ATP: How Do You Honor A Parent You Don't Respect?

(This question finds its birth in the 5th Commandment which says:    Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee. Exodus 20:12)

Great question with a simple answer: "Not very easily."  On a more serious note, here is the answer for what the person who submitted the question was looking.  

I must tell you that I bounced this question off of a number of people including two attorneys who make GCCC their home.  The "senior attorney" possesses a back-handed sense of humor.  His first response was: "Send the parent on a trip to Honolulu, or buy them a car, that's honoring them."  Then he went on to say, "I did not respect my step father (who is now deceased), but I was able to honor him for taking wonderful care of my mother."  What was this senior attorney saying?  There is a distinction between honor and respect.  

Where do we begin with this question?  Both attorneys agreed, begin by defining "honor."  So let's start there.  The Hebrew word used in Exodus 20:12 is kabed and has many usages both with good (positive) and bad (negative) implications.  The many meanings are: 1) In the bad sense - "burdensome, severe, dull, weighty;" 2) in the good sense - "to be large, advance, boast, bring up, exceed, excellent, be great, increase, lift up, magnify, promote, proudly [spoken], tower."

With that in mind, you can honor a person for what they have achieved or the position they hold in life, but not respect their character.  For instance: One could honor Dennis Rodman for his achievements on the basketball court, but not respect him as a person; One could honor Madonna for her achievements and accomplishments in the field of music but not respect her as a person; When former President Clinton held office one could honor him as President of the United States but not respect him as a person; One could honor Martha Stewart as one of America's greatest women entrepreneurs, but not respect her as a person.  Draw the parallel, one then could honor a parent because of position, but not respect them as a parent.  

One other point here, children must honor their parents, however that does not mean they must obey where obedience to a parent transgresses the word of God.  Both the Old and New Testaments make it clear "Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me." Matthew 10:37; Exodus 20:3.

Two Biblical illustrations come to mind as examples of honoring but not respecting.  The first is King David.  It seems hard for me to believe that David had respect for a man who sought his life without cause and who was separated from God because of a disobedient life. 2 Chronicles 10:13  Yet, David honored Saul as his king and refused to take his life although he had many opportunities.  There is a beautiful example of how you can honor and not respect in 2 Samuel 1:17-27 when David laments the death of king Saul and his son Jonathan.

The second example is when the apostle Paul called the high priest a "white washed wall." Acts 23:7  He was rebuked by those standing by.  "Paul replied, 'Brothers, I did not realize that he was the high priest; for it is written: 'Do not speak evil about the ruler of your people.'" 

Hopefully, the above illustrations give us understanding in how to "honor" when we can't "respect."

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