My dad used to say, “God gave us our relatives. Thank God we can choose our own friends!” I have to say though, I was very proud to belong to my family this week. My mum was honoured with a Civic Award for countless years’ service in voluntary work. We had a big ‘do’ for her, with the mayor giving her her medal, and several other people giving short speeches about all that she has done. I must admit, when you hear it summed up like that, it’s amazing what one woman can achieve in a lifetime. She’s 96, living independently, and still doing voluntary work. She gave a good speech herself too, recognising the help she’d had from other volunteer workers in all the fields of service she’d been involved in. So proud of her!
For some, though, honouring your father and your mother, as commanded in Exodus 20:12 is challenging to say the least. Not all parents do a good job, and their offspring have to do a lot of forgiving. As folk get older, they can often get prickly and difficult, and the relationships take a lot of working at. Middle aged ‘children’ can be tightly stretched between caring for older parents, and the demands of teenage offspring, whilst trying to keep their own careers afloat. That can be a very hard calling. And how often do you hear that prayed for in church?
For all that, honouring your parents is required. Not the least, because there is a clause – “so that you may live long…” There were times I felt like saying to my kids when they were younger, “You’d better respect your parents if you want to see your next birthday!” And here it is – it’s biblical! But the thing is, our kids observe us closely. How we treat our parents is a blueprint for how they might be with us. The quality of our old age may well depend on our own attitudes now.
And there is this. A ‘liberated’ woman objected to a man holding a door open for her. “Madam,” he said, “I opened the door for you, not because you are a ‘lady’, but because I am a gentleman.” How we treat our parents (or anyone else for that matter) should not depend on how they are with us, or whether they ‘deserve’ it, but because that demonstrates the sort of people we are. For some, that is a greater challenge than others, and we need to support those who find this difficult, both practically and in prayer. Who do you know who needs that sort of help?