“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 ESV).
How abusive, eccentric, defiant or blatantly disrespectful do your children need to be before you stop loving them?
How addicted, outlandish or riddled with problems do our sons and daughters need to be before they stop being our sons and daughters?
I have buried too many children and heard the sobs of parents too clearly to know there is no limit, shelf life or deal breaker that ends the love between a parent and a child.
A child can make any number of mistakes, bring their life to the brink of ruin by their foolishness, but parents will still lie awake worrying and longing for that child.
With that being said, my heart breaks when I hear children voice that their love for their parents has vanished due to their faults.
Looking at things from a different perspective sometimes give us just that … perspective.
However, it’s worth pointing out that our Lord tells us not only to love our parents, but even more, to honor them.
Merriam-Webster defines honoring someone as: “to regard or treat (someone) with admiration and respect.”
So how do you show admiration and respect to your parents according to God’s holy will even considering their failings?
This is a question and issue of faith I felt most appropriate with Mother’s Day in our rear-view mirror and Father’s Day on the horizon.
I appreciate and extremely value the opinions of some who argue that these national holidays are, at the worst ostracizing and the very best, just that, national holidays and have no place in the church.
However, I also feel that honoring parents is a God given vocation, and rooted not in the powers and privileges ascribed to the office of president, Congress or state Legislature, but in scripture, and predates this nation by several thousand years.
I can see how this is uncomfortable for many; honoring others is not easy.
In this day and age it seems increasingly rare.
When contemplating what it means to honor someone, perhaps it would be useful to describe what honoring is not.
Honoring is not celebrating someone’s poor choices, senseless anger, addictions or neglectful absence. Honor is not found in overlooking them either.
Moreover, honoring someone is not found in providing the certainty for any of that dysfunction to continue.
This might look like not sharing every poor decision of your parents with your co-workers or friends.
It also might look like not defining your parent’s whole being with one action.
Sadly, sometimes honoring our parents looks like clear boundaries and safe, healthy arrangements where dysfunction and pain can no longer be continued; yet honoring them none-the-less.
This is no less than our Christian duty. It has long been said that it is not enough to be called a Christian, but it is paramount that we should be Christian.
Paul in his letter to the Roman church described what a true Christian lifestyle looks like, “let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with a brotherly affection. Outdo one another with showing honor” (Romans 13:9-10).
Genuine love is a love that Paul, in another place, described as being patient, kind, not envious, boastful, arrogant, rude, not irritable, nor resentful, but that it bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).
It is also important to notice that love does not wait to be loved first. Love springs up from the heart, where the Lord resides in the souls of his people.
It is not looking to be earned but pours out of us freely because it was placed in us freely by the grace of our Lord moving to us in his love.
We are to outdo one another, not in the sense of a competition, but to remain reserved or restrained in our demonstrating the significance of others, promoting their station in this life, and weigh heavy importance upon their God given vocation; in this case the significance, station and vocation of parenthood.
Your parents are your parents: holes, blemishes, dysfunctions, addictions, sorrows and splendor. They may have, at times, disappointed you, hurt you and even abandoned you, but their actions do not control yours, or your duty to honor the office of mom, or the office of dad.
Perhaps they have given you perspective on how important the roles of parents truly are. Is it possible that they have demonstrated forgiveness so that you can show it to them?
If you have questions about how to do this in your own life, as we all have life circumstances that are unique to us, contact someone you trust and that is qualified to guide you from being stuck in the mire of your past and the past of your parents.
To God be the glory.
Issues of Faith is a rotating column by five religious leaders on the North Olympic Peninsula. The Rev. Dr. Patrick Lovejoy is pastor at St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Port Angeles. He can be contacted at 360-457-4122 or [email protected]