Honor Thy Father

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Father’s Day began in an incidental way. The story is told that Father’s Day was not conceived in the egotism of a man but was originated by a woman. It actually came into being many years ago on a very small scale when a woman, Mrs. John Dodd in Spokane, Washington, remembered her father as she sat in church on Mother’s Day.

Mrs. Dodd was one girl among six children. The other five were boys. She could recall the day when her mother died. As little children, they did not understand the finality of death and that night one of the little boys rushed out of the door. He shot directly toward the cemetery where their mother was laid to rest. Her father ran after him, snatched up the little fellow in his arms, and brought him back to church. Tenderly gathering them together as in a huddle, their father put his arms around all of them.

“From that moment he became both father and mother to us,” recalls Mrs. Dodd.

She remembered how her father through the years tried to give those six children the best influence, how he taught them to live by the Golden Rule, and gave them a faith to live by. He brought the preacher into their home again and again.

Mrs. Dodd went to the ministerial association in Spokane with the idea of honoring her father. And as the late radio commentator Paul Harvey would say, “And now you know the rest of the story.”

You could say this deed was Mrs. Dodd’s way of following the Biblical command, “Honor thy father.” For her desire to honor her father led to what would become a special day set aside for honoring all fathers. And even to this day, fathers everywhere continue to be showered with gifts and be given expressions of love and respect from their children.

Father’s Day is a fitting time to be reminded of the words in Deuteronomy 5:16, “Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may well with you in the land the Lord your God is giving you.”

The Apostle Paul references this in his letter to the Ephesian church. In chapter 6 of Ephesians, he tells children to obey their parents in the Lord, for this is the right thing to do. Then he refers to the fifth command which says, “‘Honor your father and mother’—which is the first commandment with a promise—’that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth,'” (Eph. 6:1-3, New International Version, NIV).

Godly father’s are able to earn such respect from their children by showing love, understanding, and discipline to their children. The Apostle Paul urges father’s, “do not  exasperate your children.” (See Eph. 6:4.) If dads are too overbearing on their kids, their kids will likely become outraged and rebellious. To prevent this negative outcome, fathers would do well to “bring them up in the nurture and instruction of the Lord,” for providing wholesome, healthy, productive living for their children when they grow up. 

Mrs. Dodd’s wishes to honor her father shows how she admired the nurture and instruction of the Lord that she and her siblings received. He trained and instructed his children in the Lord and earned their love and respect when they grew up to become adults themselves. Remarkably, such esteem eventually led to a day dedicated to all fathers known as Father’s Day.

But not every family portrays such a Norman Rockwell scene. We live in a real world and not all fathers are like Mrs. Dodd’s father. The sad fact is, some father’s are right down cruel, abusive, ungodly. How does a Christian handle such a situation?

Dr. Laura Shlessinger and Rabbi Stewart Vogel addressed this question in their book, The Ten Commandments: The Significance of God’s Law in Everyday Life. They write,

Some people say, “My parents don’t deserve to be honored.” The commandment does not say to honor parents only if they are good parents. We often only see the weaknesses of our parents and swear that we will be better than they. We will deserve respect when we get old like them. But alas, as time goes by, we find ourselves more and more like our parents—imperfect beings.  Some people pray that their children will not treat them as they treated their own parents.

Dr. Schlessinger and Rabbi Vogel make the point that even though children might believe their parents do not deserve to be honored, they should honor them anyway, not because it’s supposed to make the children feel any better but because it’s the right thing to do. One may not like their father or mother for one reason or another but that doesn’t change the fact that they ARE their father and mother and should be honored regardless of the situation. That is why it is a command and not an option. And since it IS the right thing to do, the children of these parents will be able to become better parents themselves someday.

The essence of Christlike love is to do good to all, even bad parents. For this is what Jesus taught: Do good unto others, even your enemies (Matthew 5:43-48). Let’s face it: Many families are known to turn against each other. The solution to this problem is turn to Jesus and let him change our lives. He is the One who can bring blessing and honour in the home. Through him, there can be more fathers and mothers like the one Mrs. Dodd had.

One more thought: Some of us might not have our fathers around anymore. And as we remember them, we are saddened for they are truly missed. But along with cherished memories comes the truth that we still hold them dear in our hearts. And therefore, we can still honor their memory by living up to what they would have expected if they were still alive to be with us this day. For if we have hope in Christ, then we know there will be a day when we shall see our fathers someday again when the Lord comes and raises everyone asleep in death (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18). And then what will we say to our fathers when we talk to them at that time? 

So we honor all fathers in many ways. On Father’s Day we especially like to give gifts to our fathers to show them how much we love them. Perhaps the greatest gift is simply to give them a wonderful day—a day they will enjoy and remember whether it is the time we give them, the affection we show them, or some act of kindness we do for them. Even if the relationship has been difficult in the past, the least you can do is show him your respect for he is, after all, your father.

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And Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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