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Ask the Pastor

† Theological musings and answers to selected questions by a confessional Lutheran pastor.

27 February 2006

Honoring Dishonorable Parents

Q: How do I respond to my non-Christian brother when he asks how my mother acts the way she does (bitter, vengeful, self-righteous) yet claims to be a Christian? Her actions are deliberate, often directed toward my brother or me, yet she never accepts responsibility or shows regret. Where is the line between respecting your parent as God commands, and maintaining self-respect when this behavior toward you is as previously described?

A: First of all, no Christians are perfect. Also, not all who claim the title actually are Christians. Her public testimony is not that of a believer; if she is, then she is certainly being buffeted by Satan and needs your prayers. There’s no Scriptural statute of limitations on honoring your father and your mother. Thus, your response shouldn’t be to justify your mother’s non-Christian words or deeds but to act as a Christian yourself: Love both your mother and your brother and strive to keep the Fourth Commandment. If this means taking a stand against one or the other of them, make sure it is done out of love and concern for their eternal well-being, not from a spirit of enmity and combativeness.

With this in mind, we consider your second question. There is no real “line between respecting” parents and having self-respect— wicked parents and pagan governments alike receive honor from believers. If you are moved to disobey or disregard what you are told, it shouldn’t be a matter of self-respect but respect for God and His Word.

We work to love those “not worthy” of love, just as Christ loved and died for all sinners (you and me included). There are times when we speak against them in rebuke or correction, but only for their good, not for the sake of ourselves. We disobey or “dishonor” parental or governmental authority only when forced to choose between obeying others and sinning or obeying God and not sinning. Otherwise, such people are part of the cross that many Christians take up daily as they follow Christ.

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Walter Snyder is the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Emma, Missouri and coauthor of the book What Do Lutherans Believe.

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Anonymous Bryant Mc Fadyen said...

Most Excellent.

I had a recent opportunity to minister liberation to a young man severely abused by his mother.
My first question was" what must she have suffered ,to bring her to a point of this kind of abuse after nine months of love in the womb?
I will share a few follow up thoughts from this article.
Well done! Pastor Bryant Mc Fadyen
Burlingame CA

04 May, 2011 16:11  

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