From the time many of us were in pre-school up until the time we moved out of the house, the principle of Ephesians 6:1-3 was engrained within us – That it’s right for children to obey and to honor their parents.
I don’t think that any of us would question this truth or its importance.
We now teach it to our children, as well as the accompanying promises that go with it – That God promises not only a Better life (“that it may be well with thee”), but also a Longer life (“thou mayest live long on the earth”) to those who follow this command.
These promises are given by God to anyone who prioritizes obedience and honor towards their parents.
BUT… What about adult children?
Do these commands and principles still apply to those who have grown up and now may have families of their own? Am I, as a grown man, still responsible to obey and to honor my parents?
Well, the answer is quite simple – Yes, and No.
While a child’s obedience is a Biblical requirement for as long as they’re living in their parents home, a child’s honor is a requirement for as long as their parents are living.
It’s important to understand the difference between obedience and honor:
- Obedience is submission given to a God-given authority.
- Honor is respect shown towards a God-given position.
- Obedience can be limited by age or the seasons of life.
- Honor transcends age throughout all the seasons of life.
- Obedience is done out of a required duty. (Children are to obey simply because it’s right.)
- Honor is done out of a desire to show respect. (Children & adults who want to respect those who’ve given them life.)
Once a child leaves home and becomes an adult, they are no longer under the parental authority of their mom and dad. (Genesis 2:24) As a result, obedience is no longer a command or requirement for the adult child, nor something that should be a parent’s expectation of their adult child.
This doesn’t mean that a parent can no longer speak wisdom into their life, but simply that the there is no biblical obligation for them to submit in obedience.
Honor on the other hand, it quite different.
Because honor transcends age, honor is to be given for a lifetime.
If you’re still living, you’re still choosing… As long as a child is still alive, they have the ability and choice to either honor or dishonor their parents, thus making the promises of a better and longer life still in effect.
But you don’t know what has happened to me…
Many would ask the question – “But you don’t know how my parents have hurt me, scarred me, or wounded me deeply. How can I possibly give them honor?”
It is believed that 9 out of 10 adult children have a “father wound” (parent pain) that they have carried into their adulthood and still deal with.
This raises a very important question – “Does any pain caused by our parents in the past ever lessen or negate God’s command for us to honor them in the present?”
Sadly, we’re facing an epidemic in our society of adults who feel justified in refusing to give honor to their parents. Many of them have alienated themselves from their parents, they have become unwilling to make amends, and they are content with having a distant relationship, if any relationship at all. (Sometimes, this can go both ways.)
However, I believe that God knew when He gave the words of Exodus 20:12, Deut. 5:16, and Eph. 6:1-3, that obedience and honor towards our parents would not always come easily. Think about it…
- Obedience is often the greatest struggle for a child in the home.
- Honor is often the greatest struggle for many adults once they leave home.
Neither one requires a full understanding, but both ultimately require obedience to God.
- We are to obey our parents as children because it’s the right thing to do.
- We are to honor our parents as adults out of obedience as well simply because God commands it.
I know that you’ve been hurt. I know that things weren’t always, and still aren’t perfect in your relationship. I know that for some, the pain you’ve experienced seems unbearable. But honor is a gift you give by choice, out of obedience.
Honor doesn’t have to be deserved…
Honor is not a gift that has to be given because it is deserved. Often, we have the wrong thinking that honor (respect) has to be earned. But that is not completely true. While respect can be earned, and even should be earned, respect can also be given… Given because of someone’s position. Given out of obedience to God. Given out of a genuine desire for receiving the promises. Given to others as it has been given to each of us.
Meditate upon these verses:
Romans 5:8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
II Cor. 5:21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
II Cor. 8:9 For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.
I John 4:10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
Think of all that you and I did to Christ, and how He still honored us to the highest point possible by becoming our sin and granting us the greatest symbol of respect – His own personal righteousness.
Christ loved us when we least deserved it. Christ honored us by putting us in His rightful and righteous position. Christ respected us when we least deserved such respect.
Honor is closely tied to so many other Biblical principles – forgiveness, humility, kindness, not returning evil for evil, unselfishness, mercy, grace, compassion, understanding. That is what God did for us through Jesus, and that is a beautiful picture of what God wants us to do towards our parents.
- You may have had wonderful parents who did things right, and a wonderful relationship with them even today – Honor them.
- You may have had parents who made some big mistakes, and there is a lingering parent pain there – Honor them.
- You may have parents who have hurt you terribly, by what they did or failed to do, and your relationship is distant, maybe even non-existent. I challenge you. God challenges you. – Honor them.
Christ came to us. We didn’t come to Him. Christ loved us first. We must choose to love Him back.
I John 4:19 We love him, because he first loved us.
The same is true of our parents. Our parents also loved us first. It may just be time for the shoe to be worn on the other foot.
Someone correctly put it this way… “Love your parents. We are so busy growing up, we often forget that they’re also growing old.” It’s important to remember that there is coming a time all too soon when we won’t be able to personally give them honor anymore.
If you’re an adult with parents still living, are you giving them the life-long honor that God requires? Can you claim the better and longer life promises that God has offered to you?
If you’re a parent with children still at home, think ahead… what are you doing right now that could potentially cause a parent pain in your child’s heart and life someday?
God created you to love and honor your parents, both now and forever. Regardless of what they have or haven’t done, they gave you life, and they loved you before you even knew how to love yourself. Are you returning the favor?