WHERE RESPECT BEGINS
(c) Copyright 2000 Rev. Bill Versteeg
Exodus 20:12 "Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you." (NIV)
Brothers and sisters in Christ:
Three weeks ago, in a Sunday evening service, we started looking at the 5th commandment "Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you." As we looked at that theme of being honorable parents (Link to Previous Sermon in Series), we found that honour attaches to what we are, not what we do. We found that one of the best gifts we can give to our children is being parents who are worthy of honour. We looked at what it means to be worthy of honour and we found that honour tends to be drawn toward three things within us:
Honour is drawn toward character: Character is that quality within a person that brings our good intentions into action, it is the bridge within us that turns our good intentions into actions. When we have heard it said - "The road to hell is paved with good intentions." That statement is not saying that good intentions are pointless, rather it is saying that good intentions without character are pointless. Children easily read the good intentions within us, but they very quickly will recognize when we don't practice what we preach, when our lack of character keeps our good intentions from becoming actions.
Honour is also attracted to a healthy conscience. One of the most important gifts that we can give to our children is that we ourselves be people of an acute and active conscience. Conscience we defined as the bridge between our moral values and our actions. Again, when children see that we will deny our own conscience, when children see that we act in a-moral ways, or ways that deny our own system of values, if they see us rationalizing so that we don't need to listen to a conscience that is bothering us, they first of all will not find it easy to honour us because of our lack of conscience, secondly they will learn from us that the conscience is a bother, something not to be listened to at all times. They learn that conscience is an inconvienience. They learn to listen to the demands of their desires, wants and lusts. One of the worst things we can do for our children is not listen to our own conscience. Being a parent who not only knows the law of God but does it, keeping a clear conscience, is giving a gift to those who follow us and who follow our example. Paul in his leadership strove to do everything with a clean conscience. Acts 24:16 So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man. I Tim 1:19 "Fight the good fight, holding on to faith and a good conscience.
Honour is also attracted to Courage. Courage is what bridges our faith into action. Its one thing to say to our children that we are people of faith, but if it doesn't make any difference in your life, then your children learn that faith doesn't have to make any real difference. However if by courage your faith can clearly be seen in your actions, in your testimony, in the way you deal with neighbours and trust in God to take care of you, your children learn that there is a strength behind you. This dynamic is very clear in the Lord's instructions to King Hezekiah - 2 Chron 32: 7 "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria and the vast army with him, for there is a greater power with us than with him. 1 Cor 16:13 Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong.
When we as parents are people of character, conscience and courage, we become people who are easy to honour. That is our responsibility in this commandment.
Now we want to ask: "What does it mean to honour a parent?"
Heidelberg Catechism Lord's Day #39 p. 910
What is God's will for you in the fifth commandment?
"That I honor, love and be loyal to my father and mother and all those in authority over me; that I obey and submit to them, as is proper, when they correct and punish me, and also that I be patient with their failings - for through them God chooses to rule us.
First of all, understand that to honour our parents is our religious duty.
Notice first of all that even though this command has a lot to do with our closest neighbour, it also has a lot to do with God. Some commentators (Jewish) actually regard this command as part of the first table of the law, that is having to do with God. The reason why: because of this very basic theme that all authority comes from God . For children, respect for parents is actually respect for God. In this confession, there is a universal rule: Respect for all authority because it comes from from God, whether it be parental, or legal, or spiritual or political . Respecting all those authorities is actually one of our religious expressions of respecting God, for it is through God given authorities that God rules over us. This priniciple of scripture is stated in Romans 13, it tells us that all authoity is delegated from God for the blessing, protection and discipling or nuture of those under authority.
Romans 13:1 Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.
Respect then for parents, or anyone in authority is actually an expression of religion, an expression of faith in God. Therefore it may be regarded by us as at least the bridging command between issues that deal with God and issues that deal with our neighbour.
Important point here is to understand that the first and the most enduring practical application of honouring God through honoring others will be thorugh honouring our parents. It is in our relationships with our parents that we learn from day one to honour authority and respect those who rule over us. Respect for authority is learned at home. God expects us to be parents who not only make it easy for our children to respect us, God also wants us to expect respect from our children, for in doing that we are teaching them a very important aspect of their faith.
But what does it mean to honour our parents?
In previous cultures, it might have been fairly obvious what it means to honour parents because culture communicated that expectation. Today however, we live with a culture that is quick to highlight those who are not worthy of honour and quick to discourage any honor of authority. I need only mention one of the more popular cartoons that is available today, "The Simpsons." I enjoy watching it myself, but at the same time I recognize that it is communicating the themes of our culture very well. You want to talk about a parent who is hardly worthy of honour, in almost every show Homor chooses not to follow through with his good intentions because there is a more immediate reward, like a donut. And in many of the shows, Homor is ready and willing to compromise his conscience in contrast to his daughter Lisa who has a very active conscience. When it comes to the courage of faith, frankly the Reverent in the show is a wimp and a laugh. Its no wonder that Bart is pictured as a young boy who has no respect for authority. Now that show is mild compared to Bevis and Butthead, along with a good number of other shows on TV. This is the theme of our culture, whether they watch the shows or not! Our children are growing up drinking these themes.
So what does it mean to honour parents?
The HC uses some words to describe it
Lev 19:33 "'Each of you must respect his mother and father,"
Jews understood that a child was to provide an elder parent with food and shelter as long as they were alive. In today's society where for the better part, investments or the government take care of food and housing, children do not have to provide to the same extent. But they are still called to give what the government and money can never give. Relationships, conversation, keeping in touch, looking out for their well fare. Loyalty today means to keep connected to your parents! Don't choose not to have much to do with them. Contact them regularly.
"To submit" in our culture is a dirty word because we have lost a healthy understanding of the word. In scripture, it is only through submission to authority that we can receive the blessing, protection and nurture of those in authority over us.
Prov 1:8 Listen, my son, to your father's instruction and do not forsake your mother's teaching. 4:1 Listen, my sons, to a father's instruction; pay attention and gain understanding. 23:22 Listen to your father, who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old. (Listening is an expression of honour even if we do not intend to follow their advice.) One of the best ways we can honour someone is to listen to someone, even if we do not feel like it.
Again, Obedience to all forms of authority is an expression of our obedience to God. Romans it gives the one qualification. Is says "as is proper." We must obey only in things that are true to the will of God. To refuse immoral acts is to honour parents by believing that they can be responsible and will be held accountable to a higher authority, namely God
Why Patience? Because parents aren't perfect. Sometimes parents have ways of dealing with interpersonal dynamics that are very unhealthy. Often they fail us in more ways than one. To honour them is to be patient with these failings, by letting the less important ones go by the road side and by dealing with the more important and painful ones by the hard process of forgiveness. Keep in mind that the greatest honour you can give a person is to honour them for who they really are, something only made possible by forgiving, a theme that we will look at next time.
To love a parent is to honour them. Sometimes the dynamic of the parent child relationship is so difficult that for a child to have positive feelings about the parent is an enormous task. Scripture calls us to love our neighbour as ourselves. Our parents are neighbours too. Loving them takes the form of honour.
Col 3:20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.
People of God, "Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you." (NIV) This is the way God pours out his blessings upon us.
(NIV) Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright (C) 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.