THE FIRST COMMANDMENT WITH A PROMISE
1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with a promise: 3 “that it may be well with you, and you may live long on the earth.” 4 You fathers, don’t provoke your children to wrath, but nurture them in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (WEB)
We live in a generation where we are seeing an alarming increase in the breakdown of families. In many western cultures, divorces are nearing the 50% mark of all marriages. More and more children are growing up in homes where one of their parents are absent. Never before has there been a generation where today's Bible reading might present a real challenge than the one that we are living in now.
Paul reminds the Ephesians church about the importance of honoring their mother and their father. Of course, Paul is referring to the fifth commandment of the ten that God gave to Moses in Exodus 20. It is the only one of the ten commandments that had a promise of blessing connected to it.
Over the past 17 years of our ministry, we have taught a lot about the benefits of honoring our parents. Here are a few questions that we have received on numerous occasions from well meaning believers who struggle to put today's Scripture reading into practice... How do we honor mothers or fathers that have hurt us? Is honoring them endorsing their inappropriate behavior? What if I cannot think of anything positive about them that I can honor?
These are very real questions that unfortunately do not always have easy answers. I do know that God's encouragement for us to honor our parents does NOT mean that we endorse their bad behavior. Honoring simply means to respect the office that they represent. Paul instructed the church at Rome to respect the pagan government (Romans 13:1-7) even though they were killing Christians. Their respect was not an endorsement but rather an acknowledgment of the authority that they were given by God.
In the same way, I believe it pleases our heavenly Father's heart when we respect the authority in our lives that our mother and father represent. Whether we know our natural parents or not, whether they treated us well or not, God still used our parents to give us life. If we cannot thank God for them for anything else, may we thank Him for the gift of life that we received through them.
I do believe that most of us can be thankful for so much more than just the life we received from our parents. I believe if we ask God for His heart for our parents, we might be surprised at what we discover. If we realize that they were little boys and girls once just like us, who looked to their parents for love, we might have a better understanding of any love deficits that they passed on to us along the way.
My prayer today is that we would all ask God for a heart to honor our parents. May every love deficit that we have received from our parents be overwhelmed with the eternal love that our Heavenly Father has for us. May we become so filled with the love of God that we would turn our hearts towards our parents to bless them and honor them, so that we can see the fulfillment of the last prophetic word found in the Old Testament...
5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of Yahweh comes. 6 He will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.” (WEB)