How to Honor Your Parents in the Lord–When You’re Already an Adult

Father arguing teenage son sitting on campus bench, puberty age
Father arguing teenage son sitting on campus bench, puberty age difficulties
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by Dr. Akosua Frempong

We all know the Scripture, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and your mother,” which is the first commandment accompanied by a promise, namely, “that it may go well with you and that you will live a long time on this earth.” (Ephesians 6:1-3, NET). We learned it mostly in Sunday school in our younger days. But what does that Scripture mean?

Challenge

The challenge for some is in knowing when to apply this particular Scripture. It applies even when we are in our young adult years and is even more important since, at that stage, we make critical life decisions that affect our lives.

How to Understand this Text

The key to understanding this Scripture and what God meant is remembering the word “in the Lord.” “In the Lord” means according to God’s will, Word, or purposes. So, when God says we should honor our parents in Him, He’s saying that we  listen and apply their godly advice. To know that the advice is godly, you’ll have to be a student of the Bible;  read your Bible to know when God is speaking to you through your parents.

Unbelievers as Parents

This Scripture might be particularly challenging for those whose parents still need to be believers. Again, the key is in realizing that what God means here is to follow godly principles. Unbelieving parents might still have divine principles they might have learned from their parents or people they interacted with. For this reason, they might have and even be applying some of these principles, at times, even without knowing. Therefore, listening to the godly advice that unbelieving parents might give is crucial.

Nonetheless, if the advice doesn’t agree with Scripture, you can still be respectful while praying to God to reveal to him or her His perfect will for you. In the meantime, remember to be kind and loving toward your parent. Trust God to show Himself to him or her and help you make the right decisions.

Believing Parents Who Mean Well

Believing parents are more likely to give godly advice consistently. However, they might fall short of providing the correct advice all the time based on their experiences in life. Again, the key is to respect your parents, present your thoughts to them, and pray about it. God will show Himself to be strong, and help your parents see why He wants you to take a particular action. When He shows them, they’ll be more likely to support your decision.

What about Guardians?

The idea of obeying parents does not apply to biological parents, exclusively. It also applies to people who are guardians, the people who are either temporarily, or permanently playing the role of caretaker, and even surrogate parents in your life. You’d need to respect those authorities in your life, too. However, again, make Scripture the emphasis or cornerstone of your life, guiding and leading you.

Cash in on the Promise

The promise? God says it will be well with us, and we’ll live long on this earth when we obey godly advice for several reasons. First, parents typically have experience. They have experienced several things (and made mistakes) that we can learn from (and avoid). We don’t have to go through what our parents went through. For that reason, a humble reception  to godly advice may help you avoid unnecessary mistakes in life. We activate God’s blessings for a long life by listening to wise counsel. Godly wisdom brings long life, riches, and honor (Proverbs 3:16).

Honoring Parents, Practically

So, how do we honor our parents? One of the ways we can do that is by respecting them. If a parent gives advice that isn’t biblical, you can still be loving to that parent. Moreover, when a parent gives advice, we must have the courage to compare the advice with biblical truth if we need more clarification.

Sometimes, we’ll immediately know whether a piece of advice is from God. At other times, we need discernment, waiting on God, praying, and reading His Word to determine His will. When you realize that the advice aligns with biblical truth, take it. Apply it. Furthermore, thank them for giving you that wisdom and tell them how much it means to you. Being thankful will encourage them to continue with advice that pleases God and grant them the joy that comes with doing parenting right.

So, when it comes to honoring your father and mother, remember the God-given admonition to respect, accept, and apply good, sound, wise, biblical counsel. Otherwise, it will be best to pray and trust God to open your parents’ eyes to see what He sees and show them the path He’s ordained for you. The advice of a parent must follow biblical truth. If it doesn’t, there’s a way to go about it. You respect the parent and pray until God reveals to him or her what His will is for you.

Asokua Frempong, Ph.D., is a free lance writer, and member of the Evangelical Press Association.

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