Study Guide: Honoring Your Mom, Dad and Your Father

Sunday October 23, 2011 | Greg Boyd

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

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.

Extended Summary:

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.

Reflection Questions:

  1. There is a contemporary distance between families that wasn’t there thousands of years ago. What changes in society have affected families for the better? For the worse?
  2. What does it look like to forgive a parent? What does it look like to reconcile with a parent? What is the boundary between the two?
  3. Is it wrong for Kingdom people to sever relationships with a parent? What might be some situations where it is ok to sever that relationship?
  4. Honoring your parents is tricky to define. In what ways did your parents expect you to honor them? In what ways did you honor your parents that wasn’t expected? Which do you think felt more honoring to your parents? Which felt more like honoring to you?