Honoring Our Dishonorable Parents
The older I get, the more I realize how rare my home life was growing up. I had (and still have) two parents committed to the Lord and each other. My Dad taught me the importance of loving my Creator and how to commune with Him in worship. I was raised with a weekly Sabbath- one day in seven days, fully dedicated to corporate worship and devotion. I come from a rich history of faith and I am grateful to God for it.
If you're reading this, chances are you do not have that story. Some of you may be children reading this and you're in the midst of a certain kind of hell. I cannot empathize with you, but as I've counseled many people like you, I pray this short article can encourage you in some small measure. You see, some of you reading this article have experienced;
your dad abandoning your mom, you, and your siblings
abusive parents (verbally/physically)
your parents just checking-out emotionally, physically, and spiritually.
And you're a believer. You are in Christ. You're seeking the Lord through His Word and corporately at His church and you come across the fifth commandment:
12 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you." (Exodus 20:12 NKJV)
And you wonder, 'How can I be obedient to this passage of Scripture? What does honoring my parents look like when their not very honorable?'
I would like to suggest a certain mindset to help you my dear brother or sister and tease out briefly what this mindset can practically look like. Please process this in community with your local church. Work through these things with spiritual fathers and mothers. This is a very general article and it can be difficult to cover specific familial issues in such a distant way. But this is an attempt to counsel you on how to glorify God in the way you interact with your parents.
You Are An Evangelist To Your Unbelieving Parents
There. I said it. Whether your parents are hostile to the gospel or they think they're believers, if they've persisted in their own rebellion against God and they've continued in their sin against you, they are not believers. They may think they are believers, but here the words of the Apostle John:
5 "This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.
8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us." (1 John 1:5-9 NKJV)
If your parents are persisting in their sins, according to the Apostle John they are effectively saying 'we have no sin' and because of this, they are deceived. Not only are they deceived, but they are blasphemers because they are calling God a liar (see verse 10 above). Christians confess sin. Christians turn away from sin. They resolve to not continue on the path of death. So, dear child, your parent is probably not a Christian.
This means that you are an evangelist. Now, before I go any further, if your parents are abusing you- report them. You must be safe from harm. No one should expect you to remain in an unsafe living environment willing.
But, assuming you're safe, allow me to help shape the way you interact with your parents as an evangelist. If you see them as lost and yourself as an evangelist, this means that you must be doing the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:11-20). You are seeking to point your unbelieving parents toward Jesus Christ. And I believe you can do this practically in several ways.
Let them see your godliness.
This isn't to say for you to put on a show. I am commending a commitment to godliness. Stay steadfast in your spiritual disciplines of private and public worship. Stay steadfast in your commitment to the gospel and to purity. Stay steadfast in your character and Christ-like demanor.
Show them kindness.
They do not deserve your kindness, but it is your spiritual act of worship to the Lord to demonstrate kindness toward them. It is in fact God's kindness that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). Exhibiting self-control over your anger and tongue can go a very long way in the life of a person who has no self-control.
Do not grow bitter.
You will be tempted to grow bitter toward your parents. Please recognize this as soon as possible and effort to rid your soul from the seeds of bitterness. Nothing can choke out your spiritual life quicker than bitterness. A good meditation on how much you have been forgiven by God in Jesus Christ can help you with this. Think of yourself as the 'chief of sinners' and interact with your parents with this mindset.
Pray for your parents.
Pray fervently and passionately for your parent's salvation. This is perhaps the most productive thing you can do for them. Pray for the scales to fall from their eyes. Pray for the Lord to give them a heart of flesh. Pray for the Lord to reconcile them to Himself. Pray for openings for you to have gospel-conversations with them.
If you live with them, be helpful.
Looking for ways to be helpful around the house can help to soften hard-hearted parents. Just as Jesus came and served stubborn people, so He is giving you an opportunity to serve stubborn people. It is easy to serve people you get along with. It is sanctifying to serve difficult people.
Invite them to church.
Ask them to come to church with you. Tell them that you'd like to worship with them for all eternity and that the Lord's Day is a picture of what the new heavens and the new earth will look like when Jesus returns for His bride.
Look to share the gospel.
When the time is right and the Spirit opens the door for discussion- open your mouth and give your testimony of how God has changed you. Use your story as a springboard to share the gospel with your parents. If they shut you down, that's OK. They aren't rejecting you. They are rejecting Christ because they are being convicted of their sin by God's Holy Spirit.
Be strong in the Lord.
What you're doing is a wearisome task, but stay the course. The Lord is using you and the evangelistic work you're doing will not return void. It will either soften your parents or harden your parents, but God will accomplish His purpose for them through your faithfulness.
Hang in there.