One of the greatest struggles when you move to a new city is finding your way. I’ve noticed that some cities have an “easy-read.” Take Oklahoma City. The city’s laid out on a grid with most of the main roads numbered and directional – like NW 23rd street. It doesn’t take long to figure out your direction in that city. But some cities are more difficult. For instance, if you live in a city that began as a river town, the direction of the streets is not always constant. Sometimes the road will go east, and sometimes west. It can be difficult to navigate in a city like that.
Children need clarity to experience life in all of its fullness. Parents have that role.
“And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:6–9, ESV)
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother,’ which is the first commandment with promise: ‘that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.’” (Ephesians 6:1-3, NKJV)
Parents pass on God’s wisdom and instruction to their children, and children obey. Paul called the children to be ready to listen and to carry out the instruction and commands of their parents.
1. Obey your parents.
When we hear someone knocking at the door of our home, we have the choice to open the door to them or to ignore it. Obedience is hearing the knock (instruction from parents) and opening the door (obeying the instruction).
“The obedience of Christian children to their parents is all of a piece with their submission to Christ: the additional motivating phrase, ‘in the Lord,’ is virtually synonymous with ‘as to the Lord’ or ‘as to Christ’ (cf. 5:22, 6:5) and indicates that their obedience is part of their Christian discipleship.” (P. T. O’Brien, The Letter to the Ephesians, p. 441)
Obedience to our parents is the right and proper thing to do. Obedience is what God commands in His word. We obey our parents because it is what God has demanded, and we live to honor Him.
2. Honor your parents.
Children are also called to honor their parents (Exodus 20:12). Now obedience is the act, but honor is the attitude that children should possess behind their act of obedience. When we enter adulthood, obedience to our parents is replaced by honor for our parents.
In Grimm’s fairy tales an elderly man was taken into his only son’s care. Living in his son’s home, however, had its challenges. The elderly man’s shaking hands and poor eyesight caused problems for the woman of the house. She and the elderly man’s son decided to put the elderly man in a corner, at his own table. Everything was fine until the elderly man broke one of the woman’s bowls. So, the elderly man’s son made a wooden bowl for him to eat out of in the corner of the small home. A few days later, the elderly man’s son and his wife entered the home to find their 4 year old trying to make something out of wooden blocks. They asked him what it was, and he said: “I’m making a wooden bowl so that when you are old, you’ll have something to eat out of too.”
God told His people then and tells us today that we must honor our parents. It is not perfection that demands honor, for we have already seen that no one is perfect. God has deemed it important to honor those whom He has placed in a specific position. For God, it is supremely important to honor those whom He has placed as our parents. They are imperfect, but they deserve our honor. How can we accomplish this command today?
To honor means to value them as preeminently important in our lives. We must show our parents that they are preeminently important to us. For those who are under the direct authority of their parents, this command means that we submit to their direction. Sometimes I am amazed at how well parents submit to their children, but that is not the model that God established. God expects us to spend time with our parents and to take care of them, to bless them, to love them. Again this is not dependent upon their perfection or imperfection. It is dependent upon their position as parents.
The promise God gives children when they honor and obey their parents is divine blessing. As God evaluates the heart of the children for their parents, He rewards those who have honored them with a life immersed in His touch.
So stop, take a breath, and pray:
“God, by Your Spirit, help me to obey and honor my parents so that You may lead me to health in my relationships.”