“Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” Exodus 20:12
This is part of the ten commandments. It’s not a suggestion but a commandment. Today we see many instances of people not honoring their parents. On the other hand, we also see many instances of parents not honoring their children. Every day children are abused, placed as a “prize” between divorcing parents, treated as a possession, sold into slavery, beaten, discarded as trash, forced into sexual abuse, and a variety of other demeaning and devastating situations. They have no voice and they have no power. It is the responsibility – a God-given responsibility – of the parents to care for them.
So, how do we reconcile the command to honor our father and mother when they don’t do the same for us? Our social workers try to find ways for the abused child to be placed in a different home, but the ultimate responsibility is with those who have become parents. I have known a number of people who have experienced abuse at their parents’ hand, many of them took it from their fathers.
I had a best friend who experienced abandonment and rejection from every father figure in her life. She could have chosen to be bitter and angry. She could have chosen to reject God when she thought of God as a father, but her attitude was that God was the only “father” who hadn’t left her. God was the only “father” who stuck with her, loved her unconditionally, and was the steady presence in her life. What a great attitude! What a great way to view her situation and to bring the positive into it by not blaming God for what had happened or transferring her anger and sadness toward her earthly “fathers” to God.
Many of us have someone who has been a father or father-figure in our lives. Many of us have had someone who has set a good example for us, who has planted seeds of faith and helped us move forward in our faith journeys. My own dad (and grandfathers) demonstrated Christian living to all of us in my family of origin. His witness to me wasn’t so much in what he said but what he DID to live out his faith. Oh sure, he was highly involved in the church to the point of ridiculous at times because he had meetings night after night at church. But it was even more than that. It is how he treated others: with kindness and respect. It is how he forgave those who had wronged him even when most of us would have held onto that hurt and pain. It is how he raised us with a strong knowledge of right and wrong and with moral values that we all eventually returned to in adulthood.
Good fathers set a good example, admit when they are wrong, ask for forgiveness and forgive others. They try to help where they can, and they support their children with love and encouragement to the best of their ability. Although there are varying degrees of this, a good father will try to set a good example.
On this Father’s Day, I’m grateful for the man who has been given to me as my father, and I’m grateful for those men who have been like fathers to me throughout my life. There have been some bad examples, but today I celebrate the good examples! Thanks be to God for those fathers who have inspired us!