I want to preface the content below by first identifying the specific audience I’m addressing. I’m mainly speaking to those of Asian descent, this means both Asians and Asian Americans. This issue has been burning upon my heart to address due to the pain it has caused me and also witnessing how the wrong understanding of the command to honor our father and mother has hurt those around me. In no way am I encouraging my readers to rebel against your parents. My hope is to communicate the right understanding of this command of God.
This specific commandment, the only one that comes intact with a blessing used to hang over my head like a dark cloud. For years I misinterpreted the meaning and as a result it effected not just how I related with my parents but also with leaders. I understood this commandment through the cloudy lens of my culture and upbringing rather than through the Biblical definition which God intended. Through this lens, a history of generations of ancestral worship, I and other Asian believers tend to lean towards idolatrous worship of authority figures and of our parents. As a result, we have a tendency to accept words and opinions of authority figures without exercising our discernment and checking it against the Word of God. Other times, we have difficulty forgiving authority figures and our parents because it is difficult for us to accept that what they did was “wrong” since we believe they can’t be wrong.
Previously, I understood the commandment to honor our fathers and mothers as: Obey and submit to everything your parents and leaders tell you to do because they’re ALWAYS right. One must do this in order to be a good child and a good Christian.
As the years unfold and I walk the path of life with the Lord, something just felt off about my understanding of this commandment. I couldn’t put my finger on what was wrong. Inwardly I began to rebel against this definition that somehow intertwined itself deep into the caverns of my mind, infiltrating my heart and emotions. Without clarity and revelation regarding the Biblical definition of this command, I felt bad, disqualified and sinful because of my inner turmoil over the matter. I felt that I was living in disobedience to the Lord because I wasn’t following MY definition of God’s command. I carried guilt and shame around on my shoulders because I did not understand nor have revelation of the truth that “all men have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” including my parents and leaders in my life (Rom. 3:23). Without identifying and accepting the wrong that was committed against me, I was not able to forgive for many years.
Despite the fact that I felt hurt by wrong ways my parents and leaders have interacted with me, despite the fact that I would talk about it and say that it was wrong, I did not believe they could be wrong. What I held onto deep in my heart, was that I was wrong and that’s why others treated me wrongly. Instead of agreeing with the truth that everyone makes mistakes and hurt people, I walked in agreement with a lie.
The Biblical definition of Honoring your mother and father is: The Greek word for “to honor” means to prize, to revere, to value. To honor your father and mother then means to hold them in high regard and respect as the ones whom the Lord chose to bring you into this world and raise you. Though we may not necessarily agree with everything they instruct us to do, we can still honor them by respectfully disagreeing with their opinions and or instructions especially in cases where the parents are not yet believers or were abusive.
My Process of Understanding this Commandment with the Lord which Set My Heart Free from Bitterness:
God patiently helped me understand:
1. SELF-RESPECT & WORTH: I am righteous because of His blood and sacrifice on the Cross (Romans 8): which helped me have a continual growing confidence to come to Him to receive the help I need to forgive my parents and leaders for specific ways they have wronged me. I began to receive grace freely from my Father, grace that is available to me not because of how great I am but because of His great sacrifice. I began to respect myself and honor myself, walk in agreement with who God says I am and my worth. This helped me recognize that the pain I felt was legit and no longer disregard it as wrong. This revelation also opened my heart to receive help from God to process these pains with Him in order to receive freedom and lasting healing. God helped me see that He isn’t just demanding that I forgive, but a very important aspect of forgiveness is recognizing how I was wronged in order for true forgiveness to occur. (read more about forgiveness here).
2. ACKNOWLEDGING MY PARENTS/LEADERS’ WRONGS WITH THE LORD IS NOT DISHONORING THEM NOR DOES IT BRING SHAME UPON THEM: My huge emphasis here is WITH THE LORD. I used to complain and lament to my friends about how my leaders or parents have wronged me which does not please the Lord. But if you’re processing with a counselor, inner healing minister or a deliverance minister because you want freedom and healing, that is not dishonoring because your heart desires freedom and healing not slander. Many times Asians, myself included, have a hard time forgiving because though we complain to others about our pains, we ourselves believe that we are the ones to blame and that our parents/leaders are always right. We tend to have excuses for these individuals rather than God’s perception of what occurred. I still struggle with this sometimes. We need God’s help to walk in agreement with His truth that He alone is God, He alone is perfect. God has given us His Holy Spirit who leads us to all truths and the gift of discernment to decipher truth from lies, wrong from right with Him. There will be times when our parents and leaders give us incorrect council simply because they too are broken human beings just like ourselves. God alone deserves to sit on the thrones of our hearts as Truth, King and Judge, not human beings ((Luke 9:59-62, Matthew 10:32-40, Mark 10:28-31, Luke 14:26)
3. TRUE SUBMISSION: Submission does not mean I do everything my leaders and parents tell me to do or think! Asian culture says otherwise and we need the Lord to help us redefine submission so we no longer avoid it like the plague.
Lastly, I just want to add, if one needs to separate themselves from their parents for a season or even years to undergo healing in hopes of bringing reconciliation and restoration to the relationship, that’s not dishonoring your parents.
“We honor our parents most when we obey and honor God in our lives” (Bible.org-http://bible.org/seriespage/between-child-and-parent8211honoring-father-and-mother-exodus-2012)
For more information regarding this topic, I highly recommend this article for more in depth study: http://bible.org/seriespage/between-child-and-parent8211honoring-father-and-mother-exodus-2012