25 July 2010 (Rishon/Pesach)|
Day #132, 5934 AM
How Do You Honour Them?
A Luthern pastor once said: "There's no statute of limitations on honoring your father and your mother." In other words, Yahweh makes no exception clauses for parents that are wicked - we can't just stop honouring them because they aren't believers or because they are evil. The Fourth Commandment is not nullified when parents cross a certain line. This being the case, how do we honour parents who are cruel, full of hate, and even seeking to destroy our Christian/Messianic faith? Many people come to me asking how they should cope with such parents, some of them on the verge of breaking point, and often compromising their faith to please them.
"Honour your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which Yahweh your Elohim is giving you" (Ex.20:12, NKJV).
Honouring dishonourable parent never means honouring their wickedness. Honouring parents does not mean obeying them when that obedience requires that you disobey Yahweh. That alone is often enough to enrage them to the point that they will start persecuting their own children either subtly or overtly. When unbelieving parents, or believing parents living in major sin, go for their believing and Yahweh-honouring children's throats, it's because they have demonic issues that urgently need addressing. The unloving behaviour is usually not them - it's usually their demons. Indeed, in spite of their unloving and often hurtful behaviour, it is usually the case that the parents do actually love their children but are in such bondage that they are unable to express it. Don't assume that unloving behaviour doesn't mean that dishonourable parents don't love honourable children. They are often spiritual cripples and can't help themselves. They are often deeply ashamed of their behaviour but are too proud to get help, or too stubborn to want to change.
Because of the special relationship between parents and children - the dependence children have on their parents (and yes, it remains even in adulthood...don't adults feel 'little' around their parents even years after they have left home and grown up?) - it is especially hurtful to children who should be getting love, nourishment and support and not the opposite! Youngsters who have to grow up with dishonourable parents are invariably spiritually damaged by them and need help themselves. They naturaly seek others to give them what their parents have so shamefully neglected to do, which can in turn make dishonourable parents jealous and even more hurtful. And yet we are not allowed to dishonour our parents. What exactly does that mean?
For one thing, honouring your parents does not mean just sitting there and taking abuse. Standing up to their dishonourable behaviour is not dishonouring them. It's helping them and you. Leaving violently abusive parents and seeking safety is not dishonouring them - it's saving your life, which is the higher priority. But what you must not do - however great the temptation and however hard to resist because of the hurt inside - is to strike back at them in anger. When we stand up to an unrighteous parent is must always be done out of love and concern for them. That implies two things:
As children we often blur the distinction between loving and obeying. In a righteous household, the two become naturally synonymous. Why would we not want to submit to or obey righteous parents who love us and have out best interests at heart? But where there is an unrighteous household, we sometimes have to learn to separate loving from obeying. To honour your parents, even when they are wicked, simply means continuing to love them - seeking their best interests, loving them as you would love an enemy because they have become an enemy to your soul when they ought to have been its nurturer and protector.
- 1. You have Christ IN you...because if you don't, you'll never manage to do it in your own power - this requires supernatural power to stand above what is an otherwise a deep, natural instinct to submit to and obey parents unconditionally;
- 2. You have to mature - because parents are wicked to their children, their children remain stunted in the emotional growth, even into adulthood. This means getting Christ to help you grow up so that you can handle your parents and do what is right and best for them. This can only usually be achieved away from them.
But doesn't the New Testament say we should obey our parents unconditionlly? Well, no, not exactly:
This means two things:
"Children, obey your parents in Yahweh (the Lord), for this is right" (Eph.6:1, NKJV).
There are two important things I want to say about the second item so that there are no misunderstandings:
- 1. In our obeying (when we are to obey), we are to do it IN Christ...in His power and strengthening; and
- 2. We are to obey them so long as it does not require us to break any of Yahweh's commandments.
But what about the passage which says children are to obey their children in everything?
- 1. Once a man leaves home and 'comes of age', he is no longer under his parents' law and is not obliged to obey them any longer; and the same is true of a woman once she gets married (for then she comes under her husband's law) - but they are still to honour them;
- 2. Until a boy or girl receives Bar (or Bat) Mitzvah (becoming a son or daughter of Torah and the commandments, obliging them to independently observe all the mitzvot) at or after the age of 12, their only obligation is to the moral Torah while they are under hostile parental rule. This means loving, not cheating or lying, showing respect, etc..
This is the ideal. And to illustrate this, there is a qualifier for the parents:
"Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to Yahweh" (Col 3:20, NKJV).
If your Dad tells you to go and rob your neighbour when you know it's wrong and you don't want to do it - of if he makes do indecent things, then he is provoking you. Then a higher law steps into the picture:
"Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged" (Col.3:21, NKJV).
We obey Christ first. If there is a conflict, then we obey Him before parents. Having obeyed Yah'shua in "all things", then what remains is the parents' sphere - their "all" - that children are to obey. If we fail to put Yahweh first, we become guilty of the greater sin of idolatry. Our parents aren't God - they have their sphere and we are to obey them within that sphere.
"He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me" (Matt.10:37, NKJV).
All parents have shortcomings because like children they are sinners too. Irrespective of their imperfections, we are to show them the same grace of Messiah that we want shown to us. And because it is grace (undeserved) we are to give it even if we don't get it in return. Grace transcends all age gaps, all authority structures, all cultures, races, ideologies and even religions. We are to show grace even to the heathen, just as Yahweh does. And yes, even to our national leaders who may be despots - we are commanded to pray for them and render unto Caesar what is Caesar's (taxes). However, if they command us to break the commandments of Yahweh, what are we to do?
There are therefore clear boundaries. When we honour our parents we honour their calling, which is a sacred one, because it is like Yahweh's Own to be our Father. They may not be doing a very good job of it but it's still appointed to them by Yahweh. It's the same with offices in the Messianic Community (Church) - Yahweh appointed the pastoral office and we are to honour it even if the pastor doesn't do a great pastoral job. We honour our parents, even if they are tyrants, because of what Yahweh has appointed them to do. And with few exceptions, even if parents can be really bad, you will find that they are fulfilling at least some of their obligations. And you can with a free heart honour them for these.
"And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest asked them, saying, 'Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name (Yah'shua/Jesus)? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man's blood on us!' But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: 'We ought to obey Elohim (God) rather than men. The Elohim of our fathers raised up Yah'shua whom you murdered by hanging on a tree. Him Elohim has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Saviour, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spririt) whom Elohim has given to those who obey Him'" (Acts 5:27-32, NKJV).
Ultimately, the way we love or honour others - whether parents or people in general - has nothing to do with their behaviour if we are walking in the grace of our Messiah Yah'shua. Honouring someone in the biblical way is a choice, not a feeling. We may loathe the person we honour. Personally I have little respect for the government that rules in my country of residence but I honour it because Yahweh has appointed it to maintain order and provide for its citizens.
Abusive parents are the hardest to deal with and they often know how to guilt and manipulate their children into being silent and complient while they continue their abuse unchecked. Remembering that honour is not first and foremost about feelings, but about a choice (though ideally it should involve a grateful heart), let us be quite clear what honouring a parent is NOT. It is not:
Certain kinds of abuse do absolutely require a severance of the relationship with the parent not just for the child's sake but for the parent's too, because the relationship (from the parent's point-of-view) is vampiric. There are boundaries to grace and when that boundary has been reached, then justice must have its way. Yahweh knows the limits of our endurance (such as, for example, in mental and emotional abuse) and does not expect us to become sacrificial offerings to evil parents.
- 1. Never saying anything about their faults - but there is a right (respectful) and a wrong (disrespectful) way of doing it;
- 2. Enabling a wicked parent to remain in sin by saying and doing nothing;
- 3. Thinking he is wonderful when he is not;
- 4. Having feelings of love when they are hurting you.
We best honour our parents by honouring Yahweh-Elohim first. That way we have stability, solid ground under our feet, emotional balance and mental clarity. Is it indeed possible to honour our earthly parents without first honouring our Heavenly ones? I think not, even though our earthly ones are supposed to set the tavnith or pattern for their children so that they find it easier returning home to Elohim. It seems the majority these days struggle with dysfunctional parents whom they find hard to honour when they come to Messiah. This is understandable. But it can be done, and done joyfully, once we are firmly in the arms of Yahweh through Yah'shua His Son and can tell the difference between true guilt (that comes from Torah-disobedience) and false guilt (caused by the wicked manipulation of bad parents and others in our lives).
Most believers lack a balanced or true understanding of what it is to honour parents. I hope these thoughts help resolve that a little more clearly.
 Danni Moss, How Do I Honor an Abusive Parent?