“He who does violence to his father and chases away his mother is a son who brings shame and reproach.”
When God gave the Ten Commandments on Mt Sinai, one of those great commands was “honor your parents.” God designed human life and community to center on the family, and love and respect are the heart of a healthy family. Disrespectful children bring heartache to their parents, dishonor to themselves, and disruption to their family and community.
In the NT book of Ephesians, Paul spoke to the importance of children obeying their parents: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” (Ephesians 6.1)
Paul gives three grounds for the obedience of children: nature, the law, and the gospel.
First, nature: “Children, obey your parents …, for this is right.” The obedience of children belongs to the realm of nature; in other words, this is a self-evident truth that reflects the way the natural world functions. It does not depend on special revelation; it is part of the natural law which God has written on all human hearts. It is not confined to Christian ethics; it is standard behavior in every society. Pagan moralists taught it. Stoic philosophers taught it as "the way of things." Even earlier in history, Confucius taught this principle in Chinese society. Indeed, virtually all civilizations have regarded the recognition of parental authority as indispensable to a stable society.
Second, if the obedience of children is part of the natural law which God has written on human hearts, it belongs also to the revealed law which God gave to Moses for people of Israel. So Paul goes on: "Honor your father and mother (this is the first commandment with a promise), that it may be well with you and that you may live long on the earth." In his quotation Paul combines the Greek text of Exodus 20:12 and Deuteronomy 5:16.
The honoring of our parents is our duty to God. For at least during our childhood our parents represent God to us and mediate to us his authority and his love. We are to ‘honor’ our parents, that is, acknowledge their God-given authority, and give them not only our obedience, but our love and respect as well.
It is because parental authority is divinely delegated that respectful obedience to parents was invested with such great importance in the life of God’s covenant people. Moses was commanded to say to Israel: ‘You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy. Every one of you shall revere his mother and his father … I am the Lord your God." (Leviticus 19). Reverence for parents was thus made an integral part of reverence for God as their God and of their special relationship to Him as His people.
More tomorrow ….