It was Christmas. Larissa knew her parents and her cousin were on opposite sides of the debate over who should take care of her grandparents, but she was trying to stay out of the argument. After dinner, she was clearing the dishes when her cousin mentioned how much he loved her apple pie. There was one piece of left, so she gave it to him. She thought little of it and went home.
The next day her parents came to visit. Larissa was excited to see them because they rarely visited her home and she eagerly invited them in. For a couple rounds of a card game they seemed to be having fun. When Larissa went to the kitchen to get some snacks she told her husband it was a dream come true to have her parents in her home playing games.
The minute they came back into the dining room, it seemed like the temperature had dropped ten degrees. Her parents began to question why she gave her cousin a piece of apple pie. Larissa felt she had done the right thing and she was shocked by her parent’s anger over a piece of pie. When she insisted she had done the right thing. Her parents disagreed. They had come to shame her for what they thought was a betrayal and left without finishing the game.
Sometimes parents accuse their adult children of dishonoring them when they don’t live up to their expectations. Are we breaking the fifth commandment when we refuse to do what our parents ask of us if it involves acting in a way we don’t think Jesus would approve?
The original word honor means “to take into account.” If our earthly parent asks us to do something, we can show them honor by thoughtfully contemplating their request. At the same time, we have a responsibility to honor our heavenly Parent. For some people honoring God and their parents is a conflict of interest. There may be times when we have to disregard our parents’ advice to follow Jesus.
When His mother said they were out of wine at the wedding feast in Cana, Jesus realized Mary knew her son was the Messiah. She was eager for Him to get on with His role and Jesus disagreed by letting let her know that it was not yet time. Jesus listened to her request, made it clear what He would do and then He helped her by turning the water into wine.
When parents hold a grudge or shun a family member, if we believe God wants us to love even our enemies we have a choice to make between going along with our parents or following God. Jesus understands our dilemma because He had to follow His Father in heaven regardless of what other people–including His mother wanted Him to do.
The first recorded incident happened when Jesus was twelve. His parents forgot and left Him in the temple and lost him for three days. When His mother scolded Him, Jesus gently explained how He needed to do His father’s business. Jesus models how we should place our heavenly Father over our earthly parents and still treat our parents with kindness.
Some Christians like to stress the fact the Bible says to obey our parents.
Children, obey your parents in the Lord,
for this is right.
Notice two things about this verse–
1. It’s speaking to children–not adults.
A child needs to obey parents when they are young because it might save their life. They are inexperienced in this world full of busy roads, hot stoves and crazy strangers. Parents are the protectors of their children to keep them safe, but something changes when we become adults.
“When I was a child, I talked like a child,
I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.
When I became a man,
I put the ways of childhood behind me.”
-1 Corinthians 13:11
And 2. It says to obey our parents “in the Lord.”
If our human parents ask us to do something dishonest which conflicts with God’s principles they are not “in the Lord.” Our first duty is to honor God. We are called to do the will of God, regardless of threats or loss of relationship with our earthly parents.
Jesus defines His family by those who do His Father’s will.
Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?
Pointing to his disciples, he said,
Here are my mother and my brothers.
For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven
is my brother and sister and mother.
Honoring Our Father Does Not Bring Peace
The same Jesus who said, “Blessed are the peacemakers,” also taught peace might be impossible with our earthly family. Doing God’s will often places us in direct conflict with people who are not re-parented by God. Disagreeing with our family members might cause anger and isolation. Jesus warned us about this–
Do you think I came to bring peace on earth?
No, I tell you, but division.
From now on there will be five in one family
divided against each other,
three against two and two against three.
They will be divided,
father against son and son against father,
mother against daughter
and daughter against mother,
mother-in-law against daughter-in-law
and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.
– Luke 12:51-53
Jesus always spoke the truth. Even to his mother. When Mary found him in the temple He said He needed to be about His Father’s business. It probably hurt Mary, maybe in her human mind she felt like Joseph was his father–after all they were a family. But Jesus had to speak the truth in order to grow and to share His own story.
Another time Jesus spoke the truth was at the wedding in Cana. He told Mary it was not yet His time to be known as the Messiah, but He helped her anyway. Perhaps Jesus wanted to make sure Mary was aware it was inappropriate for her to brag as His mother. Her life was certainly humble despite carrying King of the universe around in her belly.
The third time Jesus spoke the truth it must have cut right through Mary’s heart. Jesus publicly said, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” Ouch. Any bystander might be tempted to think Jesus was disowning His mother, but He wasn’t. (We know from the rest of His story at the cross where Jesus asked John to take care of His mother.) Jesus told this truth–not to hurt Mary, but to show that we cannot be more concerned with our family than serving God. We might even have to separate from some of our family because they do not do God’s will.
The life of Jesus reveals that lying and deception have no place in God’s family. To be free and honest with our friends and family is a gift that comes only from having a relationship with God. Only in God do we find the courage to face our mistakes and only in God can we find the strength to endure when our family members shun us for telling our stories.
God wants all of His children to be united, but there might be some family we can’t hang out with because we can only be truly united when we have nothing to hide. And that translates into nakedness–no secrets, nothing to feel ashamed of and nothing to fear.