Volume 8, Issue 4: Verbatim
Quotations on Honoring Father and Mother
The silver head is a crown of glory, if it is found in the way of righteousness.
Children, obey. Why does the apostle use the word obey instead of honour, which has a greater extent of meaning? It is because Obedience is the evidence of that honour which children owe to their parents, and is therefore more earnestly enforced. It is likewise more difficult; for the human mind recoils from the idea of subjection, and with difficulty allows itself to be placed under the control of another.
And observe how admirable a foundation he has laid for the path of virtue, that is, honor and reverence towards parents. When he would lead us away from wicked practices, and is just about to enter upon virtuous ones, this is the first thing he enjoins, honor towards parents; inasmuch as they before all others are after God, the authors of our being, so that it is reasonable they should be the first to reap the fruits of our right actions; and then all the rest of mankind. For if a man have not this honor for parents he will never be gentle toward those unconnected with him.
Honour your parents both in your thoughts, and speeches, and behaviour. Think not dishonourably or contemptuously of them in your hearts. Speak not dishonourably, rudely, unreverently, or saucily, either to them or of them. Behave not yourselves rudely and unreverently before them. Yea, though your parents be never so poor in the world, or weak of understanding, yea, though they were ungodly, you must honour them notwithstanding all this; though you cannot honour them as rich, or wise, or godly, you must honour them as your parents.
The mental and moral culture, up to the highest limit of the parents’ ability, is, of course, as much more obligatory than the bodily nurture as the soul is above the body and immortality longer than life. The neglect of moral training is monstrous, involving an outrage of the clearest sentiments of Nature and flagrant injustice to the offspring.
When parents instruct not their children, they seldom prove blessings. God often punishes the carelessness of parents with undutifulness in their children.
How many do we see, who fairly rave in authority, and keep the tempest up from morning to night, who never stop to see whether any thing they forbid or command is, in fact, observed. Indeed they really forget what they have commanded. Their mandates follow so thickly as to crowd one another, and even to successively thrust one another out of remembrance. And the result is that, by this cannonading of pop-guns, the successive pellets of commandment are in turn blown away. If any thing is fit to be forbidden, or commanded, it is fit to be watched and held in faithful account.
Many are called fathers in scripture besides our natural parents. Superiors in age are so called. Thus it is said, “Rebuke not an elder, but entreat him as a father” (1 Tim. 5:1,2). . . . Moreover, those are called fathers to whom we owe, under God, our outward prosperity and happiness. In this sense Joseph, though a subject, a young man, . . . is called “a father to Pharaoh” (Gen. 45:8). . . . Princes, great men, and heads of families are called fathers (2 Kgs. 5:13). Further, men of honour and usefulness in the church are so called (2 Kgs. 2:12; 13:14). Finally, good kings and governors are called fathers (Is. 49:23).
One of the fruits of the Reformation in Europe was that the commands in the Bible for children to honor and respect parents were seen to apply to all adults, as indeed the Bible teaches (Lev. 19:32; Prov. 16:31). However, many children in today’s society are overly familiar with adults, treating them as they would other children their own age. They ignore the command to have a submissive attitude toward their elders (1 Pet. 5:5). We must help our children to properly respect adults. An excellent way to teach this is to insist that children call adults by "Mr.," and "Mrs.," rather than by first names. This indicates respect, and immediately sets the adult apart from the child’s friends. Not understanding the principle involved, many adults will say, "Call me (their first name)." A parent can explain that using "Mr." and "Mrs." and the last name, is being done for the child’s sake, to help him to learn to show respect for adults.
So when there is, or is to be, a real order and law in the house, it will come of no hard and boisterous, or fretful and termagant way of commandment. Gentleness will speak the word of firmness, and firmness will be clothed in the airs of true gentleness.
A religious education should be consistent-it should extend to everything that is likely to assist in the formation of character. It should not be a mere abstract tuition, but a complete whole. It should select the schools, the companions, the amusements, the books of youth; for if it do nothing more than merely teach a form of sound words to the understanding and to the memory, while the impression of the heart and the formation of the character are neglected, very little is to be expected from such efforts. A handful of seed, scattered now and then upon the ground, without order or perseverance, might as rationally be expected to produce a good crop, as that a mere lukewarm, capricious, religious education, should be followed by true piety. If the parent be not visibly in earnest, it cannot be expected that the child will be so.
John Angell James
Some object to a father being addressed as a father and insist that his sons must call him Tom.... This may be in many cases a very amiable pretence, like any children’s game of "pretending." The father may even like pretending to be a boy, just as the boy or child like pretending to be father. But it is pretending; and whatever it is, it is not the abolition of pretence. Fatherhood is a fact, and to call a man father is to assert a fact; to assert a most primary, practical, and even physical fact. To call him Tom is a fiction.... But children are well aware of the difference between the fictions and the facts. Only the new educationists practically deny the facts, and then boast that they are abolishing the fictions.
We have learned from Freud and others about those distortions in character and errors in thought which result from a man’s early conflicts with his father. Far the most important thing we can know about George MacDonald is that his whole life illustrates the opposite process. An almost perfect relationship with his father was the earthly root of all his wisdom. From his own father, he said, he first learned that Fatherhood must be at the core of the universe. He was thus prepared in an unusual way to teach that religion in which the relation of Father and Son is of all relations the most central. His father appears to have been a remarkable man-a man hard, and tender, and humorous all at once, in the old fashion of Scotch Christianity.
In turning your heart to your father, four elements are necessary. Preaching the gospel to him is not one of them; do not do so, for this subverts his authority over you. Instead, you may write a letter to him that conveys each of these four elements. I recommend covering one element per paragraph as follows:
1. If you have confessed to God your previous rebellion to your father or mother, then also confess it to your earthly father with no excuses or accusations.
2. In this letter tell your father how much you respect him. If you do not respect him then of course you cannot write it without being hypocritical. But you must write it. How? First confess to God this disrespect for your father. "Why should I?" you ask, "for he has not earned it!" The Scripture says, "Honor your father and mother." It does not say "only if they deserve it." Your father is to be honored because he is your father. You are commanded to honor him. This is not optional....
3. In the third paragraph you tell him how much you love him. If you do not love him then that has to be corrected first. Your reply may be, "He did not love me, so I do not love him." If this is the case, it is true that as a father he should have loved you so that your response would have been a loving response. But we cannot go back to childhood and start over. Even if we could, that does not mean that your father would do it any differently the second time. We address the problem from where we are, not from where we should be. You are now an adult, and as a Christian you have an unlimited access, to love and forgiveness. If you do not have this access there is a very real possibility that you are not a Christian. As a Christian you may have to confess to God this lack of love for your father. Is it sin? Yes, it is sin.
4. The next paragraph is the place to express your gratefulness to him. If you are not grateful, then as with respect and love, it is your problem, not his. The procedure is the same. You confess your unthankfulness to God. When you are forgiven, express your thankfulness to your father.
These four elements are necessary and required. The next two are suggestions for further ways to convey respect.
1. Ask your father to tell you or write to you his autobiography, his life history. He might not do it, but he will be glad you want to know about him.
2. Ask him for advice and counsel, in general and specific matters. This is part of honor.
Also write the same kind of letter to your mother, but with one change. The first paragraph should express your love to her and the second paragraph should communicate your respect for her. Both sexes of the human race need love and respect from both sexes. Of the two, women need love more than they need respect, and men need respect more than they need love. However, each needs both, and they should not have to earn it in order to receive it.
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