I was watching the 700 Club last night and Pat Robertson answered a question from a woman who's mother had abandoned her and her siblings when they were children. The mother was now popping in and out of her children's lives every few years, usually to ask for money. The woman's question was did she have to honor such a mother; Mr. Robertson said yes. I'm not comfortable with that answer.
I know that the Bible commands us to honor our parents. I understand the need for that commandment, but sometimes I think people think that gives parents the right to treat their children any way they chose without consequence. Pat Robertson seems to fall into that category. No, Mr. Robertson has never advocated child abuse, and he has strongly counselled abuse victims not to have any contact with unrepentant parents. Still, he seems to believe that children generally don't have the right to hold their parents accountable for any negative or even destructive thing the parents have done to them. Mr. Robertson's answers always seem to include the mantra, "She/he is the only mother/father you've got", the implication being that any wrong they've done or are still doing needs to be overlooked by the child(ren). I think that's going too far.
The commandment to honor one's parents isn't given in a vacuum. There are many other commandments people are to obey, and no where in His Word does God say that these commandments don't apply between parent and child. Yes, parents are due a certain amout of respect simply by being parents. None of us would be here if our parents hadn't decided to have us and care for us in our youngest years. Yet, parents also owe respect to their children because the children are not just their children but also their fellow human beings. Thus, all the commandments governing how we must treat our fellow man apply to parents as they bring up their children.
For example, the second commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself. In the New Testament Jesus showed that "neighbor" meant any human being, especially one in need. Doesn't "neighbor", then, include one's children? And if parents abuse their children, abandon them, manipulate them, use them for selfish gain, haven't they violated the second commandent? And shouldn't such parents expect a dip in the honor they receive from their children?
Or what about the commandment not to have any gods before God? If we tell children to give their parents blind, unquestioning honor, and the obedience that goes along with it, are we not telling them to treat their parents like little gods? Are we not making them guilty of idolatry?
We are told in the Bible to honor and obey governmental authority, but that commandment isn't absolute, even in the New Testament. Cruel, unjust governments or laws are disobeyed with God's approval several times in the Bible. Why do we think it's any different with cruel, unjust parents? It's not. Children are not obligated to honor or obey abusive, cruel parents. And for the parents who aren't abusive, children do have the right to hold them accountable for the wrong things they may have done in the process of bringing them up. After all, the consequences that destructive or negligent acts can have on a person don't vanish just because the perpetrators of the acts were his parents.
Parents must realize that they are accoutable before God to treat their children as the fellow human beings they are. If they do that, they will reap a bounty of honor in this life and the next. That's how Mr. Robertson should answer the next question he gets about what's due deadbeat parents.