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Obedience vs Honor July 24, 2007

Posted by amybeth in God.

I was once again contemplating the future and trying to make decisions about what my next step should be. As usual, I was bemoaning the fact that God’s direction isn’t clearer. Wouldn’t it be so much easier if God gave direct commands? I’d obey. I’d jump right to it.  This time God brought me up short.

Sure…anybody can obey commands out of allegiance, but how many respond to requests out of love. He brought to mind how, in obeying my parents, I’ll do everything they specifically tell me too, but when they ask for something extra or just hint at how something might make their life easier, I groan and usually try to get out of doing it or somehow justify how busy I am with other things. God challenged me that there is a difference between obedience and honor. I am obeying my parents out of duty but not honoring them out of love. Yowch…that was painful enough. But then he applied the same truth to my relationship with Him. In my recognition that he is God, I am willing to concede that he deserves my obedience. Yeesh…he’s God already. But my love has not deepened to the point where I desire to serve and honor him beyond the limits dictated by duty.

A while back, a speaker at our church made the statement that God is asking a lot of questions in this season…asking, not demanding. Another speaker that I heard a few weeks later gave an illustration of something God asked her to do and how he specifically told her that she didn’t have to.  I think God is trying to tell me that its time to move to another level in my relationship, to cultivate a love that will draw me to him and cause me to desire to honor him, to respond to his whispered requests, not just to his spoken commands.



1. Hamameliss - August 17, 2007

Thanks for this commentary, I needed to hear it!

2. Tintu - September 7, 2007

So what really is the difference between obeying your parents and honoring them?
How far would we or should we go with obeying and honoring them when it comes to our spiritual growth or even a big decision in life that the parents are not happy with? What can be said when i follow Gods path for me and that makes my parents feel as if I am not obeying them or honoring them?

3. amybeth - September 8, 2007

Hey Tintu,
Thanks for commenting on my blog. I wasn’t in any way trying to argue against the traditional understanding of the necessity of obey your parents…which basically means doing what they say. I was commenting on how honor takes my relationship with my parents even beyond obeying. Obeying can be done out of duty, begrudgingly, but honor requires love and respect. To honor my parents means I respect the fact that God established them as my parents and therefore I need to respond to them as if they were VIPs (very important people) in my life.

For example, if there was a teacher in school I really didn’t like, I found that I usually did the bare minimum. I’d escape the second class was over and I would do just what was required of my on assignments – no more. And outside of class I would complain about them and maybe even mock them. But if there was a teacher I really liked, I’d go overboard trying to please them, being early to class, offering to help hand out papers or wipe the blackboard, and I’d do my absolute best on assignments. I think that illustrates the difference between obedience that stems out of duty and obedience that stems out of honor. In both cases, I did what I was told, but in the first I didn’t respect the teacher as a person of value in my life whereas in the second, I highly valued them.

When a Christian has parents who aren’t Christians themselves, it can be hard to obey and honor them. They may make decisions or engage in behaviors that believers view as distasteful or even sinful. As a result, some lose respect for their parents and don’t see the point in honoring and obeying them. They can even worry that continuing to do so would make them sinful themselves.

I am going to argue that one’s parents are still the parents, an authority instituted by God and therefore deserving of our honor and our obedience.

In the Bible, God commands us to respect government authorities and pray for them. He said this at a time when Rome, a corrupt and violent nation, was in charge. So the ‘christian’ or ‘un-christian’ nature of the authority did not change God’s requirement. Some point out that the apostles disobeyed their authorities. Yes, because the authority required something that clearly went against God’s word (no gray area), they chose to take a stand, but they also respected the right of that authority to then punish them, they understood the risk. They were not questioning the authority’s right to govern, they were simply making a choice for themselves.

With parents, there may come a time when they tell you to do something that clearly goes against God’s word. In that case, you can choose to disobey, but in doing that, you need to accept the consequences. The apostles didn’t try to provoke a rebellion or escape from prison their own, but they did praise God in the midst of it and he rescued them. Taking a stand on something contrary to you parents desires is going to take a really strong faith that God is big enough to defend you or to give you the grace to endure. Also, your parent’s asking you to do something wrong does not mean you can badmouth them or decide that they don’t deserve your respect so you can stop obeying them in other areas. You can’t make the decision that because there was one are in which you, on the basis of God’s word, had the right to disobey, that you can now disobey them in all areas.

There are other times when its not so clear. For example, if an 18 year old feels called to the ministry and his father wants him to go into the family business what does he do. First of all, he doesn’t get angry and just run off to do his own thing because his family doesn’t understand. He’s going to have to try and talk to his parents and explain his desire and seek advice of some mature Christians in order to come to the best decision. He could choose to go into ministry anyways and accept the consequences that his family might not provide any support. Or he could go into business initially, trusting that God would work in his parents heart so that they would release him to ministry. The actual decision to be made in cases like this isn’t so clear cut, but this is where honor plays an even greater role. In the midst of it all, regardless of what decision is made, one need to honor their parents.

One example I heard once was where a young lady had met a Christian man and wanted to marry him. Her father was not a Christian. He had a strong sense that this was not the man for her. She could have decided that this was just because her dad wasn’t a Christian, but she decided her dad was still her dad and she needed to respect him and so she called off the relationship. She later found out that the man was a fraud and wasn’t the upright person she had thought him to be. Obeying her father had actually saved her a lot of heartache even though her initial impression had been that he was wrong.

I firmly believe that God will work through your parents even if they are not Christians. They are the people he assigned to that job. Unless its a really extraordinary situation, I believe our default needs to be that we obey them and trust God to work out the details. And regardless of the situation, honoring them in terms of our attitude towards them is not optional. Your last question talked about your parents feeling and that’s where I think your attitude comes into play. If you truly value their opinion, that will come across to them and will make it easier for them to listen to you when you need to communicate desires or decisions that may not line up wth theirs.

Hmm…sorry this got so long, but hope it helps.

4. Tintu - September 15, 2007

So when am I no longer their child that once held their hands and walked down the street, but Gods child who holds his hand and walks the path he is taking me down?

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