“Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” —Exodus 20:12
The Bible stresses that we are to obey and honor our parents. It is the fifth of the Ten Commandments—“Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you” (exodus 20:12) —and comes right after four commandments about loving God. In the New Testament, the apostle Paul says, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right” (ephesians 6:1).
In the Hebrew, the word for honor—kaved—means “heavy” or “weighty.” To honor one’s parents is therefore to give due weight or respect to their position.
Jesus himself is described as being obedient to his earthly parents as a child, after an incident in Jerusalem where he was separated from them and they became worried about Him (luke 2:51). As he hung dying on the cross, he also ensured that his disciple John would continue to look after his mother (john 19:26).
The challenge for me was how to continue to honor my parents without compromising my faith in God. I realized I could do this by being respectful to them, by being obedient, and by caring for them.
I was encouraged by the example of American theologian Francis Schaeffer, whose parents were upset when he decided to attend a Bible school. Francis explained respectfully that he believed it was God’s will for him to go, but he continued to honor his parents as taught in the Bible. His testimony undoubtedly played an important role in bringing both of them to Jesus Christ later on.
I did my best to apply this principle to my life. While my mother repeatedly tried to convince me to give up my faith, I decided not to answer back or argue with her. I went out of my way to be as polite and respectful as a child should be. I helped with household chores and ran errands whenever I was asked. I used to protest whenever I was told to do something, but now I made sure to do it willingly.
“Don’t you see?” I would ask my mother occasionally, “Nothing has changed since I became a Christian. I’m still your daughter, and you’re still my mother.”
I also continued to follow Chinese traditions that did not distract me from following God. When relatives passed away, I helped out at funerals and paid my respects in a proper manner. On the death anniversary of my grandparents, I did the same thing, honoring their memory. I also joined my father’s Hakka clan association and made sure to attend its social events.
At the same time, I continued to meet with other Christians and prayed and read the Bible regularly. Throughout all this, God gave me the spiritual strength to persevere in my faith, as well as the guidance and wisdom to deal with my challenges. I drew on God’s promise to help and guide me, and he did so faithfully and continuously.
I believe God’s grace, which strengthened my resolve and guided me in my conduct, helped the situation at home. While my parents didn’t say so, I could sense that they eventually accepted my decision, because they did not object to me going to church or later getting baptized. I thank God for softening their hearts despite their initial objections.
I saw more evidence of this change when, to my great joy, my twin sister also came to Christ. My parents were less upset about it than they had been with me. Another time, my father was harshly criticized by his peers for allowing us to become Christians and for “not controlling his family properly.” Dad saw how upset my twin sister and I were, and he comforted us. “Ignore them,” he told us, “they don’t know what they’re saying.”
We were more than a little surprised. Instead of taking us to task for causing him to lose “face,” he chose to defend us.