“Honor your father and mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” Exodus 20:12 (Big Ten Series)
Throughout my childhood and adolescence, there was no more quoted commandment than this one: “Honor your father and mother.” For young children, this one can be easier to keep than for teenagers. For young kids, parents are still superheroes; they can do no wrong. But once adolescence hits, the relationship becomes a lot more strained.
In his letter to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul refers to this fifth commandment as the first commandment with a promise. That is to say, if you honor your father and mother, you will have a long life in the promised land. I can see where Paul gets that idea, but I always have read this commandment as the first commandment with a threat — kind of the whole “your parents brought you into this world they can take you out of it” sort of thing. But that just may be reflective of my own upbringing!
Growing up, I never heard the back half of this commandment. The promise wasn’t part of the equation, so this commandment was about submission to my parents will. But that is not the point of this commandment.
Honoring one’s parents is not about never rebelling or always acquiescing to their will. Rather it is about respecting the experience of those who have already walked a lot of the road that we are going to be walking on. A good portion of the experience of our elders (parents and others) comes from failure. Failure is one of the best teachers and has the ability to impart tremendous wisdom.
Honoring our elders is about listening to that voice of experience, the voice that has already faced some of the most treacherous paths ahead of us and can help us to avoid some of the hurdles in our way, and as a result, help our days to be longer and better.
The flip side of this coin is that it is of supreme importance that parents, and the elders of our communities, take the time to speak that voice into the lives of the young. In the New Testament, discipleship is a big theme for that very reason. Those who have walked with Christ for a long time impart their knowledge, wisdom, and experience to those who are just setting out on the journey of faith.
It is easy to look at a church like ours and feel like we don’t have much to offer that would appeal to the younger crowd. That may be true when it comes to the flashing lights and rock band styles of worship that we see in the mega church movements. But we possess a commodity that is far more valuable than any light show, the collective experience of those sitting in the pews all around you.
As a pastor, it can be frustrating when some of the oldest members of a congregation think that they are all done, all used up, with nothing left to offer. That, my friends, is 100% pure unadulterated poppycock. It is precisely the grandmas and grandpas in our midst that should be trying to mentor and disciple whatever youth happen to be in your sphere of influence. Do not ever discount your experience and the wisdom you can share! Just look at all you’ve faced, all you’ve survived, to get where you are. You have a story to tell and share with the young in our midst.
So get out there. Develop relationships with the young and allow them to honor your wisdom as you make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
Learning from one another,