Hope for when honoring your parents is hard

Growing up, I had a good relationship with my parents. Honoring and obeying them came relatively easy. But when I hit adulthood, things got complicated. 

Their divorce during my first year of marriage brought up wounds I didn’t know existed. I felt shame and anger. Honoring them became hard. For the first time, I struggled in my role as their daughter. 

Thankfully, around that time, I started attending a church that helped me see how the good news of Jesus Christ wasn’t just for my initial salvation, but for my everyday life. It could (and would!) even change the way I viewed myself as both a daughter of my heavenly Father and of my earthly parents. 

Maybe you, too, struggle in your role as a grown child. Friend, there is hope. God has adopted you, Christian, into his family and changed your name to his. 

“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God,” John writes, “and so we are” (1 John 3:1 ESV). 

Five truths about Christ’s redemption

God’s Word says that because we are redeemed sons and daughters of God, our roles as sons and daughters of man can also be redeemed. In particular, these five truths about what Christ has redeemed us from and to have freed me from deadly patterns of sin and led me into life-giving patterns of grace and godliness. You and I may have very different experiences, but I pray that God will use these truths to encourage, convict, and challenge your soul. 

1. Christ has redeemed you from blaming your parents for your sin. 

In today’s culture, we tend to blame our parents for our sin. Blaming them can make us feel better about ourselves—as though our poor choices aren’t entirely our fault. 

It is far easier for the cheating wife to blame her affair on her parents’ infidelity rather than her own selfish lust. Or for the domineering husband to blame his biting words on his abusive upbringing rather than his own anger and pride. 

Make no mistake, God’s heart grieves for children who have grown up in these tragic circumstances, and he will rightly judge each and every parent for their sins (2 Corinthians 5:10). 

Even so, we do not have the right to blame our parents for our sin. The Bible is clear, “Each one shall be put to death for his own sin” (Deuteronomy 24:16, emphasis added). Thankfully, our Savior has already been put to death for the sins of fathers and children alike. 

And, if we confess our sins to him, he will be faithful to forgive (1 John 1:9). 

2. Christ has redeemed you from shame over your parents’ sin. 

Have you ever felt ashamed of your family’s history or reputation? 

Just as Jesus Christ frees us from blaming our parents, he also releases us from shame over their sins. Shame can be God’s grace to us when we are caught in our own sin (2 Thessalonians 3:14), but we misplace our shame when we start to feel guilty over the sins of others. 

God does not look at you and see the sins of your parents, dear one. He looks at you and sees the righteousness of his son (2 Corinthians 5:21). 

3. Christ has redeemed you from the fear of failing in your parents’ footsteps. 

When my parents’ marriage crumbled, I became fearful for my own marriage, wondering if we were destined to walk down the same road. But my dear husband was quick to remind me that I am a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). 

God himself made us one flesh (Genesis 2:24), and as long as we hold fast to Christ and each other, we have nothing to fear (2 Timothy 1:7). 

While we may be more prone to certain sins because of our upbringings, we are not without help to fight them or hope to conquer them. “For, his divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence (2 Peter 1:3).”

If and when we do sin, however, God is not vindictively awaiting our failures. He stands with his arms open wide, ready to pour out his love and grace in abundance towards his repentant children. 

4. Christ has redeemed you to forgive your parents. 

Parents may be some of the most difficult people to forgive. After all, we expect our parents to nurture and protect us, not cause us pain. 

As followers of Jesus, however, we are called to forgive our parents as Christ forgave us—freely and without limit (Ephesians 4:32). 

Remember, biblical forgiveness does not excuse sin. On the contrary, forgiving your parents means releasing any bitterness you harbor towards them by confessing it to Jesus. It means releasing any pain they have caused you by entrusting that pain to Jesus. For he has paid for your sins, and carried your sorrows (Isaiah 53:4). 

He will mercifully carry your heavy burdens and graciously exchange them for a lighter load (Matthew 11:28-30). 

5. Christ has redeemed you to honor your parents. 

“Honor your father and mother” (Ephesians 6:2). It’s the fifth commandment and one of the first we teach our small children, yet we seem to forget that it applies to us grown-ups as well. 

This command doesn’t come with an expiration date, but it does come with a promise: “that it might go well with you” (Ephesians 6:3). 

Here’s the million-dollar question, though—how do we honor parents who have caused us undue pain? Quite simply: As Jesus did. 

“While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). 

In his great mercy and love, he honored the dishonorable by making us alive with Christ, raising us up with him, and seating us with him in the heavenly places, despite our sinful state (Ephesians 2:4-6). 

When we choose to honor our parents, we reflect our merciful Savior. We endeavor to honor them because of Christ, for Christ, and through Christ alone. 

Children of God 

In his perfect plan, God chose a family just for you (Ephesians 3:15). 

For some, the parent-child relationship offers precious glimpses of our heavenly Father’s love. For others, it makes the heart long for the day when we will be reunited with him in glory. 

Whichever category you fall into, remember that you are first and foremost a child of God. It is our identity as God’s children—fully forgiven, free from blame, no longer condemned, honored and deeply loved, wholly pleasing to him—that will enable us to be godly children of man.

This article was originally published at Unlocking The Bible on June 11, 2018.

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