Ephesians 6:2. “Honor thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise:”
The call for obedience is for little children still in the home and under their parents’ authority. Parents should not demand obedience from adult children who have left the home and have started their own families, because the scripture is clear that a man is to leave his father and mother and cleave only to his wife. We should always rear our children to leave. Even if they don’t marry until later in life, they need to leave the parental home and make their own way. To remain in their childhood bedroom and expect all the privileges of the child is to fail to grow up. To stay on the parents’ insurance until they are 26 is to take advantage of their parents, unless their is some dire physical cause for them to still be dependent.
To honor is simply to show respect. To treat with great courtesy, to love and give special recognition to parents who have reared them and followed God’s plan. And the promise is made, in Exodus 20:12 and in the next verse in Ephesians that when we show honor to our parents, our days can be long. That is, our length of years.
What about parents who were not godly? Perhaps they were abusive, or alcoholic. Perhaps they continued to try to control their children well into their adulthood, creating problems in the marriages of their children. There are all sorts of ways to be a poor parent. Some of them are criminal.
Still, it is possible to respect the fact that they gave their children life. There is no point in being cruel to them. It makes you no better than they are. To ignore them and refuse to have anything to do with them may seem like the only viable solution, but doing so creates a whole new set of problems. There are some cases, if the parents were indeed criminal, in which I would not want children exposed to their grandparents. There is great evil in this old world, and we need to be watchful. But as much as it is possible, there should at least be no overt disrespect shown. We need to remember that our children watch us, and will follow our example.
Often, there is the need to simply forgive.
There is a story about an old Chinese man who lived with his son’s family. The grandfather was given a cracked bowl, a cup with no handle, and an old crooked table and chair to use during meals. He did not sit with the rest of the family. One day, the grandson asked his father why the grandfather was always given the cracked bowl, the old cup, the rickety chair and table. The father’s answer was that the grandfather didn’t need anything else.
One day the father observed his young son carefully washing the bowl and cup, and wiping off the table. “Why are you being so careful with those old things?” he asked.
“Why, Father, I must keep them as well as I can for when YOU will need them!”