May 30th 2016
Author: Michael W. Dewar, Sr.
Dwelling Place Cleansing
The weeks preceding Mothers’ Day, I wrote on Parental Honor, addressing the issues of honor and dishonor in the face of abuse. That article is still available on this blog site. In this article, Honor thy Father, I focused more sharply on paternal honor but what is said is equally applicable to both parents.
The duty of honoring fathers is increasingly difficult in a culture of secularized values. Yet, the three great monotheistic religions of the world (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) all embraced the concept of honoring one’s father. The biblical injunction to honor one’s father and mother was first handed down on Mount Sinai to Moses from Yahweh Himself to the ancient Israelite. On the one hand, the command extends the promise of blessing and longevity of life to those who honor their parents but on the other hand, it holds the consequences of curse and death for those that dishonor their parents (Exod. 20:12). Fathers were charged to teach the commands of the Torah to their children.
Therefore, honoring one’s father is enshrined in the Hebrew Scripture, practiced throughout their history, and memorialized in their heritage. While fathers were honored before the Torah was given, the Torah elevated that honor to the highest level possible. Christianity and Islam followed suit. The NT added a warning: “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6: 4). There are many reasons to honor one’s father, but five are highlighted in this article to consider for this Fathers’ Day.
First, the command to honor is from the highest authority, Yahweh Himself (Exod. 20: 12). It is not a suggestion; it is a command with no precondition or exception clause. In our postmodern culture, people tend to resist commands imposed on them. We prefer going with what is democratic, poll-driven and trendy. To some extent that is good but when it comes from Yahweh who says, “besides me there is none other,” it might be wise to adhere. Our existence is in his hand for in him “we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). Created gods are many, but Yahweh is eternal and sovereign over all of life; He owes his existence to no one.
Second, God Himself is Father. He is Father in at least three different ways: Father of all humankind in that He gives life and being to all, Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the spiritual Father of all who come to faith (or salvation) in Jesus Christ. Jesus once said to a group of people, “You belong to your father, the devil…” (John 8:44). He meant the devil was their spiritual father. Paternity at this level can be changed, but only by being born again (John 3:3-8).
The Lord’s Prayer begins with the words, “Our Father in heaven hallowed be your name…” (Matt.6:12). Jesus taught this prayer to his disciples; from then on all followers of Jesus address God as their Father (spiritual father). God as Father of all humankind, is life-giver, provider, protector, and sustainer of all creation for all. By virtue of these graces given to the human family, God demands honor. The most despicable thing to a parent is an uncaring and dishonoring child. God said, “If I am a father, where is the honor due me?” (Mal.1: 6). Why God wants to be honored?
Third, human fathers represent God as Father. God is represented in the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament as the originator of marriage and family (Gen.2:19-25). From Abraham onward, the father is the priest of the immediate family; he was given the responsibility to teach the life of faith to his children (Gen.18:17-19). The child who rebels against his authority was under the sentence of death, and the child that obeys and honor parents was promised blessings and longevity of life (Deu.21:15-19; Eph. 6:1-2).
The New Testament (NT) depicts God as family (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) in perfect union. The Church is called, the family of God; all true followers of Jesus Christ are children of God (Eph.3: 14-15). The relationship between Christ and the Church is represented with the metaphor of a marriage (Eph.6: 22-33).
The bottom line is this—God intended the family to be a loving, caring, honoring institution reflecting God Himself. It is hard for children to love and honor God as their heavenly Father, if there is no earthly father reflecting those qualities of love and honor in the context of family. The child with an angry brutal father is likely to think of God in those terms. God wants fathers to live out these values of life-giver, provider, protector, sustainer, priest to children in the context of family. There is no other way to teach the fatherhood of God to the next generation.
Fourth, honoring your human father is a godly duty. Once the divine has commanded it, that makes it a godly duty. This one is difficult but stay with it and let us walk through it together. The first question we are inclined to ask is, “who can truly assume the title of father?”
Bear in mind the five attributes of a father: life-giver, provider, protector, priest, and sustainer. The ideal is for a man to possess all five. The marginal use of the title calls for a man to have at least one attribute in addition to life-giver (e.g. provider). There are many men that procreate and they are off, never looking back. Are they truly a father? I don’t think so. Any animal of the lower creation can do that, but strangely enough many of them stay around to provide and fiercely defend their offspring.
There are those fathers that are guilty of abuse, neglect, abandonment and a host of other dishonorable things which they later regret. We may say these are justified reason not to honor. Yes, they are justified reasons but for our own sake, the biblical injunction will not allow us to use them to withhold honor. This moves us to the place of forgiveness.
The hurts of parental abuse, neglect and abandonment run deep and are hard to forgive, but not forgiving them is to forever hold yourself captives to the unpleasant past. That alone can shrivel the human soul and spirit. It is far better to forgive than to live and die with a grudge. There is a line in the Lord’s Prayer says, “forgive us of our debts (or trespasses) as we forgive those who are indebted to us” (or trespass against us). It is by forgiving that we are forgiven. The decision and act of forgiving is a way of honoring the other. Parental honor adds quality and longevity to one’s life. It is better to forgive than to live with grudge and bitterness.
Five, honoring your father breaks the generational curse of dishonor. Parents (father and mother) are life-givers and they can pass on generational curse or blessing to the next generation; you may call it dysfunctional behavior or a blessed history. Some people don’t heal or get cured from certain illnesses that bedeviled them in spite of spending a fortune on doctors and treatment. Many carry bitterness against someone, may be a parent. The God of the Bible calls Himself, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: father, son, grand-son, three generations. God is a generational God; He cares about your children and your grand-children. For their sakes forgive, let it go.
The way children are socialized carries attitudes and behavior and practices to succeeding generations that will serve as blessings or curse to them. Though simplistic take for example, the Middle Eastern conflict where we see a generational culture of death—this is indeed a family conflict, going back thousands of years with no end in sight. They refuse to forgive and honor each other, so they cut short their lives and the lives of their children through a culture of death.
If children are socialized to hate their neighbors, they will pass on that hate to their children and grand-children. Honor begins at home. First, a father must live honorably before his children to earn their trust and honor. But even if those father did not do that, children can break the cycle by showing them honor.
Now, when you move into a house with your family, you don’t know the hell the previous dwellers have lived through or the lifestyle have lived. You may do well having the place spiritually cleansed and blessed. Learn more
Author: Michael Dewar
Dwelling Place Cleansing