Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother?

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.


fr0d0 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
fr0d0 said...

I think you need to take into consideration the actual meaning of the word "honour" here. Too often people associate "honour" with love, cherish, respect, obey without question. I don't believe the bible does though. The actual hebrew meaning of "honour" in that text is "heavy" ie. to consider heavily.

I haven't the time to explain, but here is a link that I think does a lot of the explaining for me.

Also, you mention all the other passages in the bible that refer to everyone, including parents. But, since when does one rule override another? And if all the other rules apply to everyone, including parents, do they not also include children??? Unless the bible clearly states that it's ok to stop honouring your parents based on the fact that they arent respecting the other rules, then there is no ground to stand on. In fact, I do believe that it says specifically that we are not in a position to judge others, and that effectively love, be it Jesus' love through us, or our own ability to love, is basically the answer to everything. "Love your neighbour as yourself, etc."

Now why should that commandment allow you to stop loving your parents based on the fact that they didnt love you as commanded biblically? Doesn't that just make you as bad as them? Given you're using their disobedience of that commandment as excuse for you to disobey it... Kids shouldn't and aren't expected to obey without question, even though christian parents often like to use that verse to produce obedient kids. Again, a misinterpretation of the actual meaning of the commandment. And yes, I do realise kids from an abusive background find it very hard to love their parents, I have had similar issues, but I'm just pointing out that you can't have it one way and not the other, it's always a two way street. What applies to the abusers also applies to the abusees.

Sorry I'm not trying to be harsh, I have not had the best experience with parents myself, don't get me wrong! But I just saw some slight problems in your theory.

Anyway, have a read of that website. :)

God bless!


Anonymous said...

Is there no room for forgiveness? Who is without sin? Who throws the first stone? Was there ever a perfect parent; a perfect child?

Are 100 per cent of the parents abusers? Are 100 per cent of the children angels?

Is anyone out there aware of love? Forget God's commandments. Let's use our logic to interpret what he really meant.

Anonymous said...

If a father is a abuser,molester murderer, does this mean we should honor him?

Anonymous said...

I want to thank you for writting this blog, I was searching tonight for something that could give me some insight as to whether I was doing wrong in God's eyes. My mother is a very aggressive and bitter woman, she has been mentally and physically abusive to me and my father. I'm very upset on how to deal with her and the commandment. I dont kno who is right but I try to forgive her and I hope God can forgive me for any grudge I hold.

V Ross said...

How does one honor a father who is a drunk, abusive, and who undermines your relationship with your son in order to exalt himself in your son's eyes? And when I say a drunk, I mean every single day, literally. Someone who got so drunk he broke his neck in 4 places before Christmas, and whose family spent Christmas in the hospital worrying he would die.. who went thru detox while in the hospital, wore a halo for 3 months, and was not out of the halo for two days before going back to the bottle and drinking more than ever. How does one honor a man who loves the bottle more than his own family? A man who KNOWS he has a problem.. but simply does not care and CHOOSES to stick with his "lifestyle" out of pure beligerance and refuses to "let anyone tell him how he is going to live his life"?

And my wife's position is even more difficult. HER father was a serial pedophile who molested her from age 6 until 10, along with over 90 other children. And her mother knew it was happening and did nothing about it. How could she be even remotely respectful to that? He even brought other pedophile buddies home to share his kids with.

V Ross said...

I realize that we are expected to be forgiving.. but does not even God require repentance and asking to be forgiven before it is granted? Does God give forgiveness to he who is unrepentant? I can understand why it is, because it is foolishness to grant forgiveness to someone who refuses to accept they did anything wrong, because that person will simply do it again. Only thru true repentance can one be expected to have learned and thus will go forth trying to do better. But what about the one who refuses to acknowledge he did anything wrong... who will simply do it again and again? Are we expected to be even MORE forgiving, more holy, than God himself?

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