(This is a sermon delivered at Grow Community BGC last February 3, 2018)
Just saying the word brings tingles to some people. It is as if an electric current is running through their veins.
Others would just feel melancholic or hopeless romantic. Some would think that they are unlovable or will never find love.
When the word relationships is mentioned, most people would probably think about man meets woman. They go out. They get married. Then they lived happily ever after.
But let us look at a relationship beyond man meets woman. Let us look at a relationship that has blossomed and has borne fruits. Let us look at the family. More than that, let us look at what makes a godly family and how it relates to a happier life.
The first relationship that you have experienced was not always tingles of joy but more of pain and sacrifice. The first relationship any individual have is a relationship with their family. When you came into this world, your parents’ world turned upside down. Most of us would probably have difficulty relating to this as some of us are still single. But most of the parents here would most likely nod in agreement.
The next relationship you would most likely have is a relationship with your sibling if you have one. Siblings are often quite annoying don’t you think? But it is the next relationship you would have. They are your first playmates if you are not the eldest, your worst critics, and sometimes your worst adversary. I still remember that box of raisins my brother took from me when we were kids.
Our relationships with parents are important. They are the relationships that we would have to answer to God when the time comes. Of all the relationships, God placed a special importance to this one by putting it among the Decalogue.
“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.” – Exodus 20:12
Whenever we talk about our parents, this commandment is always brought up. It is said that this is the commandment with a promise that our days will be longer when we honor our parents. When we look at it, this is actually true. Our mothers are the ones who first held us when we were babies, clothed us and took care of us. Our fathers have provided for our needs and given us the security and protection we needed. Both of them had sleepless nights when we were babies with our crying, when we were toddlers with our need for their attention, and when we were teenagers when we went home late from a party or school work. Our parents have done countless sacrifices for us that there would be no you if it were not for them.
“Honor” in the Hebrew original the Bible is “Kabad” which means “to give weight.” This refers to someone or something that is worthy of respect. You don’t necessarily treat them lightly as in disregard them or talk back to them.
In Bible terms, kabad is directed mostly to people of importance. God is worthy of kabad, the Sabbath is worthy of kabad; and, our parents are worthy of kabad. It is not some sort of feeling that you have towards God or your parents rather it is a concept that is shown through concrete actions. This is why there were animal sacrifices, tithes and offerings and various other practices that were done in kabad of God.
The same goes with our parents. We ought to show kabad by concrete means. Here are some ways we can show kabad to our parents.
- Obedience (Colossians 3:20)
As little children, we ought to obey our parents because we often have no idea what to do with our lives. Yet the same thing should happen as we grow up, certain lessons that our parents have taught us must still be obeyed. An exception should be made when the commands are against God’s commands. More on this later.
- Respect (Leviticus 19:3)
As we grow, we may learn how to make our own decisions which makes obedience not often practiced, there should still exist a sense of respect to our parents and elderly. This may include showing gratitude for the care and sacrifice they did for us while we were young.
- Love and Care (I Timothy 5:4)
Some of our parents who are well advanced in years may need our love and care. It may be our turn to cradle them in our arms, feed them and care for them. Yet in most Western societies, the parents are often left behind in nursing homes by their children. While such is not yet the case in our country, there are indications that the practice is beginning to creep in our country with the presence of neglected parents who are left to beg in the streets or old folks who are placed in institutions.
When It is Hard to Honor Our Parents
The story of 1 Samuel 20 talks about one of Saul’s many attempt to kill David. However, in this instance, David had a co-conspirator in the person of Jonathan, Saul’s son. He schemed with David because he knew that his father’s plan to kill David was against God’s wishes. He also knew that killing someone anointed by God would be a bigger disobedience to God. At the end of it all, Jonathan chose to follow the Heavenly Father rather than His earthly father while still maintaining the respect and care for Saul. This clearly tells us that disobedience may be necessary if the parents’ commands are contrary to God’s will and command but respect and love should still abound. Jonathan still showed love and compassion for his father even though his father may not have been the kind of father that anyone would like.
While most children born in Christian homes may have little problem in honoring their parents, we cannot be blind to the fact that there are among us who may have been abused or neglected by their parents. Some may even be persecuted or maligned. In these cases, parents ought to be held accountable for their actions. However, no matter what abuse our parents may have done for us, we still ought to seek the Lord’s help in a more redemptive way. We ought to aim to heal the pain and the strained relationships rather than seek hurt or vengeance.
“Believing parents, you have a responsible work before you to guide the footsteps of your children, even in their religious experience. When they truly love God, they will bless and reverence you for the care which you have manifested for them, and for your faithfulness in restraining their desires and subduing their wills.”
—Ellen G. White, The Adventist Home, p. 533.
As the smallest unit of society, our family relationship should be healthy in order for society to function well. This includes God’s mandate to honor our parents in His name. While the ideal parent-child relationship may not always be present, we ought to remember that God is the ultimate parent and can allow us to experience the real parent-child relationship we have been looking for. All we have to do is submit our lives to God’s power and allow His healing touch in our relationship with our earthly parents.
The Bible has no commandments regarding siblings. But this does not give us an excuse to kill them. Maybe abuse them a little bit (of course that is a joke). But the Bible does have a colorful record on siblings. We all know what happened to the first sibling relationship recorded in the Bible. Cain killed Abel. Other sibling stories got it worse. Jacob robbed Esau of an inheritance. Joseph was almost murdered but was eventually sold by his brothers. Moses and his siblings, Aaron and Miriam, frequently quarreled. Miriam and Martha quarreled in front of Jesus. David’s son Amnon raped her sister Tamar. Absalom then killed Amnon in retaliation.
Siblings in the Bible are filled with rivalry, hurt and pain. It is full of deceit and hate. But that is not always the case. We can see that in the case of Joseph, Joseph chose the path of forgiveness and mercy. He even acknowledged that what happened to him was a result of God’s guidance. He never maligned his brothers back for what they did to him but merely tested their maturity and love for their family. He knew that God guided them in the right path.
We can see that also in the case of Moses, Aaron and Miriam. Despite constantly bickering against each other, they still find ways to mend their relationships. They still seek to glorify God together as a family. Forgiveness, love and cooperation made their relationship work.
Lessons with Siblings
Love among siblings should be a natural thing, and the Bible uses such phileo love as an illustration of love among believers. The Bible commands us to love one another in the family of God as we would love a brother or sister: “Love one another with brotherly affection” (Romans 12:10, ESV). Paul expressed his love for the saints in Philippi this way: “My brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown” (Philippians 4:1).
Traits of God’s Family
God’s family is a family of Love
We are to love others in a way that reflects the agape love of Christ. The principle written by the apostle John rings true. “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:7–8). This includes our annoying siblings or even our overbearing parents. The love of God should not only be reflected in the way we regard those who do not know God but also those who are within our family circle.
God’s family is a family that forgives.
We have to face that because of sin in this world, the family circle, or the hearth is broken. There are no perfect families. Even if there are a lot of instances of fun, joy and gladness in the family, there are also hurt, pain and suffering. Yet, the bottom line is that in the same way that God was able to forgive our faults, we also ought to forgive our brothers and sisters and our parents.
God’s family is a family that glorifies Him.
While families may not be perfect, it should always seek to glorify God. Even if your family has different individual beliefs and religious practices, God is more glorified when there is forgiveness and mutual respect among the family members. God is most glorified if His works in each of the individual members of the family is shared and passed along. God is most glorified if we are satisfied in Him.
While it may be difficult to verbalize love to your family, it does not mean that we ought to deny them our love and care. Families after all was conceptualized by God, then if follows that we ought to seek His help to maintain our families. We may not know anything about our own family issues, but one thing is certain, we have a heavenly Father who wants us to keep our families under His love.