Honor: To hold in high respect; confers a combination of liking and respect; high respect as for worth or merit. The passage today speaks about the "first commandment that has a promise attached to it". Many commandments in the Bible are simply to be obeyed as "boundaries" over our lives - the provide protection in some form or another. For example, some of the commandments are "relationship" based - ones like don't commit adultery (get into bed with another person's spouse and your own relationship will crumble). Others are designed to ensure some semblance of control over our emotions - like the command to not covet (desiring what others have and never being content in our present circumstance). Still others are clear boundaries on who is to be first in our lives - like the command to have no other god but God himself (give him first place - make no room for any other thing to be first in your life). Yet, these commands don't come with a promise. They are "rules" for living which will keep us safe and on a "solid" foundation, but the one in our passage today refers to a promise. Let's explore.
Children, do what your parents tell you. This is only right. “Honor your father and mother” is the first commandment that has a promise attached to it, namely, “so you will live well and have a long life.” (Ephesians 6:1-3 MSG)
It is a command to "children". Now, unless you are upon this earth by some other means than being birthed, this command applies to you! Children are to honor their fathers and mothers - respect - have a combined degree of "like" and "respect" in relating to our parents. For some of us, this comes easily, as we had great examples in our parents. For others, this might present a little bit of a challenge. For those whose parent(s) may have been less than "honorable", here's what I can advise. God looks at our heart in the matter. If we hold onto the "hurt" they caused - through their abuse, neglect, absenteeism, or any other factor - we get "hurt", not them. We lose out on more than the relationship with them, but also on the promise referred to above. So, how do we get past the "hurt" of our "less than honorable" parents and into a place where we can "honor" them?
Let me just say, "honoring" our parents does not always mean we will have perfect relationships with them, but we will have "clean hearts". In other words, we release the "hurts" of the "bad parenting" to God, allowing him to model for us what parenting should look like. We don't hold onto the bitterness of the past abuses and neglect, but release our parent(s) to God - allowing him to work on our parents while he works on us. This may seem very simplistic, but for those who have been able to bring "bad parents" before God, giving him all the hurts of their parenting, and allowed him to begin the work of setting their hearts right, there has been release, renewed strength, and often compassion for the parent who just did not do "parenting" well. God's work begins when we let go of the hurt - his restoration begins when we give him the ability to "parent" our lives like our own natural parents did not.
I am honored to have had two very wonderful parents. Dad was a stellar example of a father - always there, always a solid provider, and never too busy to take time for us. He was firm, yet loving. My mom is very special to me because she actually "chose" me as her child. You see, my birth mother died when I was just a toddler, leaving my brother, sister, and I with much "parenting" which needed to be continued through the years. God's gift to our family was my mom - marrying into our "ready-made" family when I was just a wee lass. She was a perfect help-meet to my father for the nearly 30 years they enjoyed together before he passed. My brother and sister have been privileged to know two mothers. I have known only one - and a blessing she has been all these years.
Honor your parents - a command with a promise. The promise: So you will live well and have a long life. Ponder that one a little, will you? So you will live well - not mediocre living, but a life which is lived with propriety, justice and reason. Propriety bespeaks solidly good behavior. Justice bespeaks moral choices which are upright and sound in all respects. Reason bespeaks what we often refer to as exercising good sense. Honoring our parents helps us to develop these three characteristics in our lives. Who knew? Not only do we develop some pretty awesome character traits which keep us on the course of living upright lives, but we live a long life. Maybe this is because when we understand the "choice" to "honor" we understand the choice to also "give over" what we cannot "honor" in their parenting skill. In other words, we don't harbor bitterness over the stuff they do/did wrong. We let go - in letting go, we don't get bogged down with the things which eat away at us and serve to shorten our lives.
None of us had "perfect" parents. None of us who are parents were the perfect parent either! We made mistakes - they made mistakes. Some of us easily recognize our mistakes and make every effort to correct them - others may still not see their mistakes and suffer the consequences of broken relationships as a result. Regardless of where we find ourselves today, here's the crux of the matter: Honor your parents. In exhibiting good behavior, which is filled with sound choices and solid morals, exercising the best of sense when we make decisions, we are showing evidence we have moved into a place of honoring them. We may not have the most "honorable" of parents, but we do have at least one "parent" worthy of our honor - God himself. When we begin to give God the "less than honorable" in our natural parents, he gives back the "more than honorable" life traits we begin to form as a result. Just sayin!