Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.
-Exodus 20:12 (KJV)
Instead of blogging about the fifth commandment, I should probably be apologizing to my mother. Maybe you’re in the same rut: instead of reading my blog about the fifth commandment, perhaps you also should be apologizing to your parents. This commandment, of the ten, in my opinion, rises to the top (among some others) when it comes to being widely interpreted or faded into memory. It is one where many are familiar, but few act accordingly. Even with God’s promise.
By widely interpreted, I do not suggest that the standard varies widely; simply that, many tweak such standards for their own family (e.g. My family is different. This is a different situation.). Some of these tweaks may be warranted, but I thought it might be worthwhile to delve into the original, the Hebrew, of this term. The Hebrew word for “honor” is kabad, which has one of the most diverse of meanings of any word used in the Old Testament text. It is used 114 times, ranging: “all ye the seed of Jacob, glorify him” (Psalms 22:23), “day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought” (Psalms 32:4), “make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see” (Isaiah 29:13), “people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honorme, but have removed their heart far” (Isaiah 29:13), etc… and many more examples of surprising variety.
Literally, kabad means “of great weight.”
Of how much “weight” do your parents have in your life? I think if there is anything on which our society more-or-less agrees, it is the idea of what is judged to be the “proper” way to treat one’s parents. While not meeting this ideal is often excused and blamed on irreconcilable generational, cultural, and educational differences, a busy lifestyle, and geographic inconveniences, I don’t think that the biblical ideal, nor the societal ideal, simply calls for obedience. (By this measuring stick, I may have nothing for which to apologize to my mum).
“Honoring one’s parents,” or, having our relationship with our parents be characterized by “great weight,” I think, challenges us to look beyond ourselves. It challenges us to confer importance outside of us, a weighty importance, not on our own terms and timetable, but theirs. It begins with one’s attitude when seeking permission, opinion, or even just a conversation. It marks flippant remarks and cursory hellos. It underlies even the busiest moments. These are the people who, (in most cases), love us the most, are the most understanding, the most accepting, and often, the weight is inaccurately weighed. To use a hackneyed phrase, we “take them for granted.”
Our treatment of our parents (with their, yes, imperfections. Yet, let us not forget our own, of which they are very familiar…), inevitably spills over into our spiritual walk and our relationship with God. In Christ, the parent is a tangible reflection of who God the Father is to us, someone who knows the best and worst of us, yet loves us, someone who sacrificially provides for our well-being, someone who rejoices in our successes, someone who comforts us, someone who disciplines us, someone who has more wisdom and insight than we give credit for…
My purpose in writing is not to merely promote obeying one’s parents. In fact, I think the sheer variety of families and parents ensures that parents are not always right, and obeying them all the time is not the wisest maxim. Furthermore, I cringe when I think about those who may have unbelieving parents, abusive parents, neglectful parents…
Please take this moment to consider what weight, or importance your parents have in your life.
They are still your parents, and God has a purpose in putting them in your life.
Please take this moment to forgive your parents… even if they have not apologized. Even if they still feel they are in the right.
Ask the Lord for the strength to forgive and let go.
Lastly, please take this moment to engage in prayer for them… they may be parents, but they are still God’s creation, children. And even the best of them need our prayers.
Now I’m going to go apologize to my mom for the frustrated look I gave her earlier.