“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
For some, the commandment to honor father and mother is most difficult. Children who come from stable homes and families usually do not have much trouble honoring their parents. They don’t always see eye to eye, but in most cases children from stable loving families seem to enjoy wholesome relationships with their parents. Yet, all too often we read in the papers or see on the news, stories of children’s lives that have been rocked by parents who have given in to some of the worst temptations. Just how does one honor a parent that has physically, verbally, or sexually abused them?
Children all too often suffer great pains and humiliation, and emotional turmoil at the hands of their parents. This subject is hard for us to speak of because as a society, we understand this behavior is deplorable and contrary to God’s intention. Most often in situations of abuse, only God’s grace is sufficient for healing and restoration. So where does this leave children who have been hurt in so many ways, with respect to honoring their father and mother? This is the paradox of the commandments.
It is most important to read and understand the fourth commandment within the larger framework of the first and greatest commandment. To love and trust in God above all things. According to this commandment, honor, loyalty, and love for God is paramount to any and all human loyalty; we must honor God more than people. We must accept that all humans are sinners and therefore are in need of God’s grace. We must acknowledge to God in prayer, all of those things that are hard speak of, all of the people who have done unto us great harm.
The fourth commandment does not call children to submit to abusive parents. This commandment calls children, and parents, to honor and love God, and live within the framework of relationships that were given unto us in baptism. To honor your father and mother does not simply mean to hold them dear, loving them no matter what the circumstance. Honoring your father and mother also means acknowledging that because of sin and the power of the evil one, our relationships are sometimes broken beyond our ability to forgive. Sometimes honoring our father and mother means commending all of the hurt, betrayal and pain to God our Father, by whose grace alone, we are saved through Jesus Christ.
As you go about your daily walk of faith, remember to pray for those who suffer all type of abuse and neglect. Pray, not only for the victims, but also pray for those who commit such deplorable acts, that all may find healing and reconciliation in Christ. Give thanks to God for those who provide safe space for victims of abuse, and for those who provide perpetrators with counseling, so that all may one day find peace.
Photo: Receiving first Holy Communion