The 5th love commandment is a wonderful commandment for it deals specifically with two very special people in everyone’s life – their parents! This is the “transition” commandment between the first 4 LC’s (which explain how to “love God”) and the last 6 LC’s (which explain how to “love your neighbor as yourself”). I say “transition commandment” because your parents are like your God when you are young, and then more like your neighbor when you are old. So what a clever way for God to kick off the six commandments that deal with “loving thy neighbor” by having it be about the two main people (or neighbors) you have for life.
This commandment often undergoes three phases in a person’s life. There’s the initial phase (when you are a child under your parent’s house and authority) where they take care of you; then there is the middle phase (when you are grown and have left home) where you respect each other’s wishes; and then there is the later phase (when the roles often reverse) and you are called upon to take care of them. Each of these phases has its own intricacies in how one goes through life keeping the 5th love commandment “to honor thy father and mother”. Let’s take a closer look at this wonderful commandment and its three phases.
In the first phase, you are a child under your parent’s protection, care, and instruction. ‘Honoring your parents’ during this period can best be summed up by two words … “obey them”. Listen, everyone on planet Earth knows the difference between good & evil, which means your parents do too! It doesn’t matter what country you were born into or what religion your parent’s espouse … they know what love is and what love is not, for it’s all summed up in the Golden Rule “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. Therefore, most parents will reprimand you if you lie, cheat, steal, hate, etc. But understand, they are just trying to teach you God’s ways of love! So listen to them and obey them. Don’t curse them. Be thankful! They love you. They are trying to help you by encouraging you to walk the path that leads to eternal life! This is why the Proverbs say: “He that spareth the rod hates his son: but he that loveth him disciplines him diligently … For foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him … Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt strike him with the rod, and shall deliver his soul from hell” (Proverbs 13:24; 22:15; 23:13-14). Isn’t it amazing how the truth behind the question “What must I DO to obtain eternal life?” is clearly revealed even in these few wise Proverbs – you must do good, meaning you must strive to keep the 10LC!!!
But here’s the deal … remember how I told you in commandment #1 that PRIDE (or selfishness) in a person’s heart is the initial factor that leads them to sin (doing ALL kinds of evil, or love-less deeds)? Well, here’s where that pride can first be seen in someone! Look, it is nothing but pride that causes a child to NOT want to obey their parents. Do you understand? And that pride manifests itself as rebellion: They want their OWN way! … They want to do their OWN thing! So when a parent uses the “rod” on a child as punishment for wrongdoing, what they are REALLY DOING is trying to drive “foolish pride” out of the child. Isn’t that amazing? But God’s Word warns if they spare the rod, allowing their child to have his/her own way, they foster a child who will grow up FULL of pride (or selfishness), who will continue to do ALL kinds of evil (meaning disobeying of the 10LC) which if never repented of (or turned from) will lead that child’s soul to hell!
Now in the middle phase, after a child becomes an adult and moves away from home (married or not) ‘honoring thy father and mother’ involves more of a respect than just simple obedience. See, at this point, a person is responsible for their own actions! They are accountable to God! But hopefully they will have developed a treasured relationship with their parents in childhood that now leads them to want to seek out their good counsel during their lifetime. But either way, there should always be mutual respect. Parents and children should honor and respect each other’s wishes and choices, always praying for each other, always desiring the best in each other’s lives. It’s again, folks … just love!
Then finally, during the last phase, to ‘honor thy father and mother’ might require a complete role reversal. As parents get older they might get sick and weak. They might need you to give of your time to take care of them. They might need your financial help. Whatever it takes! But again it is ALL just love shown towards the two humans (or neighbors) God chose to bring you into this world. The one’s who took care of you when you were young and helpless. What an honor this can be in a person’s life to honor their parents in this way!