Summary: This message looks at the need for honouring our aging parents.
A little bit of a change in direction here. Early in January we started this series on the Ten Commandments, and after the first four messages we are about to make an abrupt turn. The first four commandments dealt with our relationship with God. They were vertical commands, and now they have become horizontal commands in that they deal with our relationships with one another. You might remember the first commandment was to not replace God, the second command was to not reduce God, the third was to not belittle God, and the fourth was to honour God by celebrating the Sabbath. But now the commands take a different direction, it’s as if God is saying, “now that you’ve got our relationship straight let’s work on your relationship with others”. And so we go from the vertical to the horizontal. And so the fifth commandment reads
12 Respect your father and your mother, and you will live a long time in the land I am giving you.
It’s interesting that the child parent relationship is the only relationship that makes it into the top ten here. We don’t see any reference on how to treat our spouse, other than the obvious do not commit adultery in the seventh command, or how to treat our children but we are told here that we must honour our parents. Now I realize that there are probably some of you here who are all knotted up inside, the stomach acid is boiling and you’re thinking, “Like that’s ever going to happen, after the way they treated me.” And unfortunately that is the reality of today that when ever you speak about parents there is someone in the group who was abused, physically, emotionally or sexually while they were growing up. Some of you may have grown up in the homes of alcoholics or workaholics, abusive or neglectful perhaps you had parents who were distant or cold and uncaring. And you want to cry out “how can I honour people who are un-honourable?” “How do I honour someone who never once honoured me?”
What is God asking of you this morning, is God asking you to put on a mask an pretend it never happened? Is God demanding that you push your feelings out of sight and go about the duty of honouring these people who have betrayed you and hurt you severely? Will God settle for pretend honouring? Nope he does not want make believe honouring and I don’t want to minimize the hurt that you’ve felt or negate it in any way and before I’m done this morning we are going to deal with that issue. So please bear with me.
Obviously the command to honour our parents means different things at different points in our lives. As children to honour your parents means to Obey Our Parents, just do what they say. That’s what’s behind the fifth commandment when we are young. That’s why Paul wrote Ephesians 6:1 Children, you belong to the Lord, and you do the right thing when you obey your parents. Regardless of what the pop psychology of today says obedience is still something that we need to expect of our children. God knows that there is a rebel streak inside the heart of every little kid, and God knows that parents are going to have to carefully and consistently confront that destructive force or they will eventually lose their children to spiritual shipwreck. Throughout the scriptures God gives guidelines for parents on how to establish boundaries for their children and how to discipline their children and how to nurture them and love them.
We have swung from the extremes of two or three generations ago when parents, (especially fathers) were unreasonable tyrants or the place today where parents, (especially fathers) have abdicated their place of authority in the home. The pattern of authority is all one peace and you cannot expect to break it in one spot, i.e. the home and then expect it to work in the rest of society. And so God says to the children, Children at this point in your life you honour your parents by obeying them.
As children become teens and Young Adults they begin to exercise more independence and make more and more decisions on their own. It’s at this point in our lives to honour our parents means that we need to Respect Our Parents and cooperate with them. During this phase in their lives young adults don’t need constant supervision and long lists of do’s and don’ts in their lives. Those teen years are the time when they begin to make some of their own decisions and well they should, it’s a part of growing up. In saying that let me add this warning to the teens out there, some of the decisions that you make now, that seem right for today will have ramifications on your entire life. And as much as we as parents wish we could make those choices for you we can’t. And in this period of your life the carrying out of the fifth commandment would be “Stay respectful, stay cooperative with your parents.”