If we take the Bible seriously (you do, right?), then we know that finding a way to honor our parents, no matter who they have been, no matter what they have done, is a very significant action. I’m serious. The Bible is filled with stories of people who honored their parents and succeeded and of those who did not honor their parents and failed. If you’re alive, you’ve got parents (even if they are no longer living)—and God’s command is to honor them (see Exodus 20:12).
Now you may think, “If this guy thinks for a moment that I’m going to honor my old man, he has got another thing coming!” Well, let me try to get by your resistance. Honoring our parents does not mean several things.
First, honoring our parents does not mean to go back groveling and seeking their approval (again). Children need to get freed from my-parents’-approval bondage.
Secondly, it does not mean to make yourself vulnerable to their hurtful behavior. Sometimes appropriate boundaries between children and abusive parents are necessary. But the need for that boundary does not free us from the obligation of honoring our parents.
Thirdly, honoring our parents does not mean ignoring or denying the past.
Here is what honoring does mean. It means choosing to place great value upon our relationship with them. It means not kidding myself into thinking that my parents don’t matter to me. It involves taking the initiative to improve the relationship whatever its current condition. And it means recognizing what they have done right. You say, “They haven’t done a lot right.” They have done something right, even if it’s little more than giving you life (that’s big). So, express that recognition. Acknowledge the sacrifices that they have made for you. Honoring includes seeing them as Christ does, with compassion and mercy. It means forgiving them as Christ has forgiven you.
The apostle Paul was right: “When I was a child, I spoke like a child. I thought like a child. I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways” (1 Corinthians 13:11). Tragically, some grownups continue to act like children towards their own parents. When you become an adult, it’s time to stop playing the child role. It’s time to stop going, “He has to say it first. They have to initiate. They’re the ones–.” That has to stop! It’s time to honor your parents. If you are an adult, I-T I-S T-I-M-E! Take the first step. Take responsibility for your relationship with your parents as part of your relationship with God.
Honor our parents because God said so—no matter what age you are. Because His ways lead to freedom. Because words spoken at their funeral always seem way too late.
Some of you may wish you had gotten this message ten years ago. You’ve stood by a casket with a eulogy in hand and desperately wished the person for whom the words were written would wake up and hear them. But they won’t. That opportunity is gone. So do it now. Be the adult. Write or say the words of honor to your parents that you hope your own kids will express to you. God will bless your obedience.