5. Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you / Area: Authority
This Commandment commands us to have the utmost respect for our parents, whether they are believers in God or not, whether they conduct themselves in shameful and sinful ways or not, whether they are worthy of our honor and respect or not. And this is the only commandment with a promise, “that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.” Now the first meaning of this commandment is that God promised the Israelites long lives in the land of Israel if they obeyed Him. But this commandment and the promise certainly concerns the Christian believers as well. Christian believers will inherit the new heavens and the new earth (Revelation 21:1,2,7). And Jesus said: “Blessed are the meek in heart for the shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5). You may wonder how the words: “the meek in heart” connect to honoring and respecting your father and mother? The answer is that the proud always trust in themselves and think they don’t need advice and counsel, but the humble and meek in heart submit to authority. Ephesians 6:1 states: “Children obey your parents in the Lord for this is right.” If your parents demand you to do something contrary to God’s word we should however not obey them. For example, if they ask you to steal for them or disrespect your teachers or live a sinful life. Even your parents can abuse their authority before God and then it is lawful to disobey them.
This command doesn’t only refer to submitting unto authority in your own household, to your mother and father, but also to authority in the church (the people of God) and civil authority, in government. The humble in heart obey and submit to authority because they recognize that all authority is from God. That is what Paul commanded the church in the letter to the Romans “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those who exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.” Believers in God should therefore pay tax to whom tax is due, toll to whom toll is due and respect to whom respect is due (Romans 13:6,7; 1 Peter 2:13,14) as far as the governments of the particular country is obeying everything according to the constitution (if the country is governed by a constitution). Christians should, therefore, obey traffic laws, teenagers and children and young adults should, therefore, obey and submit unto their teachers and lecturers as far as they do things that are in accordance with God’s commandments. We know that many dictatorships and oppressive regimes have abused their authority that they received from God like in communists countries in Eastern Europe and in China and Russia in the twentieth century and throughout the past two millennium among countries that are ruled by Islam and Sharia law. But even in these countries we should only in extreme cases take up arms to defeat them. In these countries where the governments misuse their authority we should remember Romans 12:18-19 “if possible so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” Every person who has ever lived will stand before God and give an account of the lives they have lived (Romans 2:16; Revelation 20:11-15). Even today in so called free countries abortion on demand is legal and homosexual marriages and prostitution, and sexual immorality is legal etc. That doesn’t mean God approves of it and that doesn’t mean those people who participate in these deeds will not be judged. It would be lawful to resist tyranny in a country if the international community see it as crimes against humanity. The problem is that the international community are not consistent in executing justice and labeling acts as crimes against humanity.
In church, we also are to be subject to one another and submit ourselves to those who have authority over us (Hebrews 13:17). The younger should be subject to the elders in the church and to those who are older and everybody should be subject to one another (1 Peter 5:1-6). But we should not only be subject to those in our current local church family but to the church fathers throughout all ages. Local churches can teach error and lead their flocks on the wrong paths; that is why we should learn from the church and family of God of all ages. People like Athanasius, Augustine, Martin Luther, Charles Spurgeon, Jonathan Edwards and many others have rediscovered the central teachings of the word of God, which we should submit to. And then of course, there are the prophets and apostles who were given the infallible, trustworthy words of God (2 Timothy 3:26; 2 Peter 1:20,21) found in the Old and New Testaments, which we should submit to.
The Heidelberg Catechism requires the following concerning this commandment: “That I show all honor, love, and fidelity, to my father and mother and all in authority over me, and submit myself to their good instruction and correction, with due obedience and so patiently bear with their weaknesses and infirmities, since it pleases God to govern us by their hand.
God forbids the following sins by this command:
Disobedience: not obeying and submitting to the authorities over you (family, church, employers, civil, magisterial).
Disrespect: lack of respect and showing disregard, ignoring authority
Dishonor: disgrace, not honoring and showing respect
Cheekiness: Cheerful show of disrespect
If we are working in a company or an organization of the government or a non-profit organization this command implies that we also obey our employers and give them due respect (Ephesians 6:5-9; 1 Peter 2:13). And above all we ought to submit to the King and Ruler of all and He who sovereignly reigns over the church and government and our families, which is God (Ephesians 1:20-22; 1 Peter 3:22). Whenever there is a conflict between what God requires and what your conscience tells you, and what anyone tells you in the church, your family, the government or an employer we must always obey God. That was the example of the apostles (Acts 5:29).
Scriptures to consider: The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails firmly fixed by the master of assemblies, which are given by one Shepherd (Ecclesiastes 12:11). Proverbs 19:20 “Hear counsel, and receive instruction, that you may be wise in your latter days.”