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Honour your father and mother?

Honour your father and mother?

One of the 10 Commandments is about honouring your mother and father. Is this still a command to all Christians? How about kids that have had a really dysfunctional upbringing? And what three phases are mentioned in the Bible about the relationship of children to their parents?


 The 10 Commandments are still considered good rules to build a society on. One of the commands is about your relationship to your own parents.

 Honour your father and mother so that you may live long in the land. (Exodus 20:12)

The Bible says a number of things about our relationship to my parents. This is not so strange: nobody else has a share in so much of our lives. If one of them lives till they're about 80 or 90 then we share 40 to 60 good years together with them, if we are lucky. Very few marriages last that long. And cats and dogs don't live that long either.

We don't choose our parents

What the Bible says about this relationship can be summed up as three phases: obey; leave; honour.

Phase 1: Obey you Father and Mother

We don't choose our parents; they have a place in our life given them by God right from conception. Whatever circumstances led to it God used my parents to bring it about when he created you, wonderful as you are. Without them we would not exist. 

They have a special responsibility for me until you become an adult, too. They must give you care, protection, upbringing and guidance. They have a God-given task to give you ideals and attitudes so that you yourself are able to tackle life and function as an adult. Whether it be your attitude to the police, bills that have to be paid, your view of the Eurovision Song your parents influence will have made a mark. 

Most parents therefore do as well as they can, even though they're not perfect or always succeed.

Listen to your father, who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old. (…) May your father and mother rejoice; may she who gave you birth be joyful! (Proverbs 23:22 & 25)

According to Paul God's word to children is to be their parents, and learn as much as possible of the guidance and example. And God's guidance to parents is to not be too hard or provoke to anger and opposition, but be filled with loving concern (Eph. 6:1-4).

Phase 2: Leave Father and Mother

Our relationship to her parents changes gradually on our way towards adulthood. The command to obey dwindles to the background while you training at managing your own affairs, becoming mature and independent. Taking responsibility is normally an ongoing process through out our youth – sometimes with parents close by when needed. Once children have grown a different Bible passage comes into focus:

Therefore a man shall leave father and mother and cleave to his wife. (Gen 2:24)

The natural thing for children once they're adults is to leave their parents. A first stage may be to move into a collective, a bedsit or flat or away to study. Living at home until you are way into your 20s can be frustrating for both you and your parents.

Many choices in life do not have a clear, one-size-fits-all answer

The core of leaving father and mother, however, is standing on your own two feet. They are not clear one-sided solutions to everything. What education, job or priorities you have to make are your decision. You have to do it not someone else. You are responsible for your own choices. That being said, naturally people with more life experience and knowledge may give you good input or ask important questions you need to think through.

Phase 3: Honour your Father and Mother

Your parents ideal aim is to bring their children up to function as independant adults. Although the command to honour father and mother lasts all your life it is actually mainly adult children and their agéd parents. 

Everyone has their own story when it comes to parents 

Once you reach adulthood it becomes easier to understand breadth of the work your parents actually put into you. According to the State Institute of Consumer Research, your parents invest anything up to a million kroner per child before they come of age at 18. 

To that you can safely add changing nappies, poor sleep at night, sick children, absence from work, arranging and driving to leisure activities the various children are involved in, all the things children break or lose, etc. - then you realise your debt of gratitude to your parents (not the kind of debt you can pay off by buying a few smart-phone apps for them, so to speak). 

After becoming a father myself I have experienced what my parents probably had to go through for me when I was a child, and this has made me more humble and grateful to them for all they did for me. 

Honouring Father and Mother is shown through gratefulness and respect. 

I can hardly think of any place where Paul is more clear than when he speaks about our responsibility towards the members of our own family: 

"But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God." (1 Timothy 5:4) 

"Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." (1 Timothy 5:8) 

Honouring father and mother involves appreciating them and showing them gratefulness and respect both in words and deeds. Everybody likes to be appreciated, and it's particularly important to do it to people who have worked year in year out for the good of others. 

It's easy to say that they can probably manage, especially if they are well off or are relatively free of health issues. "They let me know if they need help". But maybe they won't! Many especially in the grandparents generation have great difficulty realising and admitting that they actually need their sons and daughters now and then. They need them for practical help or just to have somebody around who cares about them and wants to know how they doing and how they're experiencing the transition to becoming part of the grandparent generation. 

Let us Christian be known as the kind of people that honour our parents and show respect and honour to all people in our society! 

Forgiveness does not mean you having to trivialise, explain away or deny things that have been wrong. 


Everything you've heard in this episode is okay when relations to your parents are good. But what about those families where the children have had a dysfunctional upbringing? Where parents have never given care protection or even being there for the children and their lives? 

Let me first start by saying that in certain cases, especially where addiction, psychiatry, violence or abuse are in the frame, it can be necessary to break contact so you can take care of yourself (and maybe your own children). If you're in a situation like that, it would be better to talk to a pastor, a therapist or a professional counsellor. You need space both to tell your own story to someone you trust, and begin the journey towards forgiveness and genuine freedom. 

In other instances and for other reasons the relationship with parents can be so septic and conflicted that you prefer to stay away. Is it then possible to say that forgiving father and mother is still the rule for you? 


Many misunderstand forgiveness and think it's something you have to work to deserve before you can get it. Or you wait for your parents to realise they ought to be asking for it. Maybe you have tried to take up the issue and indicated several times it without getting the response you hoped for. It's unfortunately a blind alley and often leads to disappointment. 

Jesus asks us to forgive without getting hung up on whether our parents see their need or not. In Mark 11:25 he says: "But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too" 

Another misunderstanding is the idea that forgiving means saying something "really wasn't as bad as it was after all". This is absolutely not so. Forgiveness is neither trivialising, explaining away or denying what has happened. Nor is it trying to fool yourself that it will all probably get better on its own. Try that, and you will quickly get depressed and restricted feelings of inferiority where negative emotions and aggression find fertile ground. 

Take a choice to give up the right to get revenge 

Forgiveness means accepting a choice you'd rather not take, and that maybe people around you don't have: how to relate to the wrong your parents did to you, and how you relate to them in future. 

What the Bible says about forgiveness is basically about choosing to give up the right to revenge. It is about handing the matter over the guard and letting him decide what to do. 

If your parent or some other person are not interested in reconciliation forgive all the same and for your own sake and handed over to God. Whatever way the other person behaves, we can choose to shut our door to our own negative reactions and words, hand it all over in prayer to God and ask him to deal with it. 

If you want to live a free and rewarding life, then reconcile yourself to reality and leave reproach behind. 

Some years ago, Karsten Isachsen was a well-know religious broadcaster on TV. 

He had a radio talk about the path to adulthood and taking responsibility for your own life and said it would always involve a decision about your relationship to your own parents. Even when things have been perfectly ok it is easy to get hung up on what you think they didn't do for you and to blame them. This is part of what he said: 

"I don't know if you're like me, but I think that I'm pretty good at giving the people around me a generous allowance of space to mess things up. And I always expect them to do the same for me: - I want room for my creative madness - and life is short. But there are two people I have always treated differently from everyone else: my mother and father. I have only asked them for one thing: They should be perfect, that's all.

But if at any point I have been able to find they didn't measure up, then I have come up with the best reasons in the world as to why I have every right to be the most bitter person on earth. I have said to myself: "If my mother had just been different, if my father had just been different, then my life would've been so much better! 

Maybe it's true, maybe my life would've been quite different if they'd done differently. But what is not true, is that it means I should go around for the rest of my life blaming them. For becoming an adult means taking on responsibility for my own life; taking ownership of my own childhood, ownership of my own sexuality, ownership of my own irritability. 

When you're blaming your parents hardest, take a moment's pause and remember: They had a childhood, too; one that you know next to nothing about. And no doubt they also had parents who were not the pinnacle of perfection themselves, who also didn't come into adulthood on a bed of roses. So if you want to live a liberated and rewarding life, then reconcile yourself to reality and put reproach behind you". 

I don't want to give the impression forgiving and honouring your parents is easy or simple. I have talked with people who learning to forgive their parents, and they describe a process of strong feelings, confrontations, and tough honest and clarifying conversations. But starting this process and forgiving those who've hurt you maybe will work wonders: 

• By the grace of God we are set free to go on with our lives and put our wounds behind us 
• By the grace of God you choose mercy instead of revenge, and take control over your own story. 
• By the grace of God cursing is turned into blessing. 
• By the grace of God honouring father and mother, despite everything they've done, stops seeming as impossible as it may feel now.

Everyone has their own story when it comes to parents, so what I've said here is not going to match what you've gone through 100%. But perhaps some of it fits, and you can put some of it to good use. 

Article used by kind permission of Sennep.net 

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