The thought of father and mother may be uplifting for some but devastating for others, but God has commanded all Christians to honor their parents with no exception clause, said Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in a sermon explaining what the Fifth Commandment means and involves.
"It's very simple: honor your father and mother. And there's no fine print and no footnotes. There's no exception clause for those of us who have had horrific experiences in the hands of our parents," Pastor Driscoll of the Seattle, Wash.-based church told his congregation Sunday.
The sermon was fifth in the series, "Ten Commandments: Set Free To Live Free." The pastor read Exodus 20:12: "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you."
"A spiritual father for 17 years at Mars Hill church, I want you to walk with me into a place that you're probably afraid of, wouldn't go unless I took you there," Driscoll told the members. "And the reason you don't wanna go there is because it's incredibly painful but because it's painful, it's incredibly important."
It's complicated, Driscoll agreed, saying we have separated sex from marriage. "So through birth control, and abortion, all of a sudden, people are sexually active without any thought of marriage or parenting. So some of you came into the world with parents who didn't want you, and didn't love you, and didn't serve you, and didn't care for you, and didn't cherish you."
In addition, a lot of parenting is based on the teaching of Sigmund Freud, who suggested we need to kill our father to liberate ourselves and live free. But according to the Bible, this is the essence of all our trouble. "We separate ourselves from our earthly mother and father… to our own destruction and demise because when we choose to sin, we choose to suffer."
Pastor Driscoll also talked about the culture of rebellion. "I told you the Second Commandment that if you idolize something, you'll demonize it eventually. And what we have done is we have idolized youth and we've demonized old age. We have idolized rebellion, and as a result, we demonize honor, and that's the culture in which we live."
The first four commandments are about loving God, he recalled. And because of God's love for us and our love for God, commandments five through 10 are about loving your neighbor, starting with your parents, he said. "And here's the big idea: I think if you could love your parents, you could love anybody. And if you could forgive your parents, you could forgive anybody."
The Mars Hill pastor then asked, honor who? "Well, the father's listed first. The father is the head of the household… The father bears particular responsibility in the sight of God. And mother. Mother is alongside of father, working with him. Like a right hand, and a left hand, mom and dad are to be working together to love and lead the family."
To honor means to respect, to defer, to submit, Driscoll suggested. "It means to have love, appreciation, affection towards them. Honor is something that begins internally, and then it manifests itself externally. As you have honor in your heart, it comes out in your words."
The ideal family unit is a mother and a father, the pastor stressed. "A mother and a father. Now, even today, that's controversial… But ideally, a child would have a father and a mother, who would not just be there for the conception, but be there for graduation."
Driscoll warned the married couples to not disrespect and dishonor their spouse in front of the children. "This doesn't mean that moms and dads can't have conflict and disagreement. It means that when they have conflict, they either deal with it privately, and sometimes, when they deal with it in front of the kids, they deal with it honorably."
It is important for parents to instruct their children to honor their mother and father, and not play favorites, the pastor added. "And… we honor the other parent, particularly in front of the children, to set a pattern and precedence of honor in the family."
"Why do we honor?" the pastor asked. "Because it makes our life better. Now, first commandment is that there's only one God. Second commandment is we're only to worship one God. But here, we find out that if we live in a way toward our family that is worshipful and respectful toward God, it actually has benefits for us." God's will is beneficial for us, he emphasized.
"How do we honor dishonorable mothers and fathers?" Driscoll went on to ask. He encouraged the congregation to evaluate if they expect too much from their parents. Even otherwise, he said, "give forgiveness, this is to guard your heart from bitterness. If you don't forgive your parents you would become like your parents… There's a root of sin in their lives. They sinned against you and you are infected now. Forgiveness is how you are cleansed from that root of bitterness, from that infection."
Driscoll likened honoring "dishonorable parents" to how people in the military salute the uniform. "Not the person in uniform, but I respect the uniform. I honor the uniform. Same with motherhood and fatherhood. If it's hard to honor your mother or father, you could honor motherhood, you could honor fatherhood. If you don't honor your mother and father, you will raise children who don't honor you. You reap what you sow. If you sow dishonor in your children you'll reap dishonor."
If your father has failed you, at least you can be thankful that you have a Heavenly Father, he said.
The pastor also talked about how father and mother can parent honorably. He said they must remember that the child is their blessing, she or he is their responsibility, and perhaps more importantly that she or he is their follower.