Last Sunday we looked at Ephesians 6:1-3, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— 3 “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”
This passage says children need to obey their parents. It says this is right. It is right and correct and accepted in almost every culture in the world.
Stanton Petersen, our student ministry director, is from South Africa. We have frequently talked about the differences in South Africa and our culture here in America. One time I asked him what is the biggest difference between the two cultures. He said, "Oh, that is easy. The biggest difference is how older people are treated in the U.S." "In the U.S. they are just discarded and marginalized for the most part. In South Africa, older people are honored and respected. They are given the places of honor and showered with reverence and deference. Older adults are esteemed in South Africa. In the U.S., athletes, musicians, movie stars are honored, but older people are just discarded."
That discussion with Stanton had a profound impact on me. He was right, of course. We don’t honor older people. But here in this command, God says that we are to honor our parents.
As we are growing up and under our parents’ authority, we need to respect that and obey our parents. It is how we live out this new relationship in Christ. And as we become adults and are no longer under our parents' authority, it changes from obey our parents to honor our parents.
What does Honor mean? Honor means to give high public esteem, fame, or glory. When God commands us to honor our fathers and mothers, he means to put a heavy weight on them. To honor someone means, “I weigh you down with respect and prestige. I place upon you a great worth and value." This command that Paul quotes here in Ephesians is the 5th command of the ten commandments.
The traditional interpretation of the organization observes the first five commandments pertain to our relationship with God. At the same time, the last five relate to our relationships with one another. Honoring our parents is seen in direct correlation to how we honor God and respect that relationship we have with him. Paul also mentions this is the first command with a promise. Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— 3 “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” The promise is that as we honor our parents, then it will go well for us, and we will enjoy a long life here on earth.
What does that mean? How can you live longer if you obey your parents? Does God actually promise we will live longer if we follow this command? Yes, he does.
From a human perspective, I don’t always understand how this happens. But it does seem that God is fully capable of blessing our lives with more years than we would have enjoyed had we not been obedient to him. When a person walks with God, he or she is generally more peaceful and joyful and better able to handle tragedy, failure, and anger. God promises that as we make an effort to honor our parents, he makes it go well for us. That doesn’t mean we will never have hurt or pain or loss. But it does mean that God promises to direct our lives so that it will go well for us. The overarching arc of our life will go well as we honor our parents. That’s a promise from God.
For many of us, honoring our parents is hard to do. We have pain, hurt, and anger toward our parents. God wants to help us forgive and move the relationship to a place where honor, respect, and love will be restored. Will you let him help you and decide today to forgive your parents?
Can we all honor our parents?