Children, I have a few words for you.
Teen-age young people, there is that which you must consider.
Young men and young women living under father’s and/or mother’s roof, you must remember a Scriptural principle.
Fathers and mothers, yea even grandfathers and grandmothers who might still have a parent living in this vale of tears, you still are bound to a divine precept.
He Who unchangeably says, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me,” also says just as unchangeably, “Honour thy father and thy mother.” And He does not say this simply to little children but to all who still have a parent upon this earth.
To you, children, parents always seem a little odd. And the older you get, the more you will see your parents in a strange light. O, you may love them with natural affection. Your heart may go out in sincere pity and sympathy towards them, but they are different and your sympathy and pity may well be because you see them so “out of step” with the times, so old-fashioned, so narrow minded, and, shall we say “Victorian” in their views.
There are reasons for this viewpoint which you have. First of all your parents are from a different, a former generation that grew up under different circumstances and faced different problems. That in itself explains already much of the “Oh, Mother . . . . !” and “But, Dad . . . . ” that falls from your lips so quickly and easily. Your parents just cannot always get enthusiastic about matters that thrill you and seem to be the most important things in your life. But before you shake your head in pity — and be sure you do not dishonor them by that head shaking — it will be worthwhile for you to consider the truth of God’s Word that there is a continual and even accelerating development of sin in the world, so that each generation does exercise a greater laxity, has a broader and more liberal view, excuses more sin and has a bigger world of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life to seek. You have yourself far more liberty and freedom than your parents ever dreamed of having. Youhave your own automobile at an age much less than when your father was able to buy his first one. You have your own radio, and perhaps television set, in your room to use so often without parental supervision, and you know the world and its wicked heroes far more intimately than your parents ever could have known them. Higher education brings many of you away from the farm and small city to places where you can see and enjoy the flesh pots of Egypt. You return with visions and dreams of a world to conquer; and the life to which you return is so drab and flat. Here, again, you cannot understand your parent’s lack of enthusiasm and resent their pouring of cold water upon your glorious plans that would take you away from the church and the truth you know to pursue your ambitions in Egypt.
Take heed and remember, however, that your parents have a divinely bestowed authority over you. And in the love of God they give you good spiritual counsel. They may appear odd and out of step, but they are wiser than you are because of their experiences with the enemy, and they know better than you his methods and power. It is their love for you, their natural love, but especially their spiritual love that directs you and curbs you in your flights and fancies. When they say, No, they say it with authority given them of God. Remember that authority is the right to impose one’s will and thinking upon others placed under one by God. They may be wrong. The danger they see in this activity which you seek may not be there. But they still have the divine right to deny you. Only when they demand sin of you, only when they demand that you dishonor God, may you refuse to do their bidding.
A word I might give here also to the parents. Paul writes to the fathers in Colossians 3:21, “Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.” It is undeniably true that there is one fact to which parents have great difficulty adjusting, and that is the fact that their children are distinct individuals with their own natural tastes and likes and talents. They come at birth to the parent so helpless and apparently so easy to mold and form the way we wish. They do not complain when they are babes about the color or fashion of their clothes. The little boy wears dresses without complaint. But when they grow up, they begin to show their likes and dislikes, their tastes and preferences. And it is tragic when parents, while the child is still not self-conscious, plan the whole career and life of their child and intend to stick to it. History is full of examples of great men (by worldly standards) who were forced for years by their parents to pursue a different career and one in which they could not succeed because they did not like the work. And so you find also children with no musical ability whatsoever plinking and plunking, tooting and blaring away without interest and progress. Older children waste years in college training for a career which they will never pursue after their initial failures in it. But there has been a long generation of men in that family in that profession! And then there are natural likes and dislikes that have nothing to do with sin. Mother likes the color yellow for a dress. Daughter places this last on the list of her preferences. But there goes daughter to school with a yellow dress, because mother likes that one best due to its color. Son wears a pair of shoes like unto those of his father, although he has always coveted a different style not only but also a different color. But father always wore that kind! Well, mother said so! Father followed his own preference! Children do row up having their own distinct likes and dislikes. And when sin is not involved, and it is not imitating the world and being conformed to the world but merely a matter of natural preference, the parent should consider this.
All this does not mean, children that you may go your own way contrary to the wishes and expressed opinion of your parents. It may be that there is a principle behind their position that you do not see. World conformity is sin! Paul is not giving some personal preference when he declares in Romans 12:1-2, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God that ye present your bodies as living sacrifices, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable se And be not conformed to this world; but be ye transformed by the renewing of your minds, that ye may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
And may I say to you young men for your parents, or else to underscore their remarks to you — that the Word of God declares in I Corinthians 11:14, “Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?” It is not simply that your parents belong to a former generation that they object to you being conformed to some of the boldest of infidels and most rebellious of the younger set by imitating their unkempt, shameful head of hair. A child of God does not look like a beatnik, a bug, an atheist and an infidel. He presents his body as a living sacrifice to God. The same is true, of course, of the young women. They do not seek world conformity in dress and hair style (See I Peter 3:1-4). Let the young women of the church be a distinct group of young people. Let that which is inside by virtue of regeneration shine forth in dress and appearance. Young people, let it be seen by all that you have the fear of God in your hearts. And the young men and the young women of the world will leave you alone, as they ought; and you will save yourselves the grief of temptations. In His fear drive from your sphere the daughters and sons of the devil. Remember Genesis 6:2 and the result of this fact! It is better to remain single in His fear than to be married into the devil’s sphere! We repeat, “It may be that there is a principle behind your parent’s position that you do not see. World conformity is sin!”
The fifth commandment demands obedience of you while you are in your father’s and mother’s home. The only way to honour the parent who has a right to command you and forbid you is to show them the respect of being that authority in the home. And that calls for a walk of obedience. That also then includes the hours when you must be home, whether the parent is reasonable or not. And again, parents who are of a former generation see things differently. But whether too strict or not, whether reasonable or unreasonable, the right to impose their will upon you is God-given.
Honouring them is not finally yielding to their demands. Honouring them means that you respond the first time you hear them, and without arguments, and by all means without disrespectful language of mimicking, snarling retort to show that you heard them. The fifth commandment does not say, “Obey your parents” but “Honour thy father and thy mother,” It is far broader than simply obedience. It goes beyond when obedience stops. When the child moves from his father’s and his mother’s home to set up his own, becomes a parent himself, that fifth commandment remains. When that parent becomes childish, when he must be waited upon hand and foot, and for his good be placed in an institution that can care for his every need every hour of the day and night, the demand to honour them still remains. There is no talk anymore of obedience to them, although they may still try to dictate. But there is the calling to respect them and not ridicule them. There is the call to visit them as your parents and not to leave them in their lonely hours.
For years they bore with our weaknesses, which were mostly physical. When, then, they become not only physically but also mentally feeble, render honour to whom honour is due. And although the Heidelberg Catechism is speaking of the other authorities placed over us by God and refers to the calling to obey, the statement in Lord’s Day XXIX is applicable here as well,” . . “patiently bear with their weaknesses and infirmities . . . ” Natural love will usually take care of that, but that is not what the law means. The law demands a spiritual love that is love towards God exercised upon the neighbor.
And if this phrase is true for the aged and feeble who need not be obeyed anymore, certainly, children and young men and young women, it applies to you who are still to obey. That your parents have weaknesses and infirmities, a parent with such weaknesses and infirmities (also in writing about these matters) is ready to concede. But all these weaknesses and infirmities, in parents who have provided you with education far higher than they themselves were given to receive, do not erase out of the granite into which God carved the fifth commandment the demand that you always honour your father and mother. They may not be to you “The old man” and “The old woman” but must be “father” and “mother.” They must be the authority whose opinion you seek before you do this or that. They are to be consulted and not ignored. And you are to love them for their concern and exercise of rule over you and not in spite of these. They are God’s representatives in your home. They live in your home as His priests who have a calling to dedicate and consecrate you unto God and His service. They function as His prophets to teach you in His fear and concerning that fear. They sit on the throne as king in your home to rule you as they in His fear think is best. And you cannot function in your threefold office of prophet, priest, and king when you refuse to accept them as God’s prophet, priest and king over the home.
Rebelling against their rule is not walking in His fear. It is neither honouring them nor God Who placed them over you. But in His fear honour them, and then when you have children of your own, and the tables are turned so that you are of that former generation that your children do not understand, you will understand your calling in regard to your children. This honour must be learned in childhood and must be learned in His fear, not out of worldly constraint or social urgency.