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

Exodus 20:12

Exodus 20:1-12; Galatians 3:25-29 “Family Ties”

  • Sermon Details
  • Pastor Name: Rev. Daniel J. Commerford
  • Date & Time: May 8, 2016

I want to tell you a story about a time when I was younger and dumber, but not quite as dumb as my older brother. When I was 16 years old, my brother and I were driving to have lunch with my parents and grandparents. On our way there, a Jeep cut us off right before we both pulled up to a red light. My brother made a dumb decision and started honking his horn and yelling from the car, and eventually got out of the car to confront this person who cut him off. What he didn’t realize is that the person who cut him off was driving a volunteer firefighter truck, and this guy decided to get out of his car and yell back at my brother. When he got out of the car, we both realized that this guy was like 6’4”, and at least 250lbs of pure muscle. It’s at this moment that I, still sitting in the car, had two thoughts. The first was that I thought my brother was acting like the biggest idiot I have ever seen. But my second thought was that I was about to get beat up by this huge guy defending my brother! Luckily, my brother decided to be smart for a change and got back into his car and we both drove away.

I do not condone fighting! I never have, and have always encouraged others to use our words to resolve our conflicts. But there I was, admittedly a lot younger and dumber than I am right now, ready to get into a fight I surely would’ve lost, all to defend my brother for something I did not agree with him doing in the first place! When it comes to family, all of us know that feeling when we feel the need to take care of those who have taken care of us. This type of care is at the core of the fourth commandment that God gave to Moses, and that’s what we’re going to focus on this morning as we continue our series where we have used the Ten Commandments to fulfill our faith. Today, we will see how God’s commandment to honor our fathers and mothers can show us how we can honor all the families that God gives us.

In v. 12 of the passage from Exodus, God gives Moses his fourth commandment. “Honor your father and your mother,” Says the Lord, “so that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.” If we unpack this, God is encouraging his people to enter into a covenantal agreement with their parents to care for them and take care of them so that they may live longer. Today, we care for ourselves (and even our elders) a bit differently. Today, we spend our careers hopefully saving for retirement. We may have 401Ks, savings, or maybe a stack of cash under the mattress. And we do this so that, when we want to retire, we have money to care for ourselves for the rest of our lives. We also have insurance that helps with our medical needs. So as we age, we either continue to take care of ourselves, or we pay to live in an assisted living facility.

But, in Moses’ time, there were no 401Ks or Medicaid to help those who were growing older. Back then, the younger generation was the main retirement plan for the elder generation. For that reason, families had to stick together so that they could care for one another. So, if you think of the progression of a particular generation, it goes like this: As they are growing up, the older generation raises and takes care of them. Then as they get older, they take care of the older generation while raising a new generation. Then, when the time came, they would rely on their younger generation to take care of them.

But this only worked as much as everyone committed to making it work. It was a covenantal way of living where one generation trusted the next to care for them when it was necessary. God’s fourth commandment is a command to embrace this covenantal way of living so that everyone can enjoy long and stable lives. This system provided stability, as generations cared for one another, and it provided safety, as families stuck together to protect themselves from robbers or other dangers. To honor your father and mother meant to love them, care for them, and protect them as they did the same for you when you were growing up.

Today, our world looks a lot different than it did back then. Families look a lot different than they did back then! We have families where the children are adopted. We have families where one parent raises the children. There are families where parents have divorced and remarried, so step-parents are raising children. We have families where the grandparents raise the children. More than anything, it’s now normal that there is no such thing as a normal family. Whatever kind of family we find ourselves it, that is the family that God has given us, and that is a gift from God!

But even though our families look different, and the need for families to care for the older generation has changed, God’s commandment to honor our fathers and mothers has not changed. God still commands us to honor our parents and value our families so that we can be as strong and healthy as we can be. And we can do that by taking intentional steps to strengthen our relationships with our parents and our families so we can live a covenantal lifestyle with those whom God has given us. We honor our parents and our families when we make them a priority in our lives, when we engage in healthy communication, healthy conflict resolution, and reconcile when we need to reconcile.

But notice what I said, there! I said that the stronger we make our families, the better chance to live long, stable, and fruitful lives. You see, the people with whom we live are not the only family God gives us. In the passage we read from Galatians, we learn that God gives us a much bigger family, and that is the family where all of us are children of God and brothers and sisters in Christ. If you look around this sanctuary, you will see a small portion of this family that God has given us, and that’s a real thing! In Galatians, Paul writes that we are brought into the family of God when we are baptized and when we choose to follow Christ.  And this family is a gift from God! This is the family that will help us learn about God and grow closer to him by becoming Christ’s disciples.

And just as God commands us to honor our father and mother to ensure that our family is strong, he commands us to honor him by doing what it takes to make this family strong. That means being present, communicating, being open, and resolving conflict in a healthy way. And when we do what it takes to make our faith family strong, we have an opportunity to live a long and fruitful life! At my home church, Rachel and I joined a small group where they invested in each other’s lives. They explored God’s Word together, and challenged one another to be better disciples of Christ. And they became a family. God gave us this family, and they cared for us as we cared for them. Even to this day, we still keep in touch with them and continue to care for them. God gave me the gift of a wonderful family at home, and he gave me the wonderful gift of a family at church, and I will do what it takes to honor both of them.

As we leave today, I’d like us to reflect on how we honor our fathers and mothers. Maybe the “fathers” and “mothers” aren’t our biological parents, but rather the people that God has placed in our lives. How can we better honor our families at home? The grace is that, as long as we all stick together, God gives us the opportunity to live a long and fruitful life! My brother was a big idiot the day he almost got me beat up by an angry firefighter, but I forgave him for that. And now, 15 years later, we have a strong relationship. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. And of course, on this Mother’s day, I find myself reflecting on my own mother, and how much she sacrificed to raise me, and how I can honor her today. May we all do the same with those whom God has placed in our lives, both through blood and through the waters of baptism, so that our days may be long in the land God has given us. To God be all glory, honor, and praise, amen.