Exodus 20 v 12. Honour your father and your mother
Your Role in the Family
How are we supposed to behave with each other? There are certain basic requirements, rules and functions that must operate in a family under God. Today I mention Honour. This piece will be a little longer than usual because I want to quote wise words from a wise man – the late John Stott.
‘Honour your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.’ This word honour means to ‘weigh heavy’ – to place a great weight upon. Children need to place a great weight upon their parents. This obviously does not refer to placing great burdens upon parents; rather it means to place a great value and respect upon our parents. The idea of respect or the value of individuals is the only way in which we can co-exist. While the commandment is cast in such a way that the duty devolves particularly on children, the New Testament teaches us that the question of honouring and respecting others is a requirement of every member of the family (see Ephesians 5:21-26).
For instance, in Ephesians 6:4 we read, ‘And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord’. Here we are presented with the need for parents to behave properly toward their children. This is well expressed by John Stott in ‘The Message of Ephesians’, The Bible Speaks Today Series.
‘Negatively, they are told: Do not provoke your children to anger. Paul recognizes how delicate a child’s personality is. Some authors have speculated that in his own childhood he was comparatively deprived of love, and that in this instruction to parents there is a flashback to some early childhood reminiscence. We do not know. What we do know is that parents can easily misuse their authority either by making irritating or unreasonable demands which make no allowances for the inexperience and immaturity of children; by harshness and cruelty at one extreme or by favouritism and over-indulgence at the other, or by humiliating or suppressing them, or through those two vindictive weapons – sarcasm and ridicule. These are some of the parental attitudes which provoke resentment and anger in children. How many “angry young men”, hostile to society at large, have learned their hostility as children in an unsympathetic home? There is a place for discipline, as Paul goes on to say, but it must never be arbitrary (for children have a built-in sense of justice) or unkind. Nothing causes a child’s personality to blossom and develop like the positive encouragement of loving, understanding parents. Indeed, just as a husband’s love for his wife is expressed in helping her develop her full potential, so parents’’ love for their children is expressed in helping them develop theirs.
Behind this curbing of parental authority there lies the clear recognition that although children are to obey their parents in the Lord, they have a life and personality of their own. They are little people in their own right. As such they are to be respected, and on no account to be exploited, manipulated or crushed. “The dominant father of the Victorian novels,” writes Sir Frederick Catherwood, “who used his own authority for his own ends is no more entitled to claim Christian authority than the rebellious son. One is abusing authority, the other is flouting it. Both are wrong.” (Message of Ephesians by John Stott page 246)
We need to respect each other because we cannot live together unless we do. Respect and honour must be maintained in our family circles but this is impossible in the presence of violence, crudity, swearing or abuse.
We reduce respect for ourselves if we live in unreasonable and sinful ways. For instance, how can you be respected if you never listen to reason, never talk about problems, clam up, or conversely, shout and overrule everybody? How can we respect each other if we are constantly subject to verbal abuse? Honour and respect are crucial.
If there is little or no communication between family members or if there is never any expression of love or affection in the family, we quickly abandon respect for each other in favour of cynicism and suspicion. We need to tell our teenagers that we love them and they need to tell us that they love us. We need to say the same to each other regularly as husbands and wives. There has to be expression of affection. It’s no good saying “…but she knows I love her’. We are not geared to operate like that; that’s why God gave us ears, so that we could hear it spoken. We need to hear these things and to experience the sensation of tenderness in our lives.
Is all well between you and your children? Is there something that needs to be sorted out? Talk to God about it.