Saturday, January 21, 2012

Honor Your Father and Mother

The Ten Commandments was always one of my favorite 8th grade morality topics in religion class.  As a teacher, I relished the opportunity to open up God's laws in a real-world, everyday-life way.  So many adults look at the Ten Commandments negatively, as if God were the cosmic enemy of fun listing the rules we dare not break. Teaching the Ten Commandments to 8th graders was an opportunity to catch them on the cusp of adulthood and do my best to help them form a healthy, positive outlook on living a moral life.  My goal was to show them that:
  1. Our Catholic Christian faith is real.  It is lived.  It is something that applies to each and every day of our lives.
  2. The Ten Commandments are logical, beautiful, wonderful guidelines from a loving God who wants His children to live a life freed from the bondage of sin.
Clip Art by Hermano Leon
In particular, the Fourth Commandment: "Honor your father and mother," has always been a source of the most animated classroom conversations of the entire year.  When I told them we'd be talking about parents, you can imagine that my students thought this was their opportunity to tell me how horribly mean and terrible their parents were. How surprised they were to discover that God (and their teacher) pretty much took their parents' side every time!

One of my favorite bible passages relating to parents and children is found in Sirach 3: 
For the Lord sets a father in honor over his children and confirms a mother's authority over her sons. Those who honor their father atone for sins; they store up riches who respect their motherThose who honor their father will have joy in their own children, and when they pray they are heard. (Sirach 3:2-5) 
At length we discussed what it means to "honor" your parents.  We talked about "respectful obedience" to the requests of mom and dad.  We even distinguished between "obedience" (doing what one is asked), and "respectful obedience" (doing what one is asked with a heart of love and gratitude).  I explained that their hearts and bodies had to be in sync.  In other words, finally giving in to mom and dad after an argument, and then complaining angrily while doing what they ask-- there's nothing respectful about that.

Surprisingly, I didn't lose my classroom full of 14-going-on-21 year olds at that point. After all, here I was telling them the exact opposite of what they wanted to hear. In fact, this was about the time when they really started to tune in to the depth of God's whole plan in this commandment. You see, deep in the heart of even my most stubborn 8th grader was the knowledge of God's law and an overwhelming desire to have a good relationship with mom and dad. I found the kids hungry for anything that would help them get along better with their parents, even if it meant that they had to bite their lip when feeling the urge to talk back.

Parents (and teachers), the bottom line is this: no matter how maturely they may sometimes act, children are children, and they are called on by God to honor (respectfully obey) you! As bad as things can sometimes get, particularly with teenagers, and despite what they say in front of their peers, I haven't met one yet who wouldn't give an arm and a leg to have a stable, tension-free, loving relationship with you. This is what God designed when he gave us the commandment: honor your father and mother. To grow faith-filled kids, we need to lovingly, firmly, and consistently remind them of this truth. 

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