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Honoring Your Mom, Dad and Your Father

• Greg Boyd

Honoring your father and mother is an ancient command found in nearly every religion. Yet, families vary from person to person, and it can be difficult to honor some parents. In this sermon, Greg talks about how to honor your parents by forgiving them and assessing the reality of the relationship. By doing these two things, people can honor their parents in healthy ways.

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Last week, we set up the framework for understanding relationships in light of Kingdom relationships. This week, we’re going to discuss what it looks like to honor your mother and father. It is always easiest to take the worst case scenario and show how to honor a parent in that situation. When honoring a parent, it is important to forgive and assess the reality of the relationship.

Let’s look at what honoring parents looked like in ancient times. Back then, honoring your parents looked a lot different than it does now. Parents depended on their children to take care of them when they got old. There were no safety nets like social security or disability. Also, all of your learning came from your parents—there was no public school system. There were dynamics to the parent-child relationship that are not as present today. Yet, there are some basic principles to honoring the relationship we have with our parents.

We value the position the position of parenthood. There is a special weight we give to our parents simply because they are our parents. The sheer fact that they brought us into this world gives us a connection that is to be honored. We value the position that they hold, even if they don’t hold it well. Yet, there’s also a command to speak truth in love. While we honor our parents, that doesn’t mean we simply sweep what they do under the rug.

Greg’s relationship with his step-mother was strenuous, at best. There was no real bond there. While he is called to honor his step-mother, he can’t pretend that the relationship was something it wasn’t. In order to follow God’s call to honor his parents, Greg first had to learn how to forgive his step-mother.

Forgiving our parents is perhaps the most important aspect of the way we honor the position of parents and why it is good for us to honor our parents. Let’s face it, no earthly parent is perfect. If we just try to forget about how our parents messed up, we still harbor resentment. This resentment pollutes our soul and makes it difficult to honor a parent. Forgiveness, however, doesn’t mean that the relationship is restored. Forgiveness means to release a debt. That’s why reconciliation is a different word. Regardless of how damaging your parent was to your life, honor them by praying for, blessing, and forgiving them. Many studies show that this will actually make you healthier.

As important as forgiving your parent is, assessing the reality of the relationship is of equal importance. This is speaking truth in love. If you speak truth out of the resentment that you harbor, you will be unable to assess the reality of the situation in a healthy way. It is easy to honor a parent when you have a good relationship with them. This is the case with the Churchills. Every Saturday, they plan to spend time with their parents. It’s not an obligation imposed by the parents, but rather, it’s a commitment that naturally arises out of the reality their relationship. They have a good relationship, and they honor their parents by spending time with them.

By contrast, Norm’s father was alcoholic, abusive, and left the family when Norm was 11. Forty-one years later, he shows up and wants to be Dad again. He wants to hang out with Norm and speak into his life. While he owned the position of father, he had no reality of a relationship as father. Norm doesn’t have to honor the reality of the relationship because there was no relationship there, yet, he still honored the position his father held. Norm did not have to feel guilty about saying “I don’t know you” to his father and putting up boundaries in his life.
Our ultimate allegiance is to God as father and we are committed to truth because of that. We can’t say that both of these relationships are equal because they are not. However, both sets of children still honor their parents. Family comes first, but our Kingdom family is most important, and God is the best representative of a parent that we have. He is both mother and father to us in ways our earthly parents could never hope to be. We honor God by honoring both the position of a parent and the reality of the relationship with that parent.

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Topics: Family, Forgiveness, Parenting, Relationships

Sermon Series: Relatively Speaking

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Focus Scripture:

  • Ephesians 6:1-3

    Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”

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6 thoughts on “Honoring Your Mom, Dad and Your Father

  1. Edward says:

    Just a thought. Something that’s helped me and some others through the years…

    Jesus commanded us to…

    “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

    “Love your enemies.”

    “Be compassionate as your (Heavenly) Father is compassionate.”

    “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

    All of these apply to all followers of Jesus at all times. Our parents, regardless or how old we are…or how old they are…are our “neighbors.” And either unintentionally or intentionally, our parents can and do demonstrate enemy-like behavior towards us. So, if we just went by Jesus’ commands for our UNIVERSAL behavior, it would show us something here. If our parents are actually fellow “family members” in Christ, it goes even more so…but even if they aren’t Christian, they are fellow human “neighbors.” This goes beyond (yet includes) the “honoring” one’s parents dictum. It is easy to fall into “honoring” someone out of an obligation…instead of genuinely trying to self-sacrificially LOVE them in truth. Of course, HOW we demonstrate Christ’s love to them will be contextualized by the realities involved in the situation, like Greg wisely mentioned. But THAT we do so is simply bound up in the Great Commandments: ****Love God and Love your Neighbor as Yourself.***

    What I think is helpful about this perspective is that it allows us to STEP OUT OF some of the scripts that we have as having roles of “children” or “parents”. It’s very easy to OVERIDENTIFY with our family roles and relate to our family members from ONLY those roles. This makes things even harder that it already is, when it comes to forgiveness and reconciliation. Instead of thoughts like “I’m your parent!” or “I’m your child!” (along with other various amounts of culturally-scripted expectations coming from that)…we think “You’re my neighbor.” and “I’m your neighbor.” This has personally helped me NUMBERS of times with dealing with my own family of origin issues. Think about it: As a parent, it doesn’t matter if you have a 3 year old child, that child is STILL primarily your human neighbor. As a child, it doesn’t matter if you are a 10 year old relating to your parents, they are STILL primarily your human neighbors. (Same way with spouses…fyi. 😉 ) This way, it doesn’t matter if one’s parent or parents were “good” or “bad”; that’s totally irrelevant. One loves God through loving their parental “neighbors”, regardless of how much of an “enemy” they’ve been.

    None of this is over and against what Greg said. Just a possible addition. Something that’s helped me and some others I know.


  2. Ann says:

    This series is as if it were exactly for me. My father is a “Christian”, however, I can’t tell anything good about him. He is the best counter-example for anyone not to be a Christian..
    I always end my day saying “Dear God, I forgive him everything he did, does, and will do”. But I still feel anger, bitterness and hatred towards him, even though I decided to forgive him. What could I do with that? Anyone, any idea?

  3. Samuel Andermatt says:

    If it helps you, there are multiple sermons hold in the WH church on the subject of forgiveness. Under this link you should find most of them: http://whchurch.org/index.php?s=Forgiveness

    Personally I find it very hard to give advice. I do not how much contact you still have and what you understand iunder forgiveness. Forgivness does not have to mean that you have to like him. Could you give what he did to god and let it behind you?
    You say you still feel hatred and bitterness towards him, is it the feelings that are the problem, or something more fundamental like demand for justice? What exactly would the state be in which you would feel, that you really where sucessful at forgiving him.

  4. Carol Williams says:

    Hmmm, yep. I woke this morning from a dream with the scripture reference of Matthew 12:49 in my head/heart. I didn’t look it up until I’d started listening to this message. I thank God for those servants that are obedient to do what He asks of them…His will to teach, to pray, to speak in a loving way…and does this include those who I have perceived as abandoning, ignoring, not seeing, not hearing my agony over slights or misrepresentations…wow, thank God for these that didn’t placate, but didn’t feel obligated to soothe, but to instead pray or teach in response to God’s will. These are my brothers and sisters mother… Amen.

    49And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 50For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

  5. Ann says:

    Thanks for your answer!
    I still live with my father (maybe for 3 or 4 more years I must live with him, because I’m a student). It’s hard to define forgiveness. I already gave all the pain and bitter feelings to God, but I still have (feel) them. And I feel guilty because of them. As for demand for justice, maybe that is a problem as well. I suppose I could feel free if I could somehow get rid of feelings of anger, hatred, and bitterness.

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