PART THREE: Latter Six Commandments – about others
Revisiting the Ten Commandments: 10. Command Five: Focus on Families (1)
Ex 20:12 Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.
Deut 5:16 Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the LORD your God is giving you.
A Change of Perspective: The fifth commandment moves from speaking about us having a right attitude towards God, to us having a right attitude towards people. Jesus summed up the Law with, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: `Love your neighbour as yourself.” (Mt 22:37-39, being a combination quote of Deut 6:5 and Lev 19:18) The first four commands are about loving God and the latter 6 about loving everyone else (‘neighbour’ simply means everyone with whom you come in contact.)
I am going to develop this study, as we go to revisit the command, by looking at very practical issues, what it means to be a parent, what it means to be a child, so we can place this command in context. So let’s start with some basics about this building block.
Facing Today: I believe what I am about to say needs saying in the light of the things we see in modern societies in the West today and I hope you may find wisdom here in the midst of the undergrowth of modern thinking that might be helpful in navigating the modern world. I suspect more children come into being today by accident than in past decades because sex plays a much bigger part, so we are led to believe, in modern society and ‘safe sex’ doesn’t always happen. Abortion is thus also a bigger issue today than in the past simply because it happens more and we legislate for it to theoretically protect women. Because of these things, it would appear that many parents (often not married) half-regret at least, being saddled with a child. It is at this point that many men depart, to the loss of the child. We have thus lost, I believe, the bigger picture of what bringing a child into this world entails, the responsibilities that go with it, and also the potential that is there. But let’s look at some of the practicalities, the basics if you like of what being a family is.
The Basic Building Block: In starting to bring laws that protect humanity, this very first one is about the basic building block of civilization, the very heart of relationships, which is under such attack today. If the Bible says Satan is a liar and a destroyer (and it does) then we should not be surprised that his strategy in the Last Days is to destroy the basic building block of civilization, families. How many families today in the West are missing a parent (mostly a father), how many live in ‘mixed families’ from previous relationships (teaching the children that this is normal), and how many are torn by dissension as parents war against each other and children war against parents. The fact of many relationships merely being cohabitation (now clearly known to be less stable than marriages) only goes to normalize what is abnormal in the word of God. We have ignored this command and we have ignored it at our peril. But to be more helpful, how can we help, support, readjust to the various modern situations that might confront us?
The Heart of Life: If relationship, and how we handle them, is at the heart of being a human being, and I believe it is, I believe the seed bed for growth of personality and for learning how to cope with life generally, and relationships specifically, is the family unit. (I realize that for many today this is going to be a study that emphasizes painful issues, but unless we face them together we will never be able to change either ourselves or the way we go about life in this twenty-first century.) I had the privilege earlier in life of being trained by the local authority as a Parent Trainer and ran a number of parenting courses, and as I did that it enlarged my thinking.
Life-Time Parenting: Here is a concept to play with! Once you have conceived a child you will be a parent for the rest of your life until either you or they die. Why? Because the definition of a parent is simply a father or a mother. However old your ‘child’ is, you are still a parent:
- When the child is an embryo in the womb, you are a parent-in-waiting.
- When they are born you are a parent-in-action.
- When they have left home and have a partner of their own, you are a parent-in-support.
- When they have children of their own, you are still a parent-in-support, now what we call a grand-parent.
Life-Time Child Developing: So here’s another interesting concept to play with: you will always remain a child, while you have parents – that is simply a description of your relationship with them, but you will, if you fulfill your potential, become each of those descriptions above. Now here’s the important issue: as you enter into parenthood it should not mean that your role as a child and your parent’s role as your parent should be lost. I believe God’s intent is that they now become a resource to you in a new way (and that is more than just baby-sitting!!!).
A Two-Way Street of Possibilities: Attitude and outlook are crucial. Let’s focus on the parent side first of all and then go on to consider a child in the next study. Consider a couple of possibilities:
You are a parent in support (i.e. they have flown the nest)
- well, you are glad they are off your hands and if they go and live abroad you’ll be glad they are out of sight, so now you can get on and enjoy life again, OR
- you realise that when you look back none of us can ever say we’ve been the perfect parent, but we were there for the kids. We’ll keep in contact, remember birthdays and be there for them when they allow us to be, a quiet sympathetic, caring and helpful support in the background when needed.
You are a Grandparent
- you recently heard through the grapevine that they have had a child and you’re glad that you’re at such a distance that you’re not going to be called upon to be a baby-sitter or anything silly like that! Now they can suffer like you did as a parent! OR
- they rang you last night and told you the good news and you asked if there was anything they needed, and could you help in any way. When the little one arrived you were there rejoicing with them and were an extra pair of hands in the background to ease the way. You welcomed them into your home and had toys available for the little one that matched their years as they grew. You became a very real part in the little one’s life, a continuing influence for good for the next generation and an ongoing support of its parents.
Wrong Focus? Hold on, I hear you saying, I thought this was all about how my kids are to honour me, for surely this command is, “Honor your father and your mother,” not me the parent honoring them? Absolutely right, but the big question is what does ‘honour’ mean? Surely it means to esteem or think highly of (see Prov 4:8) and as much as I will always insist that none of us can be perfect in the ways we raise our children, that is not to be a cop-out clause to remove our responsibility. The parent who has been harsh, domineering, absent, indifferent to the children, violent, even abusive can never expect – except with an exceptional dose of God’s grace – their children to think well of them.
Community: In the days of Israel in its infancy, community was all important. They had been slaves together in Egypt, wanderers together in the wilderness, solders together in taking the Land, and settlers together as they established the Land. All of that speaks of community, close community, big families, multi-generational families together and when you have that, you have mutual support, mutual care, wisdom and experience being passed down the generations – and an absence of those negative things I’ve just listed in the paragraph above.
Today we lack these things. Generations often live apart, even on other sides of the world and, because of that, there can be sense of potential isolation where there is little or no accountability and less than perfect parenting can prevail in a large measure. To counter this we need to take on board and work at these things. If we are to make sense of this commandment we need to first look at this matter of parental responsibility. Have I failed my children? Do I need God’s grace to bring reconciliation, healing and maybe forgiveness?
Application: May I suggest we conclude this study praying something like, “Lord, please give me the grace to be honest about how I am going about being a parent and have been as a parent. Please give me the grace to still be a family supporter, a family builder, there for my children and grandchildren, your representative to them. Amen.”