Honor your mother and father is for them, not you

I recently connected with a childhood friend I used to play baseball with in little league, and I told him my dad had passed away. He responded by telling me how much he liked my dad, and how great of a coach he was. It stung a little bit to hear him say that because I rarely thought of my dad in those terms, especially back then.

Just about everyone who has parents knows the commandment “Honor your father and mother”, but most of us have gone through times when we didn’t feel our parents were worthy of our honor, our respect.

I know I went through that phase from about 8th grade until I was in my mid-20s. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my parents, but people close to me probably wouldn’t describe my words or my actions as seeking to honor my parents. I just didn’t think they deserved it, and I wasn’t the only one who felt that way.

And then my dad got sick. He was diagnosed with cancer that became terminal over a 6-year period, and in the Spring of 2005, he passed away. He was only 60 years old.

As I grieved the loss of my dad, it occurred to me that he probably felt disrespected by me for the last 10 years of his life on this planet. He lived with the thought that his only son didn’t think very highly of him. It must have been unbearable at times and incredibly discouraging.

Now that I am a dad, I see this whole honor your parents thing a little differently than I did back then. As I invest countless hours raising my two little girls, teaching them how to tie their shoes and write their names, I can only think of the disappointment my dad must have experienced to not be respected by his son after all the work he put into my development, providing me with opportunities to grow and excel.

Although the Bible is clear that honoring your parents is the first commandment with a promise – to live a long life – I believe it has an equally significant impact on the ones being honored.

If I knew as a kid what I know now as a parent, I would have treated my dad with respect, even in the midst of disagreement with him. I would have sought ways to make sure he knew how much I loved and appreciated him. My friend from little league got it right, and I would give anything just to take him to lunch and tell him how great of a dad I think he is.

For many of you, it’s not too late to change course and begin honoring your parents, for the sacrifices they have made your entire life are great, and showing a little appreciation will do their hearts a lot of good.

Jesus, as God’s own son, perfectly honored the Father, even unto death. It’s not asking too much for us to honor our parents, even when we don’t believe they deserve it. For grace and mercy and forgiveness are pillars of the gospel, and parents need to see this. It is especially effective when displayed in the words and actions of their children.

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