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god & life: pondering the fifth commandment

November 5, 2010

Honor your father and your mother

The bible says “Honor your father and your mother.”  It doesn’t say, “Honor your father and mother when it’s convenient or when you feel like it.”  It doesn’t even say, “Honor your father and mother when they deserve it.”  It simply says, “Honor your father and your mother.”  This includes stubborn parents, over-protective parents, thoughtful parents, insensitive parents, emotionally distanced parents, emotionally smothering parents, supportive parents, absentee parents, married parents, divorced parents, healthy parents, even broken parents.

Honor your father and mother.

From what the experts tell me, the odds are pretty good that you, in fact, are someone’s child! But as children get older and even begin to have children of their own, the 5th of the 10 Commandments becomes increasingly harder to practice in the day-to-day. I’ve lived in Boston for the past eight years. My folks still live in North Carolina. Honoring and respecting my mom and dad has taken shape through regular (and sincere) conversations over the phone, quarterly visits, and an occasional date on Skype. Until recently.

In mid-September our family celebrated my dad’s 60th birthday.  Wanting to celebrate the accomplishment of 60 years well-lived, I decided a birthday adventure was in order – an adventure that took shape as he and I, alone, father and son, made a visit to Yosemite National Park.  “Honor your father.”

Our 5 days in Yosemite will stay with me forever.  Here are a few thoughts I take away from our time together:

  • Honor your father by saying things you usually keep hidden.  Tell him what he means to you, why you admire and respect him, why he’s your hero.  Explain things that have hurt you in the past.  Ask for forgiveness. Don’t allow the brokenness of the past to dictate your future.  With your words, take steps toward reconciliation.
  • Honor your father through service.  Give of yourself as much as you can.  Look for the ways in which you can “carry his pack” when the hill gets steep.  Service is never easy or convenient.  But it binds us to others in unique ways.
  • Honor your father by praying together.  Christian parents long for the salvation of their children.  My dad and I both serve Jesus.  In a way, praying and reading scripture together was an answer to years of expectant prayers.
  • Honor your father by laughing together. Life is maybe best shared through laughter.  Be willing to share your quirks with your parents.  They know you’re not perfect, they changed your diapers.  But your parents aren’t perfect either.  And your willingness to make laughter and simple fun a part of enjoying one another makes time together rich and authentic.
  • Honoring your father is a choice.  Parents, while often wise and discerning, are cut from a different generational and (potentially) ideological cloth.  Kill your pride, listen with new ears, and critique with charity.
  • Honor your father with your time. There is no substitute for time together.  Give your time away to your parents.  Seek to make it intentionally meaningful.  Time in each other’s presence is different than time well spent.  But we’ve all got to start somewhere.
Jonathan Kerhoulas is an assistant Pastor at Citylife Presbyterian Church in Boston, Massachusetts.
One Comment leave one →
  1. Jason Rexing permalink
    November 25, 2010 11:45 pm

    How do you honor your father and mother when they tell you to do something that isn’t right? How about when it’s not as clear of a line… for example, when they sternly tell you to become a doctor but you want to be a journalist instead? What’s the biblical view on this?


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