Of the ten commandments given to us by God, I have consistently found this to be one of the most difficult to put into practice. Throughout my life, I have routinely fallen short in my quest to obey the fifth commandment, ‘Honor your father and mother…” Growing up, I was a rebellious and disobedient teenager. Even into my adult years, I struggled to be respectful in my interactions with my parents. I didn’t understand why it was so difficult until I participated in a program that taught on the topic of healing and forgiveness.
I realized that although I had a deep love for my parents, it was buried under an avalanche of anger and resentment. As a child, I was deeply affected by my parents’ divorce and the tumultuous years that followed. I didn’t know how to deal with my pain at that age, so I attempted to ignore it. But as the years passed, the pain didn’t disappear, contrarily, it festered and grew into hostility and resentment.
As I dug deeper, I discovered that these negative emotions were fueled by unforgiveness; I was unable to move past my parents mistakes and sins. As I remained a prisoner to my own emotions, not only was my disobedience to God preventing me from experiencing His peace and joy, it was hardening my heart toward my parents and prohibiting me from honoring them the way God commands. But how do we honor our parents when we’ve been wounded by their sins? Are we still obligated to honor our mother and father when we don’t believe that it is deserved?
The answer is yes. God uses no uncertain terms in this regard. “Cursed is anyone who dishonors their father or mother….” Deuteronomy 27:16. These are powerful, indisputable words. God doesn’t say, ‘Honor your parents if…’ If they were perfect. If they never disappointed you. If they did everything right. No, God’s command does not come with any loopholes.
As children, we honor our parents through our obedience to them. As we move into adulthood, honoring them takes on a different role. Honor is defined as, ‘to regard with great respect and esteem’. How do we do this when it’s difficult, when we have been hurt, or when we don’t feel like it? Honoring, much like love, is not a feeling, but a choice. Here are three ways that we can practically obey God’s fifth commandment.
- Forgive our parents. We need to acknowledge that our parents are only human, with their own struggles, sins and limitations. When I made the conscious choice to forgive my mother and father, I was able to see them as broken people just like me, in need of grace. By extending grace and forgiveness to our parents, as God has first done for us, we not only honor them, but we honor God through our obedience.
- Affirm our parents. Instead of dwelling on the ways in which our parents have fallen short, we can choose to focus on the things our parents did well. We can thank them for the sacrifices they made and the support they provided throughout our lives. This includes not trying to change them, but instead honoring them despite their flaws. A little affirmation often goes a long way.
- Pray for our parents. We can ask God for His eyes and His heart toward our parents. Repent of the times that you’ve have fallen short of obeying God’s commandment. Pray to see your parents with compassion instead of bitterness and with appreciation instead of as an image of unmet expectations. God wants to heal our hearts and give us the wisdom and discernment needed to honor our parents as He instructs us to.
Our love for God and our desire to bring Him Glory is demonstrated through our obedience. In the Bible, God declares, “If you love me you will obey my commandments.” John 14:15. As we seek to honor our parents through forgiveness, affirmation and prayer, we honor God through our obedience, displaying His power and glory for the world to see.