In this sermon, part of a series on “Whatever You Do,” Pastor Neil explores the what the scriptures say to obey your parents. Here are some excerpts:
“Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord” (3:20). In everything? Is Paul serious? Does he really mean everything? If your parents ask you (or tell you) to do something immoral or unethical, something against the law – like stealing from someone or deliberately telling a lie – are you supposed to obey them? Or suppose they tell you to do something dangerous or foolish – like running out into the street without checking to see if it is safe or jumping off the roof of the church building (unless it is on fire)? Are you supposed to obey them in everything? Are you supposed to obey them when they tell you to do something you know is wrong in the eyes of God? If obeying your parents means disobeying God, does God really want you to do what your parents tell you?
Paul clarifies this for us in Ephesians 6:1 – a verse that parallels Colossians 3:20. In Ephesians 6:1 he says: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” Obey your parents in the Lord – which is to say, when what your parents tell you to do or not to do agrees with what God says. The in everything of Colossians 3:20 equals the in the Lord of Ephesians 6:1. It means you are to obey your parents in anything and everything that agrees with how the Bible says children are to treat their parents. It does not mean that children of any age have a duty to obey Mom and Dad if to obey them means disobeying God.
But Paul, in both Colossians and Ephesians, is writing to Christians – to Christian wives and husbands, Christian parents and their children, Christian masters and servants (employers and employees). He is writing to believers who, because of God’s grace, have been rescued from sin and guilt and hell, and have been joined together in the new community of God’s people, in which they – we – are to “submit to one another, out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21).
The command to children to “obey your parents” is not absolute. But it is serious. The Bible does not say: “Children, obey your parents, if (or when) you feel like it.” It does not say: “Obey your parents when it is convenient.” It does not say: “Obey your parents just to get something from them,” even though you may receive a reward for your obedience. It does not say: “Obey your parents when they are watching you.” It says: “Obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right” (Ephesians 6:1) and it “pleases the Lord” (Colossians 3:20)…
…How do you honor your father and mother when you feel like they failed you? This is a really hard one. What you have to do, I think, is to ask the Lord to help you to do what seems almost impossible. Because it is not impossible with God. Everything, including showing honor to a parent who is not deserving of honor, is Him-possible with God. Not impossible but Him-possible.
You’ve probably heard this before. If you cannot honor the person, you can still honor the office the person holds. If you had a lousy Mom or Dad, you can still honor them because of their position, even though they did a miserable job. You can respect the position, even if you can’t respect the person in the office.
There is one other thing you can do if you have trouble honoring your father or mother. You can forgive them… You can choose to extend the grace of forgiveness to them; forgive them for whatever they did to you, or failed to do for you, just as God in Christ has forgiven you all your sins. Take the step of forgiving them, even if they are no longer in your life. Or no longer living. As long as you’re alive, it is not too late, and it is never too soon, to forgive your parents.
The general rule for children is:
“Children, obey your parents in everything” – do what your parents tell you (MSG) – “for this pleases the Lord”(Colossians 3:20).
Pastor Neil has much more to say about this topic. Please click on the link below to hear the sermon in its entirety.