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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Choosing to Honor

Matthew 26:53-54—"Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels? How then shall the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen this way?"

During the hours before this, Jesus was in the garden praying. He repeatedly told God He didn't want to "drink the cup" that the world deserved to drink. Yet, each prayer ended with, "Nonetheless, Your will be done." Jesus submitted His will fully to the Father He trusts. He laid His life down not only because God so loved the world, but also because Jesus so loved and honored His Father. Up to the moment He breathed His last breath, Jesus had the opportunity and the right to change His mind—to change His will—and God would have sent legions of angels to minister to Him.

That makes me think about every moment of my every day—how I must understand that every decision is about whether or not I want to honor God or myself. Do my words fulfill what He has said? Do my motives reflect His love for mankind? Do my actions, attitude and speech declare to the world around me God's intended peace on earth and good will toward humanity? Because that is what Jesus accomplished when He submitted His will to the Father.

We are told that God's purpose for each of us is that we be conformed (patterned after) the image and likeness of His dear Son (Jesus). Seems to me, that conformation would begin with honor. We honor God because He is worthy of all honor. And yet—do we? Do we honor God? I am learning something about honor that I didn't know until today.

We see honor displayed in many ways in today's society. We honor movie stars with their posed pictures all over the newsstand and airways. We honor heroes with parades and salutes. We honor our country with songs of allegiance. But is that what God means for us to do when He says we must honor Him above all and honor our mother and father? I have been asking God about this for a few years now. "What do you mean by honor your father and mother? How is an adult child supposed to honor their father and mother?" It seems easy for me to honor God—because He is wonderful—the perfect parent—but as an adult how do I honor my parents? I read in one book that said the best way for an adult child to honor their parents was to live a life that brought them honor. I have tried to do that. I have tried to live my life so that it brings God honor—if He is honored, I think my parents would be too.

God gave Israel the ten commandments on two tablets of stone. The first stone has the five commandments concerning man's relationship with God. The second stone and correspondent set of five commands pertain to relationships among people. The first commandment on the first stone has to do with honoring God—the first commandment on the second stone has to do with honoring parents. The two correspond. He says to Israel: "I Am the Lord your God. I brought you out of Egypt, from the house of slavery. Because of that, I Am the only God you must honor and serve. There is no other." Likewise, we are to honor our parents—they are the only parents we will ever have. They are the parents He has given us. We should honor them as such.

Whether we understand their ways or not—we are to honor them. There are no loop holes to slip through here. The text is explicit. Even if our parents are not by definition "honorable," the command is there—He gives us no excuse not to honor our parents. The reason is clear to me. If we can't honor the parents we see, how can we honor the God we cannot see? Often we may not understand all of God's ways (Isaiah 55:9), but because He is God and because we are not—we must honor Him. In doing so, we eventually grow to understand more of His ways and are blessed in the process.

God has said that He placed each of us into our mother's womb. That means He chose the mother we have. Whether she was a good mother or not. Whether she chose to keep you or give you away—God chose her womb to knit you together (Psalm 139). God has said He knew us before He placed us in our mother's womb (Jeremiah 1:5). It sounds like it was a deliberate action on God's part in choosing our mother (by implication—parents). I can name several reasons this makes sense to me. Perhaps the DNA mix is what he wanted to accomplish. Perhaps he saw what those parents could and would be with His influence in their hearts—and that would have been the optimal experience for the child He designed in that womb. I don't believe He placed anyone in a womb with the intent to see that person suffer abuse and neglect. I don't believe cruelty was God's intention for anyone. But because we have a will—we all choose from moment to moment to either honor God with our attitudes and actions or we can choose not to. Some got parents who chose not to do things God's way—and sometimes that resulted in cruelty to the child. But that does not mean it was God's intent for that child.

What we do with the precious child God placed in our womb—is an act of honoring God or not. Period. How we value that little life He has given us depends on how we value Him and His influence in our lives. I believe one reason the religious Jewish people are the most prosperous and successful people on the earth (per capita) is because they are taught to honor God. Because of that supreme honor—they honor His gift of children and so they bless their children and teach their children with love and grace to honor the gift of life God has given them. And yet, if they were not good parents—there is no stipulation given that excuses not honoring our parents. The command is the same for all.

Jesus lives out that example vividly. Let me show you some things about Jesus' Father He chose to honor:

"It was the Lord's will to crush Him and cause Him to suffer . . . " (Isaiah 53:10).
"For they have persecuted Him whom You Yourself has smitten, and they tell of the pain of those whom You have wounded." (Ps 69:26)
"He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?" (Rom 8:32)

Jesus honored His Father because He knew the Father's heart well enough to know why it was His will to crush Him. He understood why it pleased God for Him to suffer—because it would spare the multitude. Jesus' life was the price to pay for the ransom of our souls. This is why God wanted Him crushed. The wrath because of sin was poured out on that perfect sinless being who laid down His life to honor the Father He adored.

I have not honored my parents so vividly. Quite the contrary; in comparison to Jesus, I have not honored my parents at all. Today I repented to God for not honoring my parents in the way I should. Perhaps my parents can forgive me as well.

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