Friday, April 24, 2015

Honoring our Parents

One of the first verses I had my children memorize was Ephesians 6:1: Children obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.  I liked having a verse that specifically applied to children, and if they obeyed the verse, it helped me out!  However, the mandate to honor and obey parents is not limited to people under 18.  In the lists of sinful activities in Romans 1 and 2 Timothy 3 have "disobedient to parents" among such sins as murder and malicious gossip. Serious stuff.  How can we as adult children make sure that we are not falling into sin as regards the people who raised us? Once again, we must turn to the example of Jesus.  As an adult, he showed us how to respect our parents by the way he treated his own mother.

The first miracle Jesus did was not his idea.  Before his public ministry began in earnest, Jesus attended a wedding, one which his mother attended also.  When the host ran out of wine (quite a terrible offense in those days), Mary went straight to Jesus. 
When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to Him, "They have no wine." And Jesus said to her, "Woman, what does that have to do with us? My hour has not yet come." His mother said to the servants, "Whatever He says to you, do it." (John 2:3-5)
I can't help but feel there is something missing from the story.  Why would Jesus go from questioning his mother to doing what she says?  I think it likely that Mary went ahead and told the servants to do what he said because she knew Jesus would do what she wanted.  You see, it was his habit.  Luke 2:51 says that the boy Jesus continued in subjection to his parents.  When he became an adult, he continued to do so.

Dana with mother and grandmother 2
How can we honor our parents in this way?  We won't be performing miracles anytime soon, so let's get to the heart of what Jesus did. He continued to spend time with his mother.  We can do that.  Visit them when you can.  Make phone calls other times. Let your parents know that just because you've grown up doesn't mean you've forgotten them.  Jesus helped out in the best way he could. We can do that too. My husband is "the computer guy" when we visit his folks.  We know when we go that he'll be installing updates, fixing emails, and wrangling printers.  That's okay.  They worked hard in raising him; fixing a recalcitrant computer is the least he can do.  I know this can be hard sometimes, especially for adults who live close to home. Parents may demand more time than their children can give, or call at all hours of the day and night to get help.  I know parents who are needy.  I also know children who work hard to please those demanding parents within clearly set boundaries.

Sometimes Jesus ran into these boundary issues.   In Matthew 12, Jesus's mom and brothers are standing outside as he's teaching, and someone lets him know that his family wants to talk with him.  Instead of leaving immediately, Jesus uses the opportunity to teach his followers a lesson. 
But Jesus answered the one who was telling Him and said, "Who is My mother and who are My brothers?"  And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, "Behold My mother and My brothers! "For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother."
This sounds pretty harsh, but I believe he was re-enforcing the lesson that he taught several times throughout his ministry that the kingdom of God comes before all earthly relationships. (Luke 18:29-30; Luke 14:26)  If parents interfere with raising godly children or discourage you from doing the work of the Lord, it might be time to have a respectful discussion with them.

Most of the time, though, doing the will of God means taking care of the people who raised us.  Jesus made it clear to the Pharisees that we cannot neglect our parents' needs and claim that it is because we are doing some other work of God (Matthew 15:1-9).  On the cross, He put his teachings into action.  While he was in agony paying for our sins, he made arrangements for the care of his mother after his death by giving her into the apostle John's care.  As the oldest son, it was his responsibility to make sure his mother (a widow by this time) was provided for.  The fact that he did so says clearly that he was meeting her needs up until that point (although we aren't told how).  The apostles' teachings following the establishment of the church bear out the teaching that caring for aging parents is part of our jobs as Christian adults (1 Timothy 5:3-8).

In America, meeting the physical needs of our parents, while stressful, is always possible.  Government programs will pick up where our parents' fund run out, and there is never a good reason for an older adult to be abused or neglected.  But I don't think that our care for our parents stops at physical needs.  Aging men and women have emotional needs as well, and we need to meet them just as surely as we need to make sure they are physically cared for. All the things we did for them while they were younger, visiting them, helping them out, telling them how much we care, are things we can't neglect when they are old. Jesus knew that.  Why do you think he placed his mother in John's care instead of in his brothers'?  I think it is because John was a believer and his brothers were not.  He knew his mother would need kindness and faithfulness in the days to come.

When I sat down to write this post, I didn't realize what a big command this is.  The more I read what the Bible has to say about honoring and obeying parents, the more overwhelmed I got.  There is no way I could boil it all down to a neat 800 word article.  Thankfully, I remembered that Jesus is our example, and he provided good guidelines to follow as we seek to do God's will in this area.  He set clear boundaries and did what he could to make his mother happy within those boundaries.  He made sure that his mother was taken care of.   Since He is my example, I am bound to do the same.


No comments:

Post a Comment