Exodus 20 v 12. Honour your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
This is an important and profound command from God, which like the rest of the ten commandments has far reaching consequences for our daily lives.
Notice in the first place that this is the only one of the ten commandments that is presented positively. All the others say, ‘Thou shalt not’, but this one says, ‘Honour your father and your mother’. In other words you will – you must – do this. Secondly, this is also the only commandment that has a blessing attached to it. This blessing is actually specified, ‘…that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you’.
Four of the ten commandments concern the family and this is one of them. The others are the seventh commandment, ‘You shall not commit adultery’, the eighth commandment, ‘You shall not steal’, which refers to man’s property, and the tenth commandment which refers to the entirety of a man’s home.
When the Bible addresses an issue it often does so in such a way that the greater includes the lesser. For instance, if the Bible forbids murder, as in the sixth commandment, then it stands to reason that all forms of violence or action that could lead to murder are also forbidden.
This principle also applies to the fourth commandment. In demanding respect for parents, the Bible presents us with the challenge of respect for authority in the whole spectrum of human relationships and activities. By starting with our parents, it casts the idea of respect for authority first and foremost, into the framework of the family.
The importance of the family is in this way undergirded. Respect for law and order and placing a high value on the family go hand in hand. Under God, the family is absolutely central to the biblical way of life although this appears to be contrary to prevailing thought today.
This basic command from God comes against a background of almost total disregard for the family as we know it today, accompanied by the increasing disregard for law and order.
Thus this command underscores the vital element of respect for authority in human relationships so that we can live with order and structure. This is learned first and foremost in the family and therefore the family has to be protected at all times. Once respect and authority has been recaptured at this most basic level, it can be applied to all areas of life.
We will be unpacking this command on the next few days and what I intend to do is to omit the prayer at the end of each day’s reflection and ask you instead to think about an aspect of the discussion for yourself. Then say your own prayer.
Meditation: Some people may not have family members, it is true, but most of us are part of a family. What is your family like? Do you value your family? Or have things gone too wrong? Talk to God about it.