You therefore, beloved...take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. (2 Peter 3:17-18)
Children, obey your
parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” – which
is the first commandment with a promise – “that it may go well with you and
that you may enjoy long life on the earth” (Ephesians 6:1-3).
A friend of mine
asked me for my thoughts on this commandment because they were struggling with
honoring a parent. It didn’t surprise me, because I have also struggled with
what this command of God truly means. At first I deluded myself into thinking I
was trying to better carry out God’s command by diligently searching for its meaning but,
the truth was, I was looking for a loophole because I did not want to follow
God’s command. I had a good reason – my parents made me angry. God’s command,
however, is straightforward and we know what this command means; it is, along
with all of the commandments, written on our hearts. The Small Catechism
explains it this way:
does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not despise or anger
our parents and other authorities, but honor them, serve and obey them, love
and cherish them(Luther, 1991).
Out parents, however,
have a tendency to piss us off. Mine still do sometimes, and I’m a grown man.
Not only because they tell us to do things which we do not want to do, but also
because they are subject to the same disease of sin that we are. They are
sinful human beings just like us, and our parents don’t always act, speak, or
treat us as they should. This makes it really easy for us to react to them in a
less-than-honorable way. Martin Luther explains in his Large Catechism, though,
that depriving a parent of honor is not justified by their poor behavior:
must, therefore impress it upon the young that they should regard their parents
as in God’s stead, and remember that however lowly, poor, frail, and queer they
may be, nevertheless they are father and mother given them by God. They are not
to be deprived of their honor because of their conduct or their failings.
Therefore we are not to regard their persons, how they may be, but the will of
God who has thus created and ordained(Luther D. M.).
Indeed, Luther viewed
a Christian who honored their parents as having done a better “good work” than
notice how great, good, and holy a work is here assigned children, which is
alas! Utterly neglected and disregarded, and no one perceives that God has
commanded it or that it is a holy, divine Word and doctrine. For it had been
regarded as such, everyone could have inferred that they must be holy men who
live according to these words. Thus there would have been no need of inventing
monasticism or spiritual orders, but every child would have abided by this
commandment, and could have directed his conscience to God and said: “If I am
to do good and holy works, I know of none better than to render all honor and
obedience to my parents, because God has Himself commanded it. For what God commands
must be much and far nobler than everything that we may devise ourselves, and
since there is no higher or better teacher to be found than God, there can be
no better doctrine, indeed, than He gives forth.”(Luther D. M.)
Also included under
this commandment are other authorities, such as bosses, government officials,
and whoever else may be in a position of authority over us. God requires us to
honor our parents and other authorities by regarding them as God’s
representatives. Along with that, he requires us to serve our parents and other
authorities by gladly providing what they need or require(Luther, 1991).
That would be hard
enough; God’s command goes even further. It also requires us to obey our
parents and other authorities in everything in which God has placed them over
us, and to love and cherish them as precious gifts of God. When they are
arguing with us, or treating us badly, it can be difficult to see how they are
a gift. When they are ordering us to do things we hate it is hard to obey them
as God’s authority over us. Nevertheless, Holy Scripture tells us that we must,
in all things where they are over us, submit to them. The only time when it
would be ok to defy our parents, or other governing authorities, would be when
they command us to do things contrary to God’s Word(Luther M. ,
This is illustrated in the book of 1 Samuel when Jonathan disobeyed his father
in order to spare David’s life. He obeyed God rather than Man:
as long as the son of Jesse lives on the earth, neither you nor your kingdom
shall be established. Therefore send and bring him to me, for he shall surely
die.”Then Jonathan answered Saul his
father, “Why should he be put to death? What has he done?”But Saul hurled his spear at him to strike him. So Jonathan knew
that his father was determined to put David to death (1 Samuel 20:31-33).
what should we do when we want to “hate” our parents? First, I think we should
recognize the reason why we feel the way we do and, perhaps, why our parents
are acting they way they are acting – Sin. We must recognize that we are sinful
human beings, both us and our parents. They don’t do the things they are
supposed to do, and we don’t do the things we are supposed to do. In the Small
Catechism there is a section called the Table of Duties(Luther, 1991). In this section it
lists Bible passages for people in different positions, telling them their
duties and responsibilities. Of parents, it says the following:
do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and
instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4).
it is. Our parents are not supposed to “exasperate” us. The dictionary definition
of the word exasperate is, “to irritate intensely.” God has commanded our
parents not to irritate us, and yet they do. God has commanded us, in spite of
their failings, to obey and submit to our parents, yet we do not. We both are
lacking when measured by God’s Law.
again, what should we do? We need to go to God and ask him to forgive our sin,
for the sake of the holy, innocent, bitter sufferings and death of Jesus. That
is the reason Jesus took on human nature. He came to earth to keep God’s Law perfectly
because we, who are infected with the disease of sin, are not able to keep it. And,
after keeping the law perfectly, he was crucified, bearing the guilt and
suffering the death that should have been ours. It was not something that Jesus
wanted to do. In fact, he asked his father to get him out of having to do it,
if that were possible. Jesus, however, submits to his father’s will, and he went
to the cross to die for our sins.
we ask for forgiveness for our sin, we should then pray for our parents. We
should pray that God would forgive them, create faith in their hearts, and save
them by power of the Holy Spirit, through Jesus. We should pray that God would
grow in us the fruits of the Spirit, which are love, joy, peace, patience,
kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. We may not be
able to control how our parents act and deal with us, but we can control how we
react to, and deal with them. If they see these fruits of the Spirit in us, and
hear the Gospel on our lips, perhaps God will use his Word coming from us to
create faith in them and change them, according to his will.
Luther, D. M. (n.d.). The Large Catechism.
Retrieved January 21, 2013, from The Large Catechism: http://www2.hn.psu.edu/faculty/jmanis/m~luther/mllc.pdf
Luther, M. (1991). Kleine
Katechismus, English. (C. P. House, Trans.) Saint Louis, Missouri, USA:
Concordia Publishing House.