In our culture, God's command to honor our parents is one of the most neglected and least heeded of all His commandments. In countless ways, we have been encouraged to blame our parents for our dysfunctions, to expose their faults, to declare our independence from them, and to leave them to fend for themselves. 

In so doing, we have not only brought great hurt and harm to our parents, but we have also inflicted great injury on ourselves! 

The command to honor our parents is accompanied by a promise of great blessing. In dishonoring our parents, we forfeit God's blessing, and we are bound to reap the painful consequences that Scripture promises to those who fail to honor their parents. The blessings of honoring our parents and the consequences of dishonoring them will be experienced in our physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being, in our relationships with others, as well as in any children and grandchildren that we may someday have.

When adult children, whether married or single, break ties with their parents to pursue absolute independence, when they refuse to seek out and value the counsel of their parents, they are depriving themselves of great spiritual blessing and protection.

Contrary to what the world tells us, the command to honor our parents has no expiration date and no conditions attached. Whatever our age, whether we are married or single, whether our parents are still living or not, and regardless of their spiritual condition, God expects us to honor them.  
For me, obedience to God's command means a commitment to honor my father, who has been with the Lord for many years. It also means a commitment to honor and care for my widowed mother. 

The Scripture is clear about our special responsibility to care for widowed parents          (1 Tim. 5:4). The story of Ruth is a poignant illustration of a single woman's commitment to care for her widowed mother-in-law. Ruth put Naomi's future and interests ahead of her own. God not only used Ruth's obedience to restore joy and healing to Naomi's life, but also gave Ruth a wonderful husband and blessed the world with Jesus, a descendant of that marriage.

Practically speaking, how can we honor our parents?  We can honor (or dishonor) our parents in the way that we speak of them to others. I remember an experience I had as a 12-year-old girl, as I was getting ready to leave with a friend for a week at a Christian camp. My friend's mother had taken us to meet the bus that would be taking us to the camp.

As we were getting ready to board the bus, she took us aside and gave us some parting words of exhortation that I have never forgotten. "I know it's fashionable for many young people to talk negatively about their parents," she said.  "But," she continued in an earnest tone of voice, "I never want to hear of either of you ever speaking critically about your parents." 

As I look back on the conversation, I realize that this mother was not trying to protect herself. She understood the seriousness of dishonoring our parents, and wanted to protect us from the inevitable consequences of doing so. To this day, that wise woman's words have motivated me to speak well of my parents. 

If you had asked me several years ago if I honored my parents, I would have felt confident that I did. Then the Lord brought across my path a powerful book called "The Tribute and the Promise" by Dennis Rainey (Thomas Nelson, pub.). God used that book in a significant way to open my eyes to some of the ways that I had failed to honor my parents. I began to see things from a parent's point of view, and was made aware of attitudes and actions that could have made my parents feel dishonored. 

As I read, God began a process in my heart that has continued to this day. That process has not always been easy; it has involved a lot of repenting on my part, as well as taking specific steps to communicate greater honor, gratitude, and compassion for and to my parents.

Unlike many of my readers, I have been blessed with a heritage of godly, devoted parents. But they certainly were not perfect. Like the rest of us, they were (are) in the process of being conformed to the image of Jesus. Regardless of their successes or shortcomings, God's Word says that I am to honor them.

I honor my parents when I express gratitude for the ways God has used them to bless and shape my life, rather than drawing attention to those areas where they were not all they could have been as parents. I honor them when I refuse to make them a prisoner of my expectations or to hold their failures against them.  I honor them when I seek and value their counsel. I honor my mother when I take time to communicate with her, to listen to her, to understand her, to be sensitive to her needs, and to let her be a part of my life. I honor both my parents when I choose to pattern my life after those areas where they set a godly example. 

As a result of learning to honor my parents in a greater way, I have come to experience incredible blessing and freedom in many areas of my life, including my relationship with God and others.

Since I began this pilgrimage, I have challenged others to consider seriously this area of their lives. Many individuals, even those with ungodly parents, have returned to share with me how God has released His blessing in their lives as they have committed themselves to forgive their parents and bestow honor on them. 

Excerpted from Singled Out for Him by Nancy Leigh DeMoss. Copyright 1998 by Nancy Leigh DeMoss. Used by permission of Life Action Ministries.
 
Since 1980 Nancy Leigh DeMoss has served as the Director of Publications and Women's Ministries and as the editor of Spirit of Revival magazine, for Life Action Ministries, a revival ministry, based in Niles, Michigan. She is the author of A Place of Quiet Rest: Finding Intimacy with God Through a Daily Devotional Life, Lies Women Believe and the Truth that Sets Them Free and A 30-Day Walk With God in the Psalms (Moody Press). Nancy also hosts Revive Our Hearts, a daily radio program for women that airs each weekday on over 200 stations nationwide. Visit http://www.reviveourhearts.com/