I have visited and been a member of quite a few Asian churches in my time.
And one thing I’ve noticed is the reverence and respect the children are expected or maybe I should say pressured to have for their parents.
This can be both good and bad.
Good because the Bible commands us to honor our parents.
Bad because in some cases the parents actually aren’t believers and this can lead to the habit of them ridiculing the child’s faith or exhibiting traits of behavior that are not in accordance with the Biblical standard.
I had this experience with my Japanese father who flat out told me my faith was stupid and a waste of time.
In worse cases, we may have parents who are irresponsible and do not properly provide for their children, preferring instead to spend their resources in self-indulgence.
Obviously such problems are not restricted to any one ethnic group.
It’s just that given my background, I had the opportunity to witness firsthand the questionable ancestor worship and “family values” characteristic of Asian cultures that were force-fed onto some of my Asian church friends.
How is one to fulfill the command to honor one’s parents in such a difficult situation?
I think the first point that needs to be made is that there is ONLY ONE absolute starting point and commitment upon which ALL human relationships and institutions must be based.
And that starting point is God.
Every relationship we have, whether in the family or in the church, or in the culture is subject to that ultimate loyalty to God we are all commanded to have.
Even the relationship between a husband and a wife is to take place and grow in the context of their loyalty to ADONAI.
This is the reason Paul advises that a believer CANNOT marry an unbeliever.
Likewise, the relationship of a father and mother to their children must always be subject to the covenant with God.
Biblically speaking, what are parents’ responsibilities to their children?
Before answering that question, I think the more important question we need to answer first is what is the purpose of a family according to the Bible?
To put it simply, from a Biblical perspective, I would say the purpose of a family is transmit to the future generation the knowledge of the Lord and His salvation.
God’s covenant works itself out in history.
So the family must serve as that agent whereby there is a generational transfer of covenant wealth-spiritual, intellectual, AND material.
In order to ensure that future generations are able to successfully inherit and carry on the wisdom and knowledge of the Lord, the children were to be painstakingly and carefully instructed in the ways of the Torah.
That is why Scripture says “These words, which I am ordering you today, are to be on your heart; and you are to teach them carefully to your children. You are to talk about them when you sit at home, when you are traveling on the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”-Deuteronomy 6:6-7
I would say parents who fail to educate and train their children in the Word are in violation of Adonai’s covenant.
In addition, the family was to ensure the children received proper professional training or education in order to earn a living and be able to support their own families when they became adults.
The family was also obligated to leave as an inheritance the material wealth accumulated by previous generations.
Failing this, I would say you have a broken covenant, whether the parents claim they are believers or not.
A formal profession of faith means nothing.
It is the actions that testify to the true faith of the person
So when it comes to the question of honoring our parents, it is important to realize that this responsibility is NOT absolute.
If you find yourself in a situation where demands from your parents conflict with your responsibility to God, the Bible is explicitly clear that we must unquestionably put aside any human relationship and obey and honor God first.
The Bible declares that in the case of treason against God, family relationships must be considered null and void.
In fact, the family must act in vengeance against the one who broke the covenant.
“If your brother the son of your mother, or your son, or your daughter, or your wife whom you love, or your friend who means as much to you as yourself, secretly tries to entice you to go and serve other gods, which you haven’t known, neither you nor your ancestors — gods of the peoples surrounding you, whether near or far away from you, anywhere in the world — you are not to consent, and you are not to listen to him; and you must not pity him or spare him; and you may not conceal him. Rather, you must kill him! Your own hand must be the first one on him in putting him to death, and afterwards the hands of all the people.”-Deuteronomy 13:6-10
No doubt, the family was important to the covenant but it was not the only covenant.
Even the closest family tie must be renounced and broken if that person either breaks or causes you to break your covenant with God.
CONNECTING THIS TEACHING WITH THE NEW TESTAMENT
obey your parents in the Lord,
for this is right.”
When Yeshua’s mother and brothers came to see him,
but they couldn’t get near him because of the crowd.
It was reported to him,
“Your mother and your brothers are standing outside
and want to see you.”
But he gave them this answer:
“My mother and brothers are those
who hear God’s message and act on it!”
“If anyone comes to me
and does not hate his father,
his brothers and his sisters,
yes, and his own life besides,
he cannot be my disciple.“
Yeshua said to another man, “Follow me.”
But he replied,
“Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”
Yeshua said to him,
“Let the dead bury their own dead,
but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord;
but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.”
“No one who puts a hand to the plow
and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
For children are not obligated to save up for their parents,
but parents for their children.
-2 Corinthians 12:14