Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you. -Exodus 20:12 (NIV)
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. -John 15:12 (NIV)
I know people who hold grudges and bitterness against their parents…even beyond the grave. I want to share with you what God told me about that.
My father never talked much about his past. Right up to the day he died, I knew little to nothing about his family, his ancestry, or anything. All I knew was a father who, like all fathers, had their good points and bad points. But what I learned about him in just the three days of his funeral service changed everything.
My blasé memories
I always remembered my dad as a man who seemed constantly bored with life. He always had his nose in books, newspapers, and so on. Aside from carting me and my siblings around, I don’t remember him doing much else with us. His life seemed terribly unadventurous and uninspired.
My judgment and condemnation
It must’ve been around 2008, eight years before his death, that I learned some very, very disappointing things about him. I was not a true believer back then, and my image of him was shattered. I no longer respected him, but only tolerated him for many years.
I was born again in 2013, and the Holy Spirit began the process of rebooting how I viewed everyone and everything…and that is still ongoing. I learned a key principle of a Christ follower, which was to surrender all resentments to the Lord, and to love as He loved us. I, as all true believers do, continue to do better with this every day.
Revelation and compassion
Through the funeral service, God told me there was more than just rebooting I needed in my perspective. Through his brother, nephews, and friends who showed up, I learned about whole swaths of his life never before revealed. I learned about his illustrious military and professional career. I learned about his beloved reputation as a mentor, friend, and generous giver to so many people. I learned about a man who established a worldwide network of friends who would know and support him almost anywhere on earth.
Now I could see why he was so bored and frustrated. After such an amazing life, settling down to sell insurance and raise kids would be soul-numbing. I could understand now why he would hang out all the time with his friends–to continue to live in the glory of days past.
(Being true believers, we know we are not to live like that, but to live to the fullest in the present, and to leave God our burdens, and trust Him with amazing plans for us. When we see God in all the details of our lives, we see exciting dimension and opportunity for honoring God in every little thing we do.)
The lesson God taught me was that, no matter how much I may experience with someone–even my own father, through the decades–I could never know everything about them. I could never have a complete picture of their pains and hopes. I only had the lens of my own limited experience, with a peek into others through stories. Because of this, we should always have compassion for the dimensions of a person we cannot see, trusting that their outward behavior is the fruit of all we can’t see within.
This lesson He taught me extends to everyone, but especially our parents: We are commanded by God, not asked, to honor them. And because we will never know them as fully as God knows them, we love and respect and honor them unconditionally. We see and love them as God sees them in their finished state, not based on the flaws and mistakes we concentrate on.
As true believers, we love unconditionally. We will fail constantly, but because He loves us unconditionally, so will we love and honor our parents as He loves us.