God clearly commands us, even as adults, to honor and respect our parents. Yet, many of us grew up in homes that were less than perfect. How do we honor parents when we believe they failed us in some way?
Job 35 & 36
1 Corinthians 4.1-21
Honoring Imperfect Parents
Buy the Truth & Do Not Sell It
Matthew 13.45-46 says:
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”
We should be willing to get God’s truth no matter what the cost and once we have gotten it, we should not be willing to give it up, not for wealth or fame or popularity or anything else.
Adult Children & Their Parents
As a counselor, some of the most frequent problems I see in marriages involve a failure to properly “leave and cleave.” Spouses fail to make their husbands and wives the primary human relationship. They run first to their parents when there is a problem instead of communicating biblically with their spouses. They may continue to support their parents financially against their spouse’s wishes or neglect their own family unit in other ways.
This is unbiblical and hinders the one-flesh relationship God intended in marriage. Yet, the Bible clearly calls us to honor our parents, no matter what our age.
“Listen to your father who begot you,
And do not despise your mother when she is old” (v. 22).
“Let your father and your mother be glad,
And let her who bore you rejoice” (v. 25).
But how do you honor parents who failed in some way?
Honoring Imperfect Parents
We live in a fallen world. I don’t know anyone who grew up in a perfect home. I know I made mistakes, many of them, when raising my children. So did my parents and your parents.
I also know many adult children who refuse to see their childhood through God’s eyes. Instead, often because of unforgiveness and bitterness, they continue to view their childhood through a childish lens. As children, we all have a narrow understanding of the world. We only know how decisions and circumstances affected us. We don’t usually see the big picture.
Children may blame a single mom for leaving a marriage and destroying their home. They may never know that their father was an adulterer or an abuser because their mother didn’t want to destroy their relationship with him.
Children in blended families sometimes resent a step-parent without ever appreciating the difficulties, financial strains, and sacrifice parents and step-parents make. All they can see is that this person was NOT their biological parent. That thinking breeds resentment and rebellion in childhood and a lack of grace and thankfulness in adulthood. They may only see what they perceived as unfairness without considering their own difficult, rebellious attitudes and how that complicated the relationship.
One of the biggest issues is favoritism or perceived favoritism. Certainly, parents need to avoid sinfully favoring or comparing one child to another. Parents are not blameless in this.
But with four grown children and thirteen grandchildren, as well as, counseling many families, I can tell you that every child is different. What works with or motivates one doesn’t with another. Also, parents are growing and changing. They may change their parenting style as they mature, especially if they become believers along the way.
Grown children may fail to consider their own part in difficult parent-child or step-parent relationships. Children, not just parents, are responsible for their actions.
Even a child is known by his deeds,
Whether what he does is pure and right” (Prov. 20.11).
The bottom line is most parents did the best they could with the information and understanding they had. I understand there are parents who were neglectful or abusive either because of substance abuse or their own brokenness and sinfulness, but grace and forgiveness can and should be extended even in those circumstances.
In the end, we should honor and respect our parents, not because they deserve it, but because God commands it. Bitterness and unforgiveness is a dead-end and will ultimately hinder our relationship with God and others.
If you struggle with forgiveness or other attitudes toward a parent or step-parent, pray and ask God for His wisdom and grace. Choose to forgive and restore the relationship if possible.
Romans 12 says:
14 Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. 15 Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!
17 Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. 18 Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.
19 Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say,
“I will take revenge;
I will pay them back,”
says the Lord.
“If your enemies are hungry, feed them.
If they are thirsty, give them something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap
burning coals of shame on their heads.”
21 Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.
There are, of course, times when it’s not wise to re-establish an ongoing relationship with someone, even a parent. If it would put you or your children at risk of further physical or sexual abuse, for example. And there are times when you must report abuse or speak up to protect extended family members from the same. But even in those cases, God’s Word instructs us to forgive and extend whatever grace we can.
Today’s Other Readings:
Job 35 & 36:
Verse 36.15, “He delivers the poor in their affliction, and opens their ears in oppression.”
God uses test, trials, and times of suffering to draw us closer to Him. Sadly, we are often content to just go about our lives without giving God much thought until we have nowhere else to turn. Sometimes the only way He can get our attention is to allow some adversity into our lives.
But in other cases, even when we are living our lives to please Him (as Job was), He allows adversity to take us to a higher place with Him, not to pull us down. That is when trusting Him is so important.
Though 1 John 1.9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” And, even though, we are not under the law, God’s forgiveness doesn’t always mean the removal of all consequences.
Galatians 6, a New Testament passage, says:
7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. 8 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. 9 And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.
We are no longer under the judgment of the law. If we are saved, we won’t suffer eternal punishment for our sins, but God does allow appropriate consequences in our lives for His divine purposes (Heb. 12.5-11).
1 Corinthians 4.1-21:
Just Be Faithful
Verses 1-2, “Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.”
Like Paul, we are all servants of God. He is the Master and we are to manage (steward) that which He has entrusted to us—whether our children, our finances, the truths of His Word, our talents or anything else. Our responsibility is to be “faithful.” We are not responsible for the results, only our faithfulness. That’s good news and very freeing.
In the next few days we’ll talk about sexual immorality, the danger of not judging sin, creation science, and what the Bible says about taking a brother to court. Be sure to sign up so you won’t miss any of these upcoming posts.
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