As a child and teenager, I was always reminded of the Fourth Commandment: Honor your father and your mother.
Obviously, I should have been doing that anyway … but I was too busy talking back and rolling my eyes to remember.
Once I moved out and lived on my own—first at college, then as a working adult—I thought my days of obeying my parents were over. After all, I didn’t live under their roof anymore, so I got to make my own rules in my own home!
Turns out, it’s not quite that simple. My parents are still my parents, and I am still their child, even if I am no longer legally their dependent.
So how, as Christian children, do we honor our parents when we ourselves are adults?
Obeying Your Parents
As an adult, we still have a responsibility to obey our parents.
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”
Although my parents can’t tell me to go to bed at 9 p.m.—I do that on my own now—I do still need to obey them. But what does that look like?
First, we should obey what our parents taught us as children, especially the Christian values that are presented in the Bible. If your parents didn’t teach you about Jesus as a child, you can obey your parents by honoring them.
Honoring Your Parents
Honoring and obeying your parents might seem like the same thing, but there is a subtle difference. Obeying your parents requires a relationship, but you can honor your parents even if you don’t have a relationship with them.
Honoring your parents might look like not regularly speaking to them, but not speaking ill of them when you have the chance. Honoring your parents might be talking to them once a week, listening to them tell the same story every week. Or it might look like listening to their unsolicited parent advice and thinking and praying about it.
Caring for Your Parents
One of the hardest realities of growing up is realizing that your parents are growing older too. And for some people, that means taking in their parents.
But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God.
1 Timothy 5:4
Of course, not everyone is called to take care of their aging parents. For some people, it might not be feasible. But it is a difficult decision that children must make, and it certainly shows Christian care and love to the people who raised us (regardless of whether we consider our parents “good parents.”)
Honoring, obeying, and caring for your parents will look different from family to family. Some will be very hands-on and involved, while others might not be on speaking terms with either parent. But regardless, God calls us to honor our father and mother—no matter how old we are.
Form healthy, faith-based relationships between children and parents.