|Posted by pastorsloan on August 30, 2012 at 11:00 PM||comments (3)|
By Pastor Howard Sloan
“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.” Exodus 20:12
I was recently asked ”how to keep the commandment of honoring your father when he did something very terrible to someone you love?” The question could have easily been about something terrible done to them. That is a very heavy question loaded with a lot of emotional baggage. There is much pain, anger, tears, and frustration behind such a question. Abuse, abandonment, drunkenness, and theft all qualify as terrible things that can be done to us or someone we love by a parent. So the question really boils down to this: how do I honor a parent who is dishonorable?
Let us first look at what honoring them does not mean. It does not mean placing yourself in bad situations. Reentering into situationswhere the problems arose is neither wise nor necessary. Secondly, it does not mean trus ting them without sufficient cause. The time may come when repentance is shown and trust is regained, but we do not have to trust anyonewho has demonstrated that they are untrustworthy. Finally, it does not mean allowing them to control or have power over you. People that hurt us may attempt to exert influence over us. We are never obligated to follow someone in their wickedness or disobedience to God. Our allegiance is first to Christ. He is to have supreme influence over our lives. God will give us many people who have good influenceover us. No one has the right to controlus. Yet, there are ways we can give honor to the dishonorable.
The first step in honoring them is to forgive them. Put aside all thoughts of retribution and ill-will. If there is justice to be done, leave that to the Lord and the authorities. Forgive them personally if the situation allows. Continue to forgive them depending on Christ for the strength and wisdomto persevere.
Sometimes the parent may not even realize or remember that they have done something dishonorable. This seems impossible to the offended party, but it can occur for many reasons, not the least of which is impairment due to alcohol or drugs. When this occurs, the parent may not see the need to be forgiven or even resent the insinuation that they have done something offensive. The best advice in this situation is to forgive and move on. Hanging on to the hatred that can develop is not healthy, and is sinful. Remember that Jesus equates hatred with murder (Matthew 5:21-22)
You must also pray for them. Pray for their conversion if they live in darkness and sin. They are in need of the forgiveness and grace. The same grace that saved you is what is needed to save them. The same God who broke through your cold and stony heart, can break through theirs. Pray for the restoration of the broken relationship. Persist in prayer over them. It may be years, even decades, before you see the hand of God at work. Rest assured that He is at work, even though you may not see it.
Reach out to them with proper parameters for therelationship. Make sure that you do not open yourself or your loved ones up to further risks. Honoring your parent does not mean that they have free reign in your life, nor does it mean exposing yourself or others toharm. Make the goal of the relationship to witness to them by deed and word! Let your light shine before them. Give them the saving message of the gospel of Jesus Christ. God’s forgiveness of you in Christ Jesus is the basis of your forgiveness of them. Share that with them.
You should also have an active interest in their well-being. This may not mean day today contact depending on the situation and distance. It does however mean that you are concerned for their physical and emotional welfare. Take no joy in any disease or infirmity that might fall upon them. Instead pray for their health, and encourage healthy living. Advise them to seek medical help when needed. Be willing to step in and provide care for them should there be need.
Be honorable parents yourself. Any terrible event done to us or someone we love should cause us to want to be all the more Christ-like and Christ honoring. Teach your children how to follow Christ. Be the example and shining light that you may not have had.
Remember, we are to honor our father and mother not because they are honorable, but because they are put in that place of honor by God Himself. Even if they have abused that position, they are still in that position by God’s appointment. So “honor your father and your mother,that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.”
Rev. Howard Sloan is the pastor of St. Paul’s Reformed Church in Bedford, PA. He is also the moderator of the Heidelberg Reformation Association. Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission.All rights reserved.