Honoring Mom and Pop

"Honor your father and mother."  - Exodus 20:12

You may have no idea where it can be found in the Bible, but certainly no one -- having been brought up in the Christian community -- would be unaware of this, the fifth commandment of God, and the #1 commandment among all dogmatic, but well-intentioned parents.

Back in the fifties (you know, during the age of Ozzie and Harriett) and when the family structure appeared to be more cohesive, parents were indeed honored by their children (I think). Even today, in the new millennium, with so many changes occurring in our family lifestyles, the scriptural passage is often quoted, and misquoted.

Now that TV talk shows are revealing the dysfunctional nature of some families, it is not surprising to hear: "How can abuse children be expected to have respect for such undeserving parents?" And yet every child wants to look up to his mom and pop.

In our western culture, we continue to honor parenthood every May and June. What do you feel about your parents? And what do your children feel about you? Is honor to be earned? Must it be learned? What do you suppose Jesus would think about this? Is it the responsibility of every child to honor his/her parents? Did Jesus honor his parents? What can he teach us?

The Master did remind the young rich man to follow the commandments, including the honoring of one's parents. There are other verses, however, which seem rather contradictory. To more fully understand his position, let us review two recorded experiences of the Master.

First, upon hearing that his mother and brothers were outside asking for him, he spoke unto his disciples, "Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother."

Of course, he was not being disloyal to his mom, but illustrating that family has a spiritual connotation as well as a biological meaning. The beauty and richness of this commandment is that it enriches the life of the son or daughter in his/her relationship with every other person. To bless and honor each and every soul as a spiritual being is first learned in the home ... or not learned. 

On another occasion, Jesus taught the crowd: "And call no man your father upon earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven." Jesus is declaring our spirituality, not our humanity. He always draws our attention away from identification with the earth and towards a reinforcement of our spiritual connection. How one regards his father and mother will be reflective of how one regards his Father/Mother God. And to revere God is to bless all of creation. Honor is a spiritual quality that flows within the soul, and is showered upon all life. Honoring one's parents builds character within the depth of the soul ... and it feels good on the other end, too.

Authored by Reverend Virgil Brewer at Unity Chapel
May 1, 2002

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