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Obey & Honor



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.”.


Ephesians 6:1-3[1]


It seems like we hear a whole lot more about obedience than we hear about honor. I think that’s because obeying is simpler. There are rules and you do what they say.


But there’s more to obedience than that. I mean after all, there are lots of people giving lots of rules. The ones you listen to, the ones you obey, are either from people with authority over you, or from people that you give authority to.


When we’re kids, our parents fall into the first group. Your parents were no mistake. God says that he’s personally responsible for the parents you have. No matter how great they were, or how utterly horrible they were, they are still the parents he gave to you. And as a kid, Job-One is to obey. But not to just do what they say when they’re watching. Kids are to be constantly obeying because it’s a command from God, not an option.


Obeying starts with listening, hearing what was said. Understanding the words and their meaning. That’s the easy part. Then you do what was said. You adjust your actions to follow those words.


Children are to obey the rules their parents give out. They set the boundaries, and children stay inside those lines. Your either in or your out. You’re either doing what they else said or you’re not.


But when we leave the house, we change from obedience to honor. Honor is a much more difficult thing to figure out. You can see and even measure obedience. But how do you measure honor?


Honor is mostly something on the inside. But that inside thing always comes to the surface in the things you do and say. It’s a mind and heart attitude created in the value God gives to them plus the additional honor they’ve earned. Honor comes out when we choose to do our best to reflect God’s value plus the value they’ve earned. We show this in our attitude, the way we speak and serve them. We will act and talk with courtesy whenever we’re in contact with them.


And just like obedience, honor is not an option. It’s a command from God that is to be actively followed all the time. We are either honoring or not. There is no middle ground. When we honor our parents, when we treat them with the value that God has given to them, plus the honor they’ve earned, we honor God. We’re saying, “God, we’re going to follow you and give honor to the parents you gave us. We’re going to treat them with respect because you have said that they have value from you.”


I didn’t say that it would be easy. It’s easier for some of us because their parents were loving and kind. And then there’s some of us who had parents that were broken, hurtful, even abusive. Some of us had Ozzie and Harriet, June and Ward Cleaver, Dick and Laura Petrie. Others had Edith and Archie Bunker, Marie and Frank Barone, or Marge and Homer Simpson.


No matter which kind of parents you had, they are from God. And when we honor them, we are more than just obeying God, we are living by faith before God. We are saying, “God, I don’t understand the why, but that’s not important. I choose to follow you, and that means treating my parents with the value you’ve given to them.” Job understood this idea very well.


Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”


Job 2:10


I’m about to make some people either very uncomfortable or very angry. Having terrible parents is no excuse to not honor them. Honoring does not mean having a deep emotional connection with them. It also doesn’t mean doing everything they say. It means treating them with the value that God has given to them.


To give you a little insight into the parents God gave to me, my dad was an active supporter of George Wallace for president, a white racist governor. He told me that he wanted to be just like Archie Bunker. And that’s only the tip of our household iceberg. He never touched mom with affection to the point that Mary Ann is convinced that I was conceived without any physical contact.


When I became a Christian, I was immediately convinced that I was spiritually and morally superior to my parents. I didn’t only tell them, I yelled it. I was angry and bitter towards them. But over time, God showed me that they were his loving choice. Over time I came to see God’s wisdom in giving me the mom and dad he did. They were exactly the parents I needed. Not perfect. Not the parents I would have chosen, but the ones God sent because I needed them.


This requires faith that God was and is truly God. He’s in charge and sees things I never will. Over time, as an act of faith and obedience to God, I started to show honor to my parents. I didn’t say it was easy. Or that there weren’t bumps along the way. But it more than healed my relationship with my parents. It matured my relationship with the God who loves me, who died for me. It a journey well worth taking.


Noodling Questions


  • How can you honor your parents, even if they are gone?

  • Explain the honor, the value, that God put on your parents.

  • How did your parents earn additional honor within your family?

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all Bible references are from the New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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