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A Word on Honor

A Word on Honor

Exodus 20:12

“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.”

Honor isn’t a gift you bestow on someone else, but an intrinsic reward following a commendable action. For instance, the American troops who bravely stormed the beaches of Normandy inherited honor by their sacrifice even before government agents decorated their uniforms with Purple Heart badges. The martyr who prays and preaches faithfully and gets thrown into a lion’s den inherits honor for his good faith even before being crowned in heaven. That’s the gist of that common phrase, “virtue is its own reward,” though the phrase itself needs revising. Virtue is the action; honor is the reward. So we could translate this Exodus 20 rule in this way: “Child, the many sacrifices your father and mother have made to nurture you in this world have brought them honor. So thank them for their sacrifice! Affirm the honor due them!”

But that brings up a conundrum that I’m still working through, friend. Maybe you are as well. Certainly moms and dads who raise their children faithfully inherit honor, but what about those who abandon God and their families? Surely, they aren’t worthy of the same honor. I think often of the missionary who told me how her dad abused her all through high-school, and how, as a married mother, she wouldn’t let her own daughter be in a house with her father alone, and how it wasn’t until later in life, almost on her father’s deathbed, that she hugged him and told him “Dad, I forgive you!” What did this rule mean for her over the years? And what about my close friends whose mom left their dad a decade ago with the next-door neighbor, blaming everything on their faithful father who’d spent years going to counseling and walking with God, and she still hasn’t come back; what does this rule mean for them?

I know the answer is Christ. He’s the way, the how, and the why, and He can help us to love our enemies and affirm honor in those who haven’t merited it. Which makes me all the more grateful for His grace, because rule like these seem to take a lifetime of practice before we get them right.