Honoring Less-than-Perfect Parents
How often do we learn of children who were terribly treated when they were young, children whose father and mother divorced, or a father took his life, and the child was left to deal with the blight the rest of their youth. There are many other illustrations that many have struggled with in their youth. And yet the Lord said "Honor thy father and mother." Is this for only the perfect father and perfect mother? Or does this command for the less-then-perfect parent?
When I was living at home, in Roanoke, Virginia, there were a family of five children with a mother who came to church and a dad who would not come. The dad was into sinful and unlawful activity. He wanted to get out of town, and had his wife to ask dad if they could use one of our cars to take a trip. Dad said yes, and the family left for Chicago, Il. We didn’t hear from them for several months, and had no clue where they were at the time. Finally, we received a call from the wife, and she said, her husband and taken his life. He went out into the garage and turned on the car’s engine and the exhaust killed him. She said he owed the mob money and he could not pay them, both in Roanoke and then again in Chicago.
The family came back to Roanoke, but the car stayed in Chicago. For the next years the kids were in and out of trouble, and had troubled lives. I remember my father never had a bad word for the dad, something that I couldn’t help but wonder why. The dad had just stolen our car and then when in trouble, took his own life, and left a wife and five children to fend for themselves. The children seemed to have no idea of what their dad was doing, and they thought their dad was just not perfect. But he left them homeless.
Does the Bible command children to "honor their father" if their father is perfect, or near perfect or not perfect at all? Was this commandment given for believers or unbelievers. The Ten Commandments were first given to the Israelites, and most of them were not saved. The commandments didn’t have sub-points, to qualify the command.
Craig Dunham in TwentySomeone tells of his friend Derek:
- My friend Derek grew up in a messed-up home. His dad left when he was young. His whole family fell apart after the divorce. He lived with his mom, but was basically on his own from age 13 on. After graduating from high school, Derek became a Christian on a cross-country bike trip. He put himself through college by starting his own company to renovate old houses. He's now on staff with a campus ministry.
I've never heard Derek speak bitterly about his father or his past. Derek and Angie consider themselves the first generation to end the cycle of dysfunction in their families and set a new foundation for their kids. Instead of hiding or feeling sorry for themselves, they've resolved to deal head-on with the awkwardness of it all, and not give up on their strained family relationships.
Who Said It Frederick Buechner
"One November morning when I was ten years old," writes this author in Telling Secrets, "my father——a gentle man who was down on his luck and drank too much——got up early, opened the door to look in briefly on my younger brother and me playing a game in our room, and then went down into the garage where he turned on the engine of the family Chevy and sat down on a running board," where eventually the exhaust killed him.
How often do we learn of children who were terribly treated when they were young. Children whose father and mother divorced, or a father took his life, and the child was left to deal with the blight the rest of their youth. There are no perfect parents and some who are just right down bad parents.
And children who do not learn to honor their parents will struggle in just about every area of life.
What He SaidCode of Honor
- "Honor your father and mother," says the Fifth Commandment. Honor them for having taken care of you before you were old enough to take care of yourself …… for the sacrifices they made on your behalf …… for having loved you.
But how do you honor them when, well-intentioned as they may have been, they made terrible mistakes that have shadowed your life ever since? How do you honor them when they literally, or otherwise, abandoned you? When physically, or sexually, or emotionally, they abused you?
- Honor them for the pain that made them what they were. Honor them because there were times when, even at their worst, they were doing the best they knew how.
- Honor them for the roles they were appointed to play, because even when they played them abominably or didn't play them at all.
- Honor them because, however unthinkingly or irresponsibly, they gave you your life."
Drafted by Charles E. Whisnant 12 09 07 Proof Read by Charity Whisnant