God tells us in The Ten Commandments to honor our parents.
He feels strongly enough about this admonition to repeat it several times in the Old and New Testaments.
This is the only one of The Ten Commandments that includes a reward for compliance.
God says societies that extol parental honor will endure a long time.
Honoring our fathers and mothers means treating them with respect and esteeming their position, even if they are individually unworthy of adulation.
It means letting God convey his love to them through our thoughts, words, motives, actions, and reactions.
When we are young, honoring our parents includes heeding their instructions and submitting to their authority.
This childhood obedience lays the groundwork for our future success.
As we grow older, the honor we gave our parents translates into respect for other authorities, including coaches, teachers, military commanders, employers, and government institutions.
Jesus told the Pharisees—who were grown men—to honor their fathers and mothers. He equated dishonor with hypocrisy.
Why would God exhort adults to obey this command?
Because, as we age, we see character flaws and behavioral deficiencies in our parents. We recognize their parenting mistakes that negatively impacted us. We may have to accommodate their frailties.
Honoring our parents, while tolerating their shortcomings, teaches us to be kind, patient, forgiving, and magnanimous.
These traits characterize a person who is walking in harmony with God.
What about negligent or harmful parents who damage their children? Should they be honored?
To the extent possible, yes.
However, God understands that wounded children may require extensive healing before they can even consider this possibility. He knows that some of us may never heal completely in this lifetime.
God stands ready to help us cope with our past or present pain, as we walk in harmony with him. His aid package includes many spiritual and tangible resources for damaged people.
God never condemns those who are soulfully unable to honor their parents.
His displeasure is reserved for those who are capable of bestowing honor, but neglect to do so.
Our children learn to honor us as they watch us honor our parents, if the generations overlap.
Our grandchildren learn the same lesson by watching our children honor us in our later years.
Unless selfishness intervenes at some point, our grandchildren will honor our children in their old age, just as our children honored us in ours, and we honored our parents in theirs.
This sequence will keep repeating in each new branch of our descendant families as long as parental honor continues to be modeled.
Thus, the honor we bestow on our elderly parents today creates a positive legacy that can endure for generations.
Honoring parents during our childhood teaches us respect for authority that translates into an orderly society.
Honoring them during our adulthood softens our hard edges and helps create a compassionate society.
Honoring parents across multiple generations builds durable societies.