In the Old Testament as in the New, children are taught to honor their parents to live a long life. But this responsibility is not exclusive to children, parents also have their part to do.
It is one of the 10 commandments given by God. “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12 NKJV). Jesus came to fulfill the law and not to abolish it (Matthew 5:17), and if you chose to ignore the Old Testament, this command is also in the New Testament! “Honor your father and mother, which is the first commandment with promise: that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth” (Ephesians 6:2-3 NKJV). In short, no matter the theology, honoring our parents is a must.
As the apostle Paul says in his letter to the Ephesians, it is the first commandment that comes with a promise. If we honor our parents, we will have a long life, and we will be happy. However, honoring parents is also partly dependent on the parents themselves. As parents, you can inspire your children to honor you! “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4 NIV). To inspire our children’s respect for us, we must have an attitude of respect for our children and not “exasperate” them. Other versions say not to “irritate them” or “not provoke them to wrath”. You have to set clear rules, but that match with their age and their abilities.
By the way, this rule also applies to adult children! If your children have already left home, continue to inspire respect from them with your good attitude. Don’t be a “grumpy old parent”, do not exasperate your children! Let God teach you a good attitude and demonstrate to your children that you still accept God’s discipline. You can’t force them to respect you, but you can encourage them by working on yourself.
Another way to get our kids to respect their parents is by being hardworking and taking good care of them. “Her children rise up and call her blessed; Her husband also, and he praises her” (Proverbs 31:28 NKJV). This verse is about the virtuous mother, a model for all wives. We must teach by our example, not only by words. It is the same in our household chores, as it is in our work and our devotional time with God. When your child never sees you praying or seeking the face of God, they will not learn to respect your faith, let alone develop it themselves. If your child sees the good results prayer has on you, they will respect your faith. If you go to church every week, but you do not live a life according to the Word of God, your child will quickly see that your religion has no meaning.
Parents: It is very important to inspire the respect of your children. If your behavior towards them makes them honor you, they will have a long and happy life. Their happiness depends largely on your attitude towards them!
And that includes your ex-spouse! If you truly are a child of God, no matter what led to your divorce, you should never defame your ex-spouse. Your words should never lead your child to disrespect the other parent. “But my ex-husband was beating me!” It’s horrible, and you did well to get out of this relationship. However, if this man repents and asks God to forgive him, will God do it? Yes. If God is willing to forgive, you should have the same attitude. This does not mean that you have to go back to live with an abuser, but you must show them some form of respect. So be very vigilant about how you treat your “ex” so as not to negatively influence your child. You would not want to shorten your child’s life, would you? Resist the temptation to put your children “on your side” in your conflicts with your ex-spouse. Your children have nothing to do with your arguments, protect them by helping them to respect you.
Moreover, several scientific studies have shown that even children with dysfunctional parents remain emotionally attached to them. To disrespect even bad parents leads to a deep sadness in the soul. Perhaps this is why the Apostle Paul said that honoring our parents makes us happy.
How can we honor our “ex”? When we have a conflict with someone, and we do everything possible to mediation and resolve it and the person does not want to change, Jesus says we have to treat that person as a non-believer. “And if he refuse to hear them, tell it unto the church: and if he refuse to hear the church also, let him be unto thee as the Gentile and the publican” (Matthew 18:17 ASV). How do you treat the strangers you see on the street? By insulting them? Let’s hope not! You have a minimum of respect and know how to behave well with strangers: it is the same with your “ex”. This is the minimum you can do. Ask God how you should behave with your “ex” to inspire your children to respect both parents. The duration of their life and their happiness depends on it.