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Forgive thy father and thy mother…

…that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.
Exodus 20:12

OK, I realize “Forgive thy father and thy mother” is not exactly what it says. Yet in some way, I think it is. Parents are at best imperfect sinners. They make mistakes. They fail. They do things that they later regret, but cannot go back and change. The common denominator of every parent who has ever walked on the face of this earth is that they are merely sinners.

Adult child, one day you will have your own children and they will discover that you are a sinner, that you are not perfect, and that you sometimes do things that hurt them. They will discover that you were not always a perfect parent nor a perfect Christian. When they do, one thing they could do to honor you most is to forgive you. For a child to forgive their imperfect parent IS to honor that parent, not because they perfectly repented to you. Forgive them because they are your parents and you are commanded to forgive, so who better to carry this out on than your own mom and dad.

When you think about it, It is impossible to honor your parents without forgiving them. How can you bring honor to them when you are not even being obedient to what you have been commanded to do which is to forgive. It is funny how we can forgive so many others, but when it is the person whose faults and sins affected us the most we can not bring ourselves to forgive them.

The truth is there probably is not one of us who has not at some time in our lives struggled with anger towards our parents. Something they said or did hurt us badly and had an adverse effect on us. However, we MUST realize that God has given us a responsibility to honor them and in order to honor then we must first forgive them. Once we have forgiven them then we are able to see the other side of them, the side that God sees. God sees us through the lens of his own Son, and that is how we must see our parents.



“Thus David the son of Jesse reigned over all Israel. And the time that he reigned over Israel was forty years; seven years reigned he in Hebron, and thirty and three years reigned he in Jerusalem. And he died in a good old age, full of days, riches, and honor: and Solomon his son reigned in his stead.” I Chronicles 29:26-28

Why did David live a long life which was full of days? The answer is that David honored his father. However, before David could ever honor his father completely he had to first do something that many children are never able to do or choose not to do. David forgave his father.

Now you may wonder what exactly did David forgive Jesse of doing? Clearly Jesse did not show David respect nor did he assume in David the qualities that he saw in his other sons. When Samuel came to anoint the king from the house of Jesse he brought before Samuel all of his sons except for David. In his mind David was not qualified. He overlooked his own son and even argued with Samuel when he asked about David. Imagine how David must have felt when he realized that his own father did not have confidence in him.

Samuel anointed David to be king, yet Jesse still showed David no respect. Rather than beginning his preparation to be the king he sent him back into the fields as a mere shepherd. David was relegated to a very lowly position of the servant. While his brothers were fighting in the battle David was watching sheep.

To add insult to injury Samuel made David into his own personal message boy. He did not say to David go check on the battle because you will soon be the king. Instead he sent him to deliver groceries and supplies to his brothers. The anointed king of Israel was given no respect by his own father who knew that he had been chosen. It is apparent that even his brothers had the same attitude towards David as they rebuked him when he volunteered for battle against Goliath. No doubt Jesse’s attitude had rubbed off on them.

David could have easily been bitter at his father. Many children have become bitter for much less. Yet David did not dishonor his father even though his father had dishonored him. David chose to be obedient to God’s command to honor his parents. As a result of that God gave David a long life, full of days. In other words God kept his word or his promise regarding what happens to someone who shows honor to his or her parents. In order to honor his father David had to first forgive.

The reason many children do not honor their parents is because they are bitter at their parents and with it comes unforgiveness. I have seen many young people who seem to think their parents owe them something because of their imperfections. Let me make several observations regarding forgiveness of parents.

1. Every child could find reason to be angry at their parents. Remember however that the reason is never an excuse to disobey God. Many children fail to understand that their parents were never supposed to be perfect. Parents make mistakes. Sometimes those mistakes are monumental. Sometimes those mistakes are life altering. The mistakes of parents have great effects on children. Parents are not perfect and many times they are very imperfect.

2. Sometimes we must deal with the failures of our parents. I am not suggesting that the failures of our parents did not have some lasting effects upon us. Our lives are often molded not only by the good influences of parents but by their failures as well. I am not sugarcoating the mistakes of parents. However God did not leave room in his command to dishonor parents because of the negative effects they had on their children by their own behavior.

3. We forgive our parents in the same way we forgive everyone else. Forgiveness is not easy. Yet often we seem to think that our parents are less deserving of forgiveness then even people who we barely know. Others heard us and we apply biblical principle to forgiving them yet withhold it from our own parents. We have no right to hold anything against her parents. We must forgive them in order to honor them.

4. Forgiveness is in and of itself a method of honoring your parents. When we forgive our parents we are honoring their position. God has placed them into that position therefore it is our responsibility to honor them by forgiving them. Where there is no forgiveness there is no honor.

5. Forgiveness does not exonerate your parents from the consequences of their failures. I know good young adults whose parents committed terrible sins some even leading them to be imprisoned for life. The child does not merely turn a blind eye to the failures of his parents. However he forgives within his own heart even as they suffer in the consequences of their choices. It is not easy always to forgive a parent who has done something horrific but it is necessary for us to forgive them in order to be obedient to God.

6. Forgiveness honors God therefore it honors our parents. The Bible says we forgive even as God for Christ’s sake forgave us. We are honoring God when we forgive. Forgiving our parents honors God and subsequently honors our parents as well.

7. Forgiving your parents allows you to live in the freedom of enjoying your parents. This is very tough in some situations. Imagine a young man going to a visiting room in a prison to visit his criminal father. However when that young man forgave his father he gave himself the freedom to enjoy having a father. As difficult as it may be to honor that father in prison that man is obeying the command of God that allows him to honor his father and thus maintain some type of relationship with him.

8. Forgiving our parents removes the barriers between us and God. Many a child rebels against God because they are rebelling against their parents. Once you have forgiven your parents your heart can be in tune once again with your heavenly Father. Forgiveness is necessary to keep our hearts right with our heavenly father.

9. We should examine our hearts to see if there is any unforgiveness we are carrying towards our parents. Perhaps we do not even realize that there is bitterness in our hearts that has been there for many years towards our parents. Perhaps the reason you struggle to give honor to your parents is because you have not dealt with that unforgiveness in your heart. Examine your heart to be sure that you have forgiven your parents for anything that you feel hurt you. Make sure that you deal with your unforgiveness not with the failure of your parents.

10. Some children in an effort to forgive their parents decide that it is their responsibility to correct their parents. Here is where we must take great care. It is not our jobs to confront our parents with their failures. It is our job to honor our parents in their failures. However, first we must forgive them for their failures. Let God deal with their hearts. Perhaps by honoring them he can use that as a way to convict them for their failures. Do not wait for them to apologize. Do not wait for them to confess their failures. Forgive them and honor them. God can use that to convict them for their own sake not for yours.

Most certainly David could have held a grudge against Jesse his father. However David chose to forgive his father and the result was he received the promise that accompanies that commandment. If you want the promise don’t wait for your parents to earn your forgiveness. Give them your forgiveness in honor to the position they have and in obedience to God. The blessings of God will come upon your life because you chose to do that which God commanded you to do.

May I ask you this? Are you honoring your parents? Perhaps you need to begin by doing what most of us at some time had to do, and which at some time we will need our children to do for us. Forgive them. When you do that, you will have begun to obey the command to honor them.

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