Sunday, July 13, 2014

Honor



Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. "Honor your father and mother" (this is the first commandment with a promise), "that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land." Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.Ephesians 6:1-4

Parents of LGBT children usually can be classified into three groups: accepting, ambiguous, or rejecting.  It is my hope that one day, all parents will fall into that first category of accepting parents.  Accepting parents love and accept us for who we are; they accept our homosexuality; and they accept our significant others of the same sex.  They support us 100 percent and without reservation. In my experience, accepting parents are rare, but they are becoming less rare as LGBT become more accepted by society.  My parents fall into the second group, which is harder to define.  Some of these ambiguous parents are like my mother, who knows I'm gay but is in complete denial.  Other parents in this category are just completely ambiguous.  They love us and accept us, but they aren't comfortable discussing it and would rather not know about our love life.  When your parents are ambiguous about accepting or rejecting your sexuality, you never know how they are going to react to anything.  The third group of parents are those who completely reject their children for being gay.  They kick their child out of their life completely.  No support, no communication, nothing, because they simply reject the notion of accepting their child for being homosexual.

For LGBT Christians in the last two groups, the dilemma of honoring and obeying our parents weighs heavy on our hearts.  According to the relationship, it may be easier to respect the ambiguous parents, but nearly impossible to respect the rejecting parents.  Not only are we rejected by our parents but often by our churches.  Preachers never miss an opportunity to remind us that, as Christians, we “HAVE to honor our fathers and mothers”, apparently, and according to their thinking, no matter what. Certainly none of us wants to break one of the Ten Commandments. But the idea of rewarding abusive, rejecting, or ambiguous parents with honor and obedience seems completely irrational, and contradictory to just about everything else written in the Bible, where evildoers are never honored, but punished time and again. This is God’s Law of Sowing and Reaping (Galatians 6:7, Job 4:8), that those who do wrong will not benefit from their wickedness, but suffer the natural consequences of their actions. 

The thought of our parents may be uplifting for some but devastating for others, but most ministers preach that God has commanded all Christians to honor their parents with no exception clause, as Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church said in a sermon explaining what the Fifth Commandment means and involves.  "It's very simple: honor your father and mother. And there's no fine print and no footnotes. There's no exception clause for those of us who have had horrific experiences in the hands of our parents," said Driscoll. A very dear friend of mine, the one I mentioned the other day who faced adversity during his years in college, heard a similar sermon last Sunday.  He was devastated by these words.  Why was he devastated?  Because he had been raised by parents who allowed his older brother to beat and abuse him growing up.  If that wasn't bad enough, when he came out to his parents several years ago, they completely rejected him.  They let his brother beat him severely, and they have refuse any contact with him since that day.  How can he be expected to honor and obey his parents when all of God's other laws says that they are not worthy?  The truth is Driscoll and others are wrong about there being "no fine print and no footnotes."  My friend has faced serious depression and anxiety issues, but he pulled himself together had with the help of friends and his amazing resilience and fortitude, returned to college and finished his degree with no help or guidance from his parents.  I chat explain how proud I am of him and how much I love him.  He overcame many obstacles and still struggles with how to deal with his parents' rejection of him.

Ephesians 6:4 clearly commands "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord."  While many parents (Christian parents) are quick to tell their kids to honor them, they fail to do the latter. Just because children are commanded to honor their parents doesn’t give the parent the right to abuse their position. Countless children have been neglected, mistreated, abused (mentally, physically, sexually), and abandoned by their parents. As they reach adulthood they can’t fathom God instructing them to turn around and show respect to their abusers. How can we respect parents who completely reject  us for who we are?

While Jesus walked this earth He gave clear instruction for believers to love their enemies and pray for those who mistreat them (Luke 6:35; 6:28). After all, Jesus did exactly that on the cross (“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing” Luke 23:35). So yes, we are to honor our parents whether they deserve it or not (and I will explain more about this later, keep reading). Does this mean that a person must stay in the abusive environment? No. God wants us to have life and live it abundantly/fully (John 10:10). A person can’t live a full life in bondage. To honor an abusive parent also doesn’t mean that you have to accept their abuse. If talking and reasoning won’t work with your parents, then it’s wise to remove yourself from the situation altogether. 

God knows your heart and He knows how much you can bear. It’s best to pray for an abusive parent who refuses to change and love them from a distant than to continue to allow yourself to be abused. Above all, forgive them. This is more beneficial to you than it is for them. When you continue to hold on to the past you are allowing your abuser to continue to affect your life. Don’t give him/her that type of satisfaction! Unforgiveness also hinders God’s forgiveness, and ultimately His blessings. Matthew 6: 14-15 says, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”. This means that the moment a person chooses not to forgive, every sin they commit from then on will not be forgiven. Your relationship with God will suffer without forgiveness and all in all, it’s not worth it. Unforgiveness plants a seed of bitterness in a person’s heart that robs a person of joy and peace. Don’t let the enemy steal this from you! The best solution is to forgive, love that person despite everything, and pray for them. I know this is a sensitive subject for some. There are people who allow themselves to be manipulated and mistreated simply because they feel God will punish them for standing up to their parents. 

For LGBT who have been rejected or physically or mentally abused by their parents, honoring your parents may be incredibly difficult.  But there are other ways to honor them in God's eyes.  Even if you must divorce your parents and never see them again, it doesn't mean that you're dishonoring them. It just means that you accept that they are the way they are and that they'll never change, which in truth is honoring them as people whose right it is to be everything they want to be, that you're ok with it, and even that you still feel love for them, but you just can't stick around for it anymore. Given the unfortunate reality of their innate hatefulness, you can still choose to set limits on them or have no contact with them, because they are destructive people. You can honor them by accepting them for who they are, not expecting change, and letting them live their own way in peace, but at the same time honor yourself and your own right to live in peace as well. Which means choosing not to be in their presence when they are abusing you.

Jesus tells us that obedience to God overrules honoring one's parents:
While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. But he replied to the man who told him, "Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?" And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother."Matthew 12:46-50
What is God's greatest commandment?
"Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" And [Jesus] said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets."Mathew 22:36-40
Jesus is certainly not ambiguous here.  God is our Father; He is the parent we are to honor and obey above all others.  If we have ungodly parents, then we must look to God as our only Father. Driscoll, who was completely wrong about fine print and footnotes, did say a few important things about honoring dishonorable parents.  He said, "give forgiveness, this is to guard your heart from bitterness. If you don't forgive your parents you would become like your parents… There's a root of sin in their lives. They sinned against you and you are infected now. Forgiveness is how you are cleansed from that root of bitterness, from that infection."  If your parents have failed you, at least you can be thankful that you have a Heavenly Father, he said.

The words “father” and “mother”, as referred to when the Lord commands us to honor, mean people who took care of us, nurtured us, protected us, loved us, and still love us. Unfortunately, not all of us have had such people in our lives. They do not mean “sperm donor” and “egg donor”. It takes far more than that to qualify as a “father” or a “mother” by Biblical standards. The Bible gives us many examples of the kinds of parents God is referring to when he uses the words “father” or “mother”.

God is not telling us to honor parents who don’t deserve to be honored. It helps to remind ourselves that God does not do nonsensical, irrational, or contradictory things. He never rewards evil, and he never says anything to us that would make it easier for evil to thrive, or for parents to get away with cruelty. It doesn’t make sense that our God, who is all that is good, would tell us to encourage and reward evil. If it doesn’t make sense and we do not feel at peace in our spirit about it, then it is not from God. We need to delve a little deeper into his Word and pray for a better understanding.

The Bible is written for a broad population of God’s children, and some individuals within that population will have unique situations to which broad teachings cannot necessarily be applied. Not everything in the Bible is written for a particular circumstance. Much of what is written refers to general situations rather than specific situations.  

For instance, although we are instructed to treat those who preach and teach with double honor (1 Timothy 5: 17), Jesus holds nothing back when sternly and publicly rebuking the Pharisees, who preached and taught. They were not deserving of respect and honor, and Jesus didn’t give it to them. Instead, he spoke the truth about them, took a stand against them, and openly disapproved of their hypocrisy and wickedness. He warned the people about them, telling them to be on guard against their teachings and not to believe them. He publicly rebuked them, comparing them to “white-washed tombs, beautiful on the outside but full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.” He point-blank accused them of being hypocrites, obstructionists, phonies, full of false pride, and even called them “snakes”, a “brood of vipers” and “sons of hell”.  (Matthew 16: 11-12, Matthew 23:1-36, Luke 11:37- 12: 3, Luke 18: 9-14).

In Matthew 23, Jesus speaks to the crowd about honoring the Pharisees:
The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.Matthew 23: 2-12
So we see that Jesus specifically instructs the people not to give any special honor to the Pharisees, because they are not deserving of it.  Just as we are not to give honor to hypocritical, evil teachers and preachers, and just as we are not to obey and submit to evil rulers and authorities, neither are we to honor evil and abusive parents who are not deserving of honor.

Be enter really grateful for those accepting parents.  Do the best you can with those ambiguous parents.  For those rejecting parents, it is best that they are not in your life.  They will only cause more distress, and as LGBT we face enough distress in our lives by all those others who reject us for who we are.  Rejoice in God, for he loves us unconditionally.  So not blame God for the evil that is in this world, for He is all that is good and loving.  It is the devil who brings evil and hate into this world, and the only way to rid the devil from our lives is to look toward God and live our life with love and forgiveness in our hearts.


If you have not done so, I encourage you to read Jay In VA! Us Gays - Us Christians.  It's Jay's story of reconciling his Christianity.

4 comments:

Michael Dodd said...

I am saddened by the many, many Christians -- especially those in ministry and leadership -- who play that "no fine print, no footnote" card when it suits them. They always have fine print and footnotes when they need it to explain why they do not teach and preach and practice many things found in the scripture including about 90% of the Sermon on the Mount!

May we all grow into the fullness of love.

silvereagle said...

WOW!!!! One of your best Sunday postings ever!!!!

EthanJM said...

Thank you Joe!! This was just what I needed to hear as I reconcile things in my own life. I'm working on accepting and forgiving, but it's a process. Sometimes when I think I've reached a good point, something happens to send me tumbling down. But as you've said many times, we get up and keep going. Thank you for your wonderful insight and perspective. As always, great teaching from a great teacher.

Jay M. said...

INCREDIBLE POST!!! The post, Biblically based or not, will help when I work with the LGBTQ youth, many of whom have parents in the ambiguous and rejecting categories (but thank God at least as many have the truly accepting ones).

And thanks for the shout-out! Appreciate it. And I truly appreciate all the posts you've made that helped me reach that point!

Peace <3
Jay