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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Honor goes both ways

Parenting is time-consuming, tedious and a divine office

“First, then, learn what this commandment requires concerning honor to parents. You are to esteem them above all things and to value them as the most precious treasure on earth.

“Second, in your words you are also to behave respectfully toward them and are not to speak discourteously to them, to criticize them, or to take them to task, but rather to submit to them and hold your tongue, even if they go too far.

“Third, you are also to honor them by your actions, that is, with your body and possessions, serving them, helping them, and caring for them when they are old, sick, feeble, or poor; all this you should do not only cheerfully, but also with humility and reverence, doing it as if for God” (Martin Luther’s Large Catechism in The Book of Concord, eds. Robert Kolb and Timothy J. Wengert, page 401).


When I re-read these words from Martin Luther’s commentary on the fourth commandment—“You are to honor your father and mother”—my first thought was that he could never have imagined a 21st-century American teenager.

Our offspring go through a stage where they roll their eyes at just about everything we say, take us to task for knowing next to nothing, and greet our house rules and expectations with outrage. And, parents, lest you think you’ve failed to help them uphold the fourth commandment, remember that this behavior is developmentally appropriate. Adolescents struggle to form their own selves and discern their paths. At the same time they need us greatly. They are becoming independent, yet they’re very dependent. It’s frustrating for both sides of the relationship.


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