Pastor Craig Carter
In my previous post I shared some of the “Family One Liners” my wife Lee and I have developed to help us relate to our children. In this post, I’ve summed up what we’ve learned about relating to our parents.
I was fortunate to have two loving, involved parents. My wife Lee didn’t have that same set of circumstances. Our combined perspectives and the guidance of God’s Word led us to these one-liners for relating to parents (no matter your age!).
RELATIONSHIPS WITH PARENTS
Interestingly, while the Bible gives considerable guidance to parents on how to raise their children, it is virtually silent on how children are to relate to their parents. Perhaps that is because of the nature of the times in which it was written. In the ancient world, parents had absolute power over their offspring. Not much needed to be said other this command that made the Top Ten: “Honor your father and mother.” (Exodus 20:12a NLT). The Apostle Paul restates it and adds: “Honor your father and mother. This is the first commandment with a promise: If you honor your father & mother, ‘things will go well for you, and you will have a long life on the earth.’” (Ephesians 6:2-3 NLT)
1) Be thankful. At a recent commencement address, a speaker told the graduates they weren’t the only person occupying the seat they were sitting in. He said, “A lot of other folks helped you get there.” Today is always a good day to give thanks, not just for our own parents, but for others who have been surrogate moms and dads to us and helped us get where we are. Set aside some time to think about those folks, thank God for them, and perhaps even reach out to them.
2) They did the best they could. Becoming a mother or father is easy, but being one is tough. There is no such thing as a perfect child and no such thing as a perfect parent. We’re all imperfect to one degree or another. So rather than holding our folks to a standard no one could ever achieve, let’s be thankful for what they have done and assume they had the best of intentions. Believe they did the best they could with what they had.
3) Forgive them, they don’t (or didn’t) know what they’re doing. Oftentimes we, the children, are the recipients of the consequences of our parents’ mistakes. So what are we to do with the hurts inflicted on us and harm done as a result? We can deny its effect on us, ignore what happened, or try to get even. Or, we can follow the path that God suggests: Forgive. It’s what Jesus demonstrated on the Cross when He said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.” (Luke 23:34 NLT). Scripture tells us the ones who crucified Jesus were evil people who knew exactly what they were doing but Christ gave them the benefit of the doubt. In such a way, He was giving them a way out and a chance for redemption. One of the reasons many people are reluctant to forgive is because they don’t understand it. Forgiveness is not acting like something happened. It is an acknowledgement that a wrong has been committed but we’re not going to hold it against them. It is not letting them off the hook. It is letting them off our hook, but they’re still on God’s hook. He is infinitely more qualified to judge and discipline. Finally, granting forgiveness is not the same as trusting again. Forgiveness is undeserved, but trust is earned; forgiveness is instantaneous, but trust takes time. So if your parents have been or are abusive, you can forgive them without subjecting yourself to the abuse again.
4) Honoring your parents is a commandment, not a suggestion. “Children, obey your parents…” vs. “[Everyone], honor your father and mother.” As adults, we can run with scissors and go outside with our hair wet. We may be disobeying our mom but we’re not violating God’s commandments. However, we still have to honor our parents – whether we are young or old, whether they are dead or alive. “Honor” means to give them the respect and recognition they deserve. The type and amount is dependent on and proportional to object’s worthiness. While obedience is fairly cut-and-dried (you do or you don’t), the gift of honor can take a variety of forms (how you speak of them, do for them, etc.). Honoring our parents is not a feeling, it’s an act of obedience: We don’t have to feel like it, we just have to do it. And the same holds true for the other one-liners about honoring our parents: Being thankful, giving our parents the benefit of the doubt, forgiving them, and honoring them are all actions we can take, regardless of how we feel. We take those steps because that’s what God’s Word tells us to do. We honor our Heavenly Father when we honor our earthly mom and dad.
In your relationship with your parents, what is the next right thing?
What are some of the one-liners that guide your life? I’d love to hear about them! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy National Family Month!