Hear, my son, your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching; indeed, they are a graceful wreath to your head and ornaments about your neck.
There’s a final group to whom the Fifth Commandment—to honor our father and our mother—applies, and that is to those who have lost their parents. I believe it is possible to honor your parents even after they’re gone. You say, “How can I honor, or reverence, my parents who have died?”
First, we reverence our deceased parents through the way we talk about them. What we say about our parents either honors or dishonors them. Leviticus 20:9 says we’re not to curse our father or our mother. It’s possible to do that even after they’re gone. We make a choice of how we talk about our parents.
Second, we honor our deceased parents by our memories of them. Let’s face it: we all have some good memories and some not-so-good memories about our parents. Some have tremendous hurts that have been afflicted upon them by a mother or a father. How do you honor that? Of course, it’s impossible to forget those things that happened to you. But instead of trying to sweep those painful memories of our parents under the rug, we ought to acknowledge that they exist. Be honest about them. Say to God, “God, my mom, my dad have really hurt me. But I’m choosing forgive them of those hurtful experience, just as I want You, God, to forgive me.” When we have painful memories of our parents we need to acknowledge them, we need to forgive, to release them. But then we need to choose to remember the good things about our parents. We choose what we think about. And one way to honor your father and mother is to think about the good things they brought into your life and to thank God for them. Philippians 4:8 says, “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” Do you want peace from your past? The way to have that peace is to choose to dwell on the good things your parents have done for you.
Finally, we honor our parents who are gone by the way we live. We reverence them when we live in a way that would please our father and mother, that would honor their reputation. You may say, “Wait a minute, Pastor. I thought we were supposed to live our lives to please God.” Well, that’s right. But to the extent that our parents’ values mirrored God’s values, we do a good thing when we live in a way that would please our parents even after they’re gone. Such a goal gives stability and direction to our lives. There’s something healthy about living your life according to the highest ideals that your parents had for you. By doing that you honor your father and your mother.
Like many of you, I have parents who are already gone, and I miss my parents just like many of you miss your parents. But I’m grateful that before each of them passed away, there was no unfinished business between us. They knew how much I loved them. There was closure to our relationship. And I’ll be eternally grateful for that.
One day, if it hasn’t already happened, one day, you’re going to get that telephone call telling you your parent is gone. And I pray that when that time comes there’ll be no unfinished business between you and your parent. How can you make sure that happens? By obeying the Fifth Commandment, by honoring your father and mother—obeying them, respecting them, caring for them, and reverencing them.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Honoring Your Parents,” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2008.
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.