“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 (NIV84)
Please read Martin Luther’s explanation to this commandment carefully. His explanation states, “We should fear and love God so that we do not despise or anger our parents and other authorities, but honor them, serve and obey them, love and cherish them.” For a long time I wondered why Luther expanded his explanation beyond parents to “other authorities.” But at 50+ years old and looking out at the world I live in today, I think I get it. Disrespect is contagious. Once it starts at any level, like dominoes it begins to fall. Why? Because respect for authority is attached to a couple of absolutes, the first being that we are creatures and not the Creator. We must admit that He is the giver of moral absolutes and we are simply receivers. He provides the law and we follow it. We are expected to accept and respect God’s authority. The second absolute is that God desires an orderly society. To teach His truths and maintain order, He has given us parents, teachers, civic leaders, and law enforcement. When distrust and disrespect surface in any area of that God-given authority, societies begin to crumble. Why? Because ultimately we are disrespecting God and His authority. It trickles down.
No wonder this commandment is tied to the promise of living long in the promised land. A society stays strong as long as its layers of authority are intact. Honoring and respecting authority is a society’s way of saying that there are principles and values that are of higher importance than anyone’s personal wants and desires. Honoring and respecting our parents, teachers, and civic leaders is an expression of our honor and respect for God and the order He desires for our lives.
Our society has lost respect for authority because we have given society every reason to disrespect it. Those in authority today no longer derive the accountability of their position to God. They anchor their accountability to their political party or, worse yet, to no one. All of this leads to abuses and corruption. Today, we live in a society that does not trust those in authority because those in authority are accountable to and respectful of no one. Hence our society and culture are suffering from violence and chaos. We need to right the ship. We need to place the first domino, God, back in His place of authority and give Him His due respect. Following that, we need to provide honor and respect for those God places in our lives to teach and maintain His order.
May we restore the principles of honor and respect so that we might live long in the land.