Part 2 of Honoring God by Action – Ephesians 6

(Reading List Theme 2.7)

I am part of the boomerang generation.

What is that, you ask? The term was developed to describe the recent phenomenon in which offspring move out after high school for college or a job, and sometime in their later twenties or thirties, they move back home. Sometimes it is because they can’t get a well-paying job after college and have too much student loan debt to live on their own. Sometimes it is because of rising unemployment, or because someone bought a home at the top of the market, and several years later find themselves in financial distress with a home that is worth half of what they owe on it, so they must do a short-sale or face foreclosure because they cannot sell the home for enough to remove the debt… and they move back in with mom and dad to get back on their feet. (That is the case with my family.) Sometimes it is because of divorce, or perhaps an ailing parent needs daily care, so an adult son or daughter brings the parent to live with their family, or the family moves in with the elderly parent(s).

Whatever the reason, more and more often these days, we are seeing multi-generational living. This was actually the norm in Bible times, and it is still the norm in some countries, but since we are not very used to it in America, I grew up thinking that the Biblical command to “honor your father and mother” applied mainly to kids. Perhaps I just thought that because I was a kid. But I don’t think I am alone in thinking this way.  Sadly, a lot of people don’t grow up in a healthy, loving home, so in leaving there is kind of a sigh of relief. A lot of people leave home in young adulthood, and feel like they can finally do whatever they want, they don’t need to be obligated to family, don’t need to call home, don’t need to listen to mom and dad’s advice anymore, and don’t realize that as mom and dad age, it is the turn of the child to offer care.

What does God mean today, when he asks us to honor our father and mother? There are many ways this applies to different situations, but I think that, once again, the command that applies to everyone, is to find a way to show love.

I understand that sometimes maintaining a relationship with a parent is unhealthy or not possible.  I have friends who have been so abused and manipulated, that they do their best to make sure their biological parents cannot find them. Some who are adopted do not have any relationship with biological parents. Some have several step-parents. For some, a step-parent is more of a father or mother than the biological father or mother. “Family” is so complicated in modern America. So how do we honor father and mother today?

In every case, the least we can do to honor them is to pray for them. If there is relationship but the parent is unstable or unhealthy, we can still probably find a way to serve them and show God’s love… to practice forgiveness seventy times seven (Matthew 18:22)… even if we also need to maintain some distance for our or our family’s safety.

Should we obey our parents even if they don’t follow the Lord? I think in these cases we must balance the command to give earthly authority what is their due (which is at minimum, respect and following their rules) while still trying to honor and obey God as the highest authority (some scriptures: Matthew 17:24-27, 22:17-21; Acts 5:26-32, Acts 23:1-5; Romans 13:1-8).

After all, even Jesus submitted to his earthly parents, even though he was the son of God, and knew more than anyone about right and wrong (Luke 2:41-51). We must honor parents and respect our bosses not because they are smarter (though they often are) but because we are commanded to by God. Bottom line, we should treat them with all the love and respect we would give Jesus.

I am in my early thirties and have lived in a different state than my parents for the past fourteen years. We have always had a good relationship, and in my adulthood, that has grown into more of a peer relationship, of mutual respect. Yet as a boomerang kid, I now live with my parents, along with my husband and three kids. I must learn all over again what it means to honor them. They no longer expect to tell me how to live, but I can obey them by holding to the godly principles in which I was raised. Though we are at home more often than they are, I now honor them in practical ways by trying to keep up with the mess my kids make. This is challenging, as any parent with young kids can probably testify, but at least the nights before my parents’ days off, we try to make sure the kitchen is very clean and the toys are all put away and the waiting-to-be-folded laundry isn’t piled up in the living areas, so that my mom and dad can enjoy their home in peace. I may need to respectfully ask them to not watch their grown-up shows when my kids are still awake, but we also try to get out of the house on some evenings so they can do as they please. We pay rent to offset the increased utilities, and so they have money to clean the carpet after our spills and fix or replace the things our kids break. Most nights we make enough dinner for them to eat with us, and try to include their dietary needs in our planning.

As you consider your own situation with your parents, I challenge you to consider, what can you do to honor your parents? If they have passed away, what can you do to honor their memory? If you are estranged, how should you be praying for them, or forgiving, or perhaps seeking to reconcile? If you are an adult in a boomerang position, how can you serve them and make them glad that you are home, instead of eagerly awaiting your move out again? If you are still young and have never left, consider how you still should literally obey them, and how to be a blessing to them by showing God’s love instead of teenage resentment that you are not as free as you’d like to be.

Whether or not my parents follow biblical commands about parenting, it is my role to honor and obey in love, and trust God to bring about the blessings he promises.