Exodus 20:12. Honour your father and your mother…
While I have concentrated so far on the challenge of orderly family living the challenge of this commandment does not stop there – it extends to all of life. The challenge of creating an orderly society with respect for the rule of law remains with us – especially during this period of world history. We must learn to submit to properly constituted authority as opposed to cruel and unjust authoritarianism or despotic tyranny, whether in the home, the state or the church.
My contention is that we usually learn respect for authority in the home. This is where we learn the basic meaning of law and order. A family that allows domestic anarchy to replace authority will be ruined.
Some years ago I had an experience which illustrates the chaos in which many people live. I received a call for help from the mother of a fourteen year old girl who had attempted suicide. I arrived at a large home in the best part of town at the same time the mother of the family pulled into the driveway. Her luxury car was crammed with kids picked up from school. A tidal wave of noise, shouting and bickering spilled out from the car and into the living room sweeping me along with it. I was totally ignored by the entire family who were all shouting at each other. Although I had walked in with them no-one spoke to me or asked me what I was doing there., When I finally attracted the mother’s attention she appeared amazed to see me. I spoke to the fourteen year old teenager who had bandages around her wrists. While we were talking she lit a cigarette with shaking hands. At the same time an older girl was creaming at the mother for purchasing the wrong colour stockings for her. While all this was going on a boy of about 10 years of age plonked himself down on the couch with a comic in his hand and a cigarette in his mouth. It was bedlam. The mother looked at me and simply shrugged. It was obvious that the situation in that home had been out of control for quite some time. The father took little interest and did not want to be bothered. It seemed as if getting the family out of his hair was his chief concern and money was the means of accomplishing this.
That little scenario has stayed in my mind, for it illustrates the fact that life is a challenge. We either face up to life and live it to the full or life will conquer us and beat us to the ground. But the challenges of life cannot be faced unless there are some guidelines; we need rules by which we wage the battle, make decisions and formulate our actions.
By establishing the need for honour and respect in the home, this commandment helps us to establish the guidelines we need. In the Bible the appellation of father applies not only to the father of a family, but also to other figures of authority, thereby placing upon us the obligation to live in an orderly manner. By living an orderly lifestyle we are able to live safely and with dignity, and in turn community safety and dignity is conducive to the spread of the gospel, just as an ordinary domestic family living with safety and dignity is easier to reach and teach.
We will be following this particular line of thought in the next few days.
Well established respect for authority at home is the God intended training ground for respect for authority in the community. The loss of such domestic living is all too plain to see in the news reports of our day which depict masses of people on strikes or marches with no respect for authority and destructive behaviour which underscores the loss of respect, fear or honour for law enforcement. Talk to God about this.