Honor thy father and thy mother. Exodus 20:12
These are words most all of us know by heart.
The fifth commandment.
They are listed even before "thou shalt not murder."
For some of us, this commandment hasn't been all that rough. We had loving, godly parents. They sought God's Will in everything they did. They prayed for guidance in raising us. They showed us love in every way they knew how, and they genuinely wanted the best for us. We accepted that love, discipline, and guidance.
But for some of us, it's a different story.
Whichever group you are in, you are given the same commandment as the rest of us, "Honor your father and your mother." For those of us that may have a harder time with this commandment, here are some do's and don'ts .
1. Don't disregard God's Word
It may be easy to convince ourselves that this only applies to us while we are children living in our parents' home. But the verse does not say "Honor thy mother and father while you live at home." If God calls us to love even our enemies, how then would we argue that we may cease to show respect to our parents just because we are "of age"?
2. Don't underestimate the importance of God's Word.
As human beings, we tend to convince ourselves that each sin has a different value. A "white lie" is innocent, and not "as bad" as a lie to, say, cover up a murder. God's standards says otherwise (James 2:10). This alone should be enough evidence that God is serious about respecting parents.
But let us look at another verse only one chapter after this fifth commandment.
Whoever curses his father or his mother shall be put to death. Exodus 21:17
Or how about this one:
If one curses his father or his mother, his lamp will be put out in utter darkness. Proverbs 20:20
I'd say that sounds serious.
3. Don't decide that since you are an adult and moved out that you can just ignore any problems.
It may be easy in this day and age to move far away, or get so busy that we "forget" to have respectful interactions with our parents. But it doesn't change our hearts. God tells us to make amends--not ignore them until we forget them.
4. Don't take abuse.
The same compassionate, sacrificing and Holy God that tells us to honor and respect our parents, also commands parents to love their children. He intends for us to have loving parents, not abusive ones.
If you have a parent who is mean, degrading, or abusive--you are not commanded to take it. But you are still commanded to respect your parents.
5. Do find a way to forgive.
Even if your parents don't believe they have ever done anything wrong. Even if your parents think all the problems in your relationship are your problem or your fault. Even if your parent(s) will continue to participate in activities that hurt or insult you.
It's hard to genuinely respect someone whom your heart is hard against.
There are things in our life that we do to hurt God--things we aren't even aware of--things we will likely do over and over--things we may never ask for forgiveness for. But if we accepted Him as our Lord and Savior, He will forgive us of these things--He already has--even though He already knows how we will hurt Him in the future.
If He can forgive us--who are we to hold grudges?
6. Do set boundaries if you need.
Forgiveness does not mean forgetfulness. It does not mean putting yourself into a knowingly dangerous situation. And it does not mean you automatically trust that person. Trust may never come in this life. If you and your parents are both/all saved, trust may be something to reconcile in the afterlife. As beautiful as it would be here, you may not ever receive it.
Boundaries may be for your parents if they tend to be insulting or abusive. Or, they may be something you set on yourself. Maybe you tend to overreact and you need to set boundaries on yourself about topics that you can or cannot talk about.
Perhaps your boundaries include your children. It is okay to set a boundary that your children may not be alone with a parent. Forgiveness does not mean you turn into a doormat.
7. Do keep your boundaries.
Amazing things happen when we forgive Friends. We become free. And many relationships thrive when boundaries are implemented. But don't get so wrapped up in the fantasy-come-true that you forget the boundaries that got you there.
Don't get so caught up in a great visit that you think you can break a boundary. Don't think that because you've all apologized for past mistakes that it would be a great time to bring up additional things that you had previously placed "off limits."
Boundaries may evolve over time--but don't just drop them all at once because things appear to be going well. It is probably those boundaries that brought you to this safe place.
8. Don't become of this world.
This world tends to tell us that "It's all about you." Don't let this world tell you that you "deserve better." Because if you use God's definition of "deserve" then you'll be left reminding yourself of His love. He sent His one and only Son to die for us. He sacrificed His own Son knowing that you and I might reject Him anyway--and none of us "deserved" that love.
9. Do become only in this world.
We're only here for a short time. Love back--even knowing that your parent(s) might reject you anyway.
10. Do accept that you may never have the relationship that you desire.
A friend of a friend shared a story with me. Her father was abusive to her growing up in horrible ways. As an adult, she was able to set boundaries with her father because of her desire to obey God.
She knew that they couldn't be physically around each other because of all the hurt she felt, and because he continued to be abusive to her.
She set a boundary that they could talk on the phone once a month. She told her father what kind of conversation was inappropriate and whenever he crossed the boundary, she would stop him. She would give him the choice, "Dad, you cannot talk to me like this. We can talk about something else, or I have to hang up." More often than not, she would have to hang up.
The relationship never changed. He passed away. It's been hard for her to give up this dream of having a loving father. But she was faithful. And she was obedient to God. Even though it may have been the hardest thing she has ever done in her life.
I fully believe she will be rewarded for this one day.
So if you're in a painful relationship with a parent, or both parents, or even an in-law, I want to encourage you. Love him/her anyway. Forgive. Set boundaries.
Do things God's way--be obedient. Even if it means you may never have a perfect loving relationship.
You can visit Deb at Grace & Garden Homestead