In Exodus 20:12, God commands that we honor our Fathers and our Mothers. He commands the same thing again in Deuteronomy 5:16. Again, Jesus repeats the same command several times in the New Testament gospels. Most of the time we teach our kids that this passage is teaching that they are to obey their parents. Well, that's certainly part of it, but there is much much more to this command than simple obedience. The word that Jesus uses for "honor" is the Greek word tima, which means to estimate or value at a certain price, to deem or hold worthy; to honor.
Here's the deal. Yes, it is certainly implied here that by virtue of being parents, children should respect them. But the literal meaning of the word is to "estimate or value at a certain price." The image is of someone musing over something, studying it, learning about it, and then deciding how much that object is worth to him. I think too often we have taught this passage to mean that regardless if your parents are morally corrupt, obstinate in their relationships with God, and otherwise complete imbeciles, you still need to respect them, obey them, and honor them. This becomes difficult for kids who have emotionally, spiritually, or physically abusive parents. This passage makes much more sense to me now that I understand the word tima. Study your parents. Observe the fruits of the Spirit in their lives. Remember all that they have done for you. Observe their character. Kids know their parents' true character more than anyone else. And then see how highly you should esteem them and honor them. What value would you place on them? For most of us, we will probably realize that we have not valued them enough. Unfortunately, like a young man I was talking with yesterday, many parents will be weighed in the balance and found wanting. My heart went out to him, because I do not know what that is like. For an hour we compared and contrasted his parents with mine. How blessed I am!
This is probably why I get so defensive when someone tries to mess with my family. Just this past week, a man whom I respect attempted to call my dad's charater into question. Sorry, not gunna happen. Now, my dad doesn't need me to defend him. He himself stayed quiet on the issue (as he always does) prefering for God and God alone to be his judge. But I couldn't let it slide. I was angry, and I believe I was justified in my anger. I had a few choice words with this man, and demanded that he give my dad an apology. Later, he backed down a little and apologized. And I was left to process through what had conspired. I was examining myself, trying to understand why I get so heated so quickly about stuff like that. This morning, I finally understood. It's because I honor my dad in the true sense of the word: tima. I have been with him through the years, lived with him, traveled with him, and have seen his true character. My dad is a man of God, and I hope to one day be half the man that he is. So Dad, it's an honor to honor you. I love you.