Life often gives us challenges to our Christian faith and life. Sometimes those challenges do not disappear easily or quickly.
If you’re anything like me, we all learned our commandments as children. The one that was drilled into my head the most was the Fourth Commandment, “Honor your father and mother.” I knew that I had to be obedient to parents and authority figures because God put them into place to help me and take care of me.
But I have had a tough time keeping this commandment. No, I was not a rebellious child. I love my mom and other authority figures in my life. However, I always had a beef with God’s commandment when it came to my dad.
My dad was never there for me. Yes, he was there physically, kind of, but never emotionally. He would not come to my piano or dance recitals. He didn’t show up for my sports games. He didn’t talk to me about my day. I never once remember him telling me he loved me or that he was proud of me. Additionally, he hardly ever went to church with us. Work, television, or sleep were more important to him than spending time with his family.
I watched how my father treated my mom, my brother, and me. I witnessed his deception and greed and saw his lack of concern for us. How was I supposed to honor a father who did not care, repeatedly told lies, and continually acted selfishly? I could not understand how to do this.
The inevitable happened. My parents divorced when I was in high school. Feelings of anger and hurt bubbled to the surface in me. The beef I had with God about my father didn’t end. During my years of growing up and going through the divorce, I didn’t know how to love and obey my father. I realized during this stressful time that no matter how hard I tried to please my father and make him proud of me, I could not gain his approval.
Trying to let go of the anger and hurt hasn’t been easy; in fact it’s still lingering in my heart.
Obviously, my relationship with my earthly father is very strained. I am not perfect, and he is not perfect. Yet I knew I was commanded to obey him. It is incredibly hard to honor and obey a parent who has not lived up to the standard God set for him. It was difficult for me in spite of God’s command.
Scripture states, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). I was more than exasperated. I have been infuriated with my father for the kind of father he is. I am frustrated with how his sins have affected my life.
But I also realize that I am sinful. God does not see my father’s sins differently than mine; all sins are sins in God’s eyes (James 2:10). How then can I be vengeful toward a man who is the same as me in God’s eyes? I cannot return an evil for an evil. Holding a grudge against my father isn’t going to make anything better. It won’t hurt him; in fact, it will only hurt me. As the apostle Peter advised us, “It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil” (1 Peter 3:17). Peter was speaking to Christians who were being persecuted for their faith. He was urging them to love their enemies and to suffer for doing good. As I see it, this also applies to those children who have had a parent like I’ve had.
It’s easy to want revenge on those who have hurt us. But how much better could life be if instead of doing evil or thinking evil we do good and think positively about those who hurt us? How much better could life be if we forgive others as God forgives us? Understandably, this is easier said than done, but God calls us to no longer see anyone from a worldly point of view (2 Corinthians 5:16).
I have learned how important it is to extend forgiveness to a parent who has left scars. Our Father extended forgiveness to us when he sent his Son to live the perfect life that we could not, to suffer death in our place, and to rise victorious over death and the devil. Our heavenly Father showed us his mercy; through him we are able to show mercy and grace to people who may have hurt us. By showing grace to a parent who hurt us, we are honoring and obeying our parents just as God has commanded. They don’t deserve this, but we didn’t deserve to be saved by Jesus either.
By showing forgiveness to someone who has done us wrong, we not only show our faith but also share the love of Christ. I know my father had to hear God’s law, but now I realize he also needs to hear the gospel. He needs to be shown how to be loved again after years of hate and anger. Showing love to my father is not going to come from my own power, but from my Father above.
Currently, I am extending a line of communication to my father, letting him know I do not want to talk about the hurt. I simply want to be able to have a plain conversation with him, something we have not been able to do since the divorce happened. I wrote a letter stating that I pray for a real heartfelt apology, but I know I may never receive one. I just pray that we will be able to talk, that I will be able to forgive him for his transgressions, and that we can try to have a “normal” relationship that flows from forgiveness—Christ’s forgiveness for all our sins and the forgiveness we give to those who have hurt us.
So to those of you reading this who have experienced the same kind of hurt I’ve had from a parent and struggle with keeping God’s commandment, extend love, forgiveness, and understanding. Forgive and love a parent who has caused so much hurt . . . because God loves you. Honoring a parent who has failed to be a godly parent may take a different form than what we would have wanted, but we can still honor them in Christian love. Pray for your parents, however they may have behaved. Pray for yourself, asking God to give you a forgiving heart. Look for the opportunity to do good because of how good Jesus has been to you. Extend the love that Christ has given you.
Because of the personal nature of this article, the author’s name has been withheld.
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Volume 102, Number 09
Issue: September 2015
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