A Shock to Mom and Dad
by Jack Klumpenhower
Not long ago, some friends and I were talking about our parents. Soon it became clear that several of us are delighted with our moms and dads while others of us drag around emotional baggage the size of steamer trunks, full of disappointment and even anger over the way our relationship with our parents has worked out.
So when we hear the commandment, “Honor your father and mother (Exodus 20:12),” what are we to do? While some of us struggle, others think the rule sounds almost too easy. Where can we find common ground to follow God’s command together?
The Bible has at least three thoughts, each of which would apply to any command of God.
1. Strive for more
“You are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)
I recently moved to another state and had to take a driving test. My goal was to study the manual just well enough to pass. God’s commands are never like that. Jesus made this clear when he called us to God-like perfection.
No matter where we start in our relationship with our parents, God offers more. His commands are not just-good-enough duties. That would be boring. Rather, his Spirit is able to lead us into exciting, God-like levels of honoring parents that will surely shock everyone around us—mom and dad most of all! Each of us must consider what this no-limit obedience would look like for us.
2. Take the principles to heart
“The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.” (Psalm 51:17)
Commandments reveal important principles and attitudes. The parent-honoring command shows that God is bent on preserving the family structure he created. Since parents teach children about God, it also shows that he works through families to make sure his worship continues. So we must resist the temptation to make a splash as individuals at the cost of family and spiritual values.
What’s more, our basic attitude must be to submit to authority. In Ephesians 5:21–6:9, Paul mentions the parent-honoring command in the middle of a long section on submission. He covers submission in husband-wife relationships, parent-child relationships, workplace relationships, and even submission in the church. He caps it off with the all-inclusive statement, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
1 Peter 2:18 goes on to say, “You who are slaves must accept the authority of your masters with all respect. Do what they tell you—not only if they are kind and reasonable, but even if they are cruel.” This is radical submission. To live as God’s people, we must develop a fundamental heart of submission to others even at the cost of our own well-being, independence and dignity.
3. Cling to the Commandment Keeper
“He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right.” (1 Peter 2:24)
When we fail to live up to God’s law, the bottom-line response for a Jesus follower is not to try harder or to slip into discouragement but rather to attach ourselves to Christ. Jesus kept God’s law perfectly, but he didn’t keep the good scorecard that comes with it. He hands over his perfect marks to us and, in return, suffered on the cross for our failures.
How perfect is the Jesus scorecard you and I possess? The Bible has an interesting account of Jesus as a 12-year-old, when he went missing during a family trip to Jerusalem only to be found in the Temple. Jesus explained to his parents, “Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Then the Bible says, “He returned to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them (Luke 2:49-51).” Jesus submitted to his earthly father, and also was all about his heavenly Father’s business.
That business led Jesus to give up his individual needs in service to others. For his Father’s sake, he sacrificed his well-being to the needs of the sick, his independence to the demands of his disciples, his dignity to the spit of soldiers. Giving his life itself he prayed, “I want your will to be done, not mine (Luke 22:42).” He alone is our obedience, and our common ground.
Jack Klumpenhower is a writer and communications consultant living in Colorado. He has authored Bible study lessons and a family devotional guide.
Read More: The Proverbs have much to say about honoring parents. What do Proverbs 1:8-9, Proverbs 4:1-3 and Proverbs 23:22 teach about the wisdom of submitting to parental authority?