psychiatrist, ‘I keep thinking about suicide.’ He told me to pay in advance.”

“My uncle’s dying wish, he wanted me on his lap. He was in the electric chair.”

“I could tell that my parents hated me. My bath toys were a toaster and a radio.”

“I remember I was so depressed I was going to jump out a window on the tenth floor, so they sent a priest to talk to me. He said, ‘On your mark. . .’”

“My wife made me join a bridge club. I jump off next Tuesday.”

“I come from a stupid family. During the Civil War my great uncle fought for the West.” (He Had a Million of ’Em, www.ChicagoTribune.com, 10-6-04)

All kidding aside, it seems that nobody gets any respect anymore. Our society has lost much of its civility, and I’m afraid it’s going to destroy us unless we can turn it around.

Ronald Kernaghan recently observed: “At the beginning of the 21st century, reasoned discourse [is imperiled]. Reasoned discourse is increasingly giving way to in-your-face sound bites… Hardball is the dominant metaphor for American public life. Our interchanges are confrontational, divisive, and dismissive. Truth is not something we expect to emerge from a conversation. It is something we hope to impose. Balance and fairness are casualties on evening shows as two, three, and sometimes four voices contend simultaneously for dominance. Volume and intransigence are the new civic virtues. (Ronald J. Kernaghan, "Speaking the Truth In Love," Theology, News & Notes, Winter 2003)

He’s absolutely right. Just listen to all the political commentary in this election year. People are not calmly discussing the issues; they’re shouting at each other.

The question is: How can we restore respect to a society that seems to have lost it? How can we bring back a sense of civility before it destroys our way of life as we know it?

Well, the answer is quite simple: Respect begins in the home. If you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to Exodus 20, Exodus 20, where we have God’s prescription for a long-lasting, healthy society. Exodus 20, and verse 12 (read)

This was written to a nation of people that had just come out of slavery. They were getting ready to enter into a new land where they were going to establish a new society under a different set of rules, rules which reflected their new-found freedom from tyranny and control.

And God tells them, “If you want your new society to be a long-lasting society in the land to which you are going, then be sure your children learn to honor their parents.”

That’s the basis for a strong nation. That’s the basis for a society which lasts. That’s the basis for a people that thrive even through times of adversity. For if children learn to honor their parents in the home, they become citizens that respect each other in the community. They don’t kill each other. They don’t steal from each other. & They respect the laws of the land.


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