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Respect for Parents and Authorities

The Voice of Zion May 2022 --

God in His Word gives us instructions on how – and to what – to show respect. He blessed the children of Israel with the Ten Commandments. The first three commandments teach us about our relationship with God, how we respect God’s position, His name and His day of rest. Beginning with the fourth commandment, we receive instruction on how to respect and how to treat fellow human beings. These instructions begin with exhortation to respect our parents. In fact, this commandment serves as a foundation of our respect for others: respect starts at home with parents.

Luther writes in his Large Catechism that the encouragement to respect our parents stems from their calling. God has called the men and women in question to serve as parents, to serve in continuing God’s creation work. God creates new life and gives parents the duties of rearing and caring for His creation.

Mother and father serve in the heavenly Parent’s stead. They are trusted workers despite their faults and lacking. Parents often struggle to serve in a demanding calling that exceeds their skills and merit. Children can therefore support the parents by respecting the parents’ calling just as they respect the One who has called them to serve as parents. Children and the entire community can also pray that God will give wisdom and skill to parents as they endeavor in their duties. As children grow to adulthood and parents age, the role of respecting and caring for parents can take on new meaning and dimensions. This is all part of God’s plan for our mutual health and safety.

The Fourth Commandment contains a promise of long life and wellbeing. This promise of a long life serves to remind us that each of us in turn will reach an advanced age, if God gives us days and years to reach old age. What we sow, so shall we reap. This perspective guides us in our God-given duty to respect our parents, our elders. Often, we learn in our childhood homes the basics of how to respect others. We learn by example from our parents and elders. May we to whom God has given children remember that the respect we afford others does not go unnoticed by our offspring. Our attitudes, behaviors and words towards others, whether charitable or not, are signals and lessons to our children. Even spouses’ respect for one another serves as a continuous lesson.

Disrespect of parents, and spouses’ disrespect for each other, break God’s instructions and can lead to much sadness and grief in the form of broken relationships and broken homes. God has ordained it so that when we respect our parents and other authorities, this brings blessings, security and stability to our lives. Children of a certain age may have difficulty valuing the life experiences, wisdom and instruction of their elders, though these experiences and instructions contribute to providing a life that is secure and protected and centered on God’s Word and the instruction of God’s congregation. In short, respect of elders can bear blessings even when we don’t understand the reasons for the instructions the elders provide.

Ultimately respect of one’s loved ones and others is respect towards God as the Creator of all humankind. Therefore, we wish to maintain an attitude and heart of respect toward one another (Rom. 12:10).

Today, disobedience and distance from God’s Word beget a lack of respect for fellow humans, which is a way the enemy of souls can ensnare us. We may present a sincere front and feign respect for those people and things that bring us some advantage or gain, while we disrespect them in our hearts. We may forget that God placed people here to help us in life. It seems that more and more often these days, we focus on who is right and who is wrong in some particular matter, be it with parenting, teaching or other duties. Earthly matters are ultimately in God’s hands, so instead of arguing over these, we can focus on mutual respect and caretaking. We acknowledge that though there sometimes is poor parenting, teaching or leadership, God and His Word compel us to approach issues with respect toward parents and other authorities (e.g. Prov. 14:21,22).

God in His goodness gives us the strength and the desire to respect those around us, especially the loved ones with whom we share our lives. This month we celebrate Mother’s Day, and next month we honor our fathers on Father’s Day. May we these months and all other months remember God’s instruction to respect, honor and obey those in whom He has entrusted precious duties.

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