But the Fifth Commandment stands alone in telling us what TO DO. Specifically, it says to honor your father and mother. And that’s not all it says. Unlike the other nine commandments, the fifth one comes with an addendum. The Apostle Paul calls it a promise in Ephesians 6:3. The promise says, “that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land” (Deuteronomy 5:16).
I’m confident that you want things to go well in this land. In less than a week, the United States will select a new slate of leaders. It’s no secret that this has been the ugliest and least inspiring election in many of our lifetimes. Honor has often been missing in both the conduct of candidates and in the conversations among citizens.
In teaching us to honor our parents, the Fifth Commandment laid a foundation for all human relationships. After all, we first learn how humans engage with one another in our families. As we see our parents honor each other (1 Peter 3:1-7), and as we show honor to them, we learn how to fulfill a more challenging command – “Honor all people” (1 Peter 2:17).
Can we honor all people in the United States today? Can we honor people who look, think, talk, live, vote, and believe differently than us? You may be thinking, “But not all people act honorably.” That is true. It still doesn’t change the “all people” of 1 Peter 2:17. You can honor those who aren’t honor-worthy by treating them not as they are, but as they can be.
It is easy to live up to low expectations. But when we show honor to all, we set a higher standard for one another, a standard that believes we all are made in the image of God. Isn’t that how He has dealt with you and me? He honored us by being so humble to come to earth, be identified with us, and put up with all the inconveniences of us less-than-honorable types. Jesus did not have to honor anyone. Instead he chose to honor everyone.
Theories abound as to what’s wrong or broken in America. Maybe it’s as simple as we don’t honor one another like we should. For our political leaders (even the ones you don’t like or vote for), military men & women, law enforcement officers, school teachers, and more . . . a return to showing honor could go a long way. But we will never honor those distant from us if we fail to honor those closest to us. From the way little children speak to mommy and daddy to the regard teens hold their parents to the care adult children give their aging fathers and mothers, the honor one generation shows another serves as the building block for a healthy society.
Of all the commands that God could have laid as the foundation for Israel’s human relationships, He selected “honor your father and mother.”
Before we debate government policies and political candidates, maybe we should all adopt a policy to honor one another. Will it solve all of our nation’s woes? Probably not. But it sure looks like a better approach than what we see playing out in society today.
Many are calling for us to pray for our nation, and we should certainly pray. But if we don’t honor one another – starting at home – then prayer is futile (see 1 Peter 3:7).
Honor your spouse. Honor your neighbor. Honor your enemy. Honor the president. Honor all people. “Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land” (Deuteronomy 5:16). Be blessed and be a blessing.