When I was little, I had a bit of a sassy mouth. I thought I was always right and always had to get the last word in. I didn't get a lot of spankings, but I was well acquainted with the infamous bar of soap.
I remember one morning when I was being particularly sassy. I stubbornly continued to run my mouth after my mother had asked me to stop several times. Overwhelmed with my disobedience and the needs of three little ones at home, she lost her usual cool and slapped me across my cheek.
I'll never forget the look on her face afterwards. Sheer terror and disbelief. Tears flowing down her own cheek, she ran out of the room. She was probably more shocked than I was at what had just taken place.
Not long after, she returned, bending down to my level. "I'm sorry for losing my temper," she said.
And that was the first time I realized...
My parents are sinners.
As we grow older, our parents shed their superhero capes. We become more aware of their flaws and are forced to come to terms with their sinfulness. The ones who taught us, trained us, raised us to do what is right don't always do right themselves. It's a tough pill to swallow.
The bible tells us (multiple times!) to honor our fathers and mothers. But as adult children who now know the fuller extent of our parents' sinfulness, how are we to accomplish this? How do we obey God while they disobey? How are we to honor the dishonorable?
To put it simply...as Jesus did.
During his time on earth, Jesus was all about honoring the dishonorable.
He dined with tax collectors and prostitutes. He healed the demoniacs, lepers, and lame. He associated with the "untouchables" of society.
In the same way, we should spend time with our parents. This may seem quite obvious to some, but if you're like me, time with mom and dad can easily get lost in the shuffle. When the business of life takes over, parents can often take a back seat. We honor our parents by making time for them. Taking time out of our busy schedules for a meal, phone call or note is one way to honor our parents.
He didn't condone their sinfulness, but he didn't run away from them either. He sat with them, cared for them, spoke with them, listened to them, healed them, saw them, loved them.
It's important to remember that we are children of God first, children of our earthly parents second. God and his ways should always be our first priority. We are not called to enable sinful behavior or to engage in sinful activities. We are instead called to be blameless and holy. Honoring our parents does not mean turning a blind eye to sin or allowing our parents to sin against us or others. That does not honor God.
But we do honor God and by respecting and caring for our parents. This may take many forms in different relationships at different ages. For the college student, it may mean listening to your parents and giving special weight to their advice and opinions as you make important life decisions. For the young, married professional, it may come back to taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to mom and dad. For those with children of their own, it may mean teaching your children to respect and love their grandparents, accepting counsel from your parents with grace and humility, and allowing them to be a part of your parents' lives. For children of elderly parents, it may mean caring for the physical needs of parents who are no longer able to care for themselves. For the children of deceased parents, it may mean thanking God for your parents and being grateful for their years of service.
He preached the gospel faithfully. Calling each one to repent and follow (Mark 1:15). Praying that they would come to know him (Jn 15:1-26).
Jesus came to proclaim the gospel, and his greatest desire is that we repent and follow him. We then honor our heavenly father when we proclaim the gospel to those around us. He is delighted when we point each other to Christ. Our conversations with our parents (both believing and unbelieving parents) should be seasoned with talk of Christ's saving work on the cross.
When a parent is being "dishonorable," it is good and right to lovingly point him or her to Christ. And taking our cue from Jesus, we ought to pray for our parents as well...that they "might know the only true God" (John 17:3), that God would "keep them from the evil one" (17:15), and that they might be sanctified and glorified in Christ (17:17,22).
He viewed them as sinners in need of forgiveness and he died for them so that they might enjoy a restored relationship with God. He became dishonorable so that we might become honorable (2 Corinthians 5:21).
The bible tells us to forgive as we have been forgiven. We, too, are dishonorable sinners in need of forgiveness. God has forgiven us much, therefore we must forgive much. We must be quick to forgive and eager to reconcile with our parents, for that is God's own heart towards us.
We are the benefactors of such great love and mercy. Our proper and God-honoring response is to extend this same great love and mercy to others.
When I find it difficult to love my own parents, I find myself meditating on this verse...
"We love because he first loved us" (1 John 4:19).
Because Jesus loved us, we are now free to love others. On the cross, he made it possible for us to love the unlovable.
And on the cross, he also made it possible for us to honor those undeserving of honor.
How do we honor the dishonorable?
Quite simply...as Jesus did.
Today, let's purpose to honor our parents in two specific ways:
1) Pray for them. If you're not sure how to pray, I would encourage you to use John 17:1-26 as a guide. This passage shows how Jesus intercedes for us!
2) Show love to them. Make a phone call, send a note, or grab a cup of coffee and try to season your conversation with talk of Jesus and his saving work on the cross.