The what and why of honoring our parents

July 4, 2013

Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. (Exodus 20:12) 

Aside from the kind of sentimentality we see plastered on the front of Hallmark cards at the commercially manufactured holidays of Mother’s and Father’s Days, the commandment to love our parents is rooted in something deep within our faith tradition: the relationship that God has to creation and the relationship that Jesus has to God the Father.

It is common to think of God as our Father. We follow Jesus’ lead in that regard (Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name…). We also find maternal language for God. Our own “Brief Statement of Faith” borrows maternal language for God found in Isaiah when it reads: Like a mother who will not forsake her nursing child…God is faithful still. Put simply, to honor our parents is a way to honor our God.

So what does honor mean? Before entering the stage of life to which Mark Twain refers in his quote, most of us tend to look up to our parents. We may even put them on a pedestal. To be certain, honoring our parents is different than worshipping our parents. 

Best understood, honoring our parents leads us to an unyielding respect and appreciation.

Yet beyond the “what?” of this Commandment, there is the “why?” This is the only Commandment where God gives us a reason for following his law. We are to honor our parents “so that [our] days may be long in the land that the Lord [our] God is giving [us].”