Disobedience is rampant — a symbol of this age. Disrespect is universal! Even among God's People it is a severe problem. Your prayer life — your personal relationship with God is in jeopardy. Learn how you can prevent YOUR children from suffering THE RESULTS OF DISRESPECT TO PARENTS — DEATH!
HOW MUCH have you unwittingly conformed to the ways of this world? Can you know whether or not your conduct — your attitude — is pleasing to God? To many of the brethren in God's Church there is one of the commandments that still remains an enigma. Failure to understand and to observe the fifth commandment has blocked many from fervent, heartfelt prayer to God. Are yon one of them? Don't say, no, too quickly — you may never have REALIZED this as your problem! One person — and she speaks for many of you — wrote, "Every time I prayed to God, the words, 'Our Father,' were only phonetic sounds!" The very first words out of her mouth were meaningless, empty. This fact has brought many to the brink of despair. Let's understand and rejoice in the answers God has for you — the answers on how to obey the commandment to "honor your father and your mother."
A Tragic Situation Exists
"I prayed, I cried, 'My father in Heaven!' But I didn't have the sincerity in the word; I couldn't understand! I wanted to speak to Him, as a Father, but found it impossible! I strained my ears during every sermon about prayer, and the advice from them was, 'If you want to know God, go to Him as a Father!' THIS I WANTED TO DO!" DO HER WORDS APPLY TO YOU? Have you lost the knowledge of how to honor your parents — how to keep the fifth commandment? Ours is an upside-down society — a world gone mad — leaving hideous scars on our personalities. Let's understand the problem through the experience of this newly enlightened woman. She continued, "I cried and cried over this, but it seemed to no avail — now I know why! And since I know WHY, I can finally say, after much mental anguish, 'My Father,' and REALLY, TRULY mean it! "My mother and father were divorced when I was about six years old — I saw him only two or three days out of a month. Though I loved him very much, it was impossible for a normal father-child relationship to exist between us. "My mother remarried — not because she loved this man — she needed his help. He treated her very badly — I could never look to him as someone to go to for 'help in time of need,' although I truly had love for him."
The Crux of the Problem
The core of the problem stemmed straight out of abnormal childhood induced under an abnormal family relationship, and deadly to spiritual growth unless recognized in time, and corrected. Many of you, as in the case of this woman, were under similar strained pressure in childhood — "fatherless." "So you see," she writes, "although I had TWO FATHERS, I really had NONE AT ALL! So how could I approach God and think of Him as my Father when I didn't even know what a father was? "But, now, rejoice with me, the BARRIER IS GONE! I was forced by trials to seek Him out, not only as the Almighty and Powerful Being that He is, but as a FATHER, someone to whom I 'can go in time of need,' someone on whom I can 'cast all MY burdens, because He cares for me' — as a FATHER! "Now my prayer life is improving because I have more to talk with Him about. I don't have to keep everything to myself all the time." Here is the kind of contact you have desired to have with your Heavenly Father! You should be having that loving contact day in and day out! But ARE YOU? She exclaims joyfully, "He gave me strength to bear what I would not have been able to do alone! I just want to keep saying, 'Father' now that I know WHAT IT MEANS! I was always worried I was taking His name in vain! I feel like I've had a cool drink of water in a hot desert now that this is off my mind! "I'm SURE that I am not the only one who felt this way. I know there are others who will be just as happy as I am when they really LEARN to look upon Him as a warm and loving Father, and not just as our Creator and Supreme Ruler!" A wretched home life for a long time deterred this woman from having heartfelt and fervent communication with God! Could this be the reason behind your ineffective prayer life? But notice! She, through all her trials, had deep love and concern for her father, her stepfather and her mother. Because of her love and concern, her solution was made easier. This is not true of some of you! In all too many cases, there is disrespect, even hatred, toward one or both of your parents because of imaginary or REAL abuses suffered as a child. It is in your power to correct this feeling — God expects you to do so — most have failed this most important step. The way is open. Don't make it necessary for God to bring upon you severe trials to bring you to the realization of what you should do. You can take positive steps NOW!
Why Such Deep Unhappiness?
While much of the responsibility for strained relations between parents and children must be shouldered by the fathers and the mothers themselves, God holds YOU responsible if you fail to do your utmost to dwell in warm harmony with the family unit. In some few cases this may not be possible. But can you truthfully say so unless first you have tried every avenue? All too often there are proven cases of gross neglect on the part of grown children. Have you written home to the folks in the last six months? There are reports that some have cut themselves off completely — made no effort to communicate in any manner whatsoever since coming to a knowledge of God's Way of life. Unconverted relatives have felt this isolation! They feel that a great, yawning chasm has suddenly appeared to split the family in two at the same time your own religious conversion blossomed. They do not understand, as yet, God's Purpose for you or for themselves, but the coincidence is clear to them. God may leave it up to YOU to help them to understand! This definitely does not mean preach to your relatives! "Be not many masters [teachers}, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation" (Jas. 3:1). Rather, it means you are to conduct every aspect of your relationship with them so that they will come to admire and respect the way you look, the things you do and the happiness they see in you, to long to be as you are. This is what Christ meant when He said, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Matt. 5:16). Notice! It is "your good works," not words! There is a vast difference. Most have said too many words already, and it is this unwise behavior which has been responsible for much deep unhappiness in family relationships.
Parents Held Accountable
True, not all of the blame for strained coolness between a parent and his child falls upon the offspring. The first contact that a child has, your first contact with the world, is through your father and mother. Adam and Eve had as their only Parent, God. God established the pattern for all succeeding generations, "And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man" (Gen. 2:15). God created, and then established a close relationship between Himself as the Father — Creator, and Adam and Eve. He instructed, He commanded, and He walked with them in the fabulous garden. In disobeying their only Parent, they caused this closeness to their God to slip away! They came to fear to communicate with Him as formerly. They hid themselves! (Gen. 3:1-10). Adam and Eve were exiled from His beautiful garden because they rebelled — they dishonored their Father.! (Verses 23 and 24).
Tendencies of Youth
The multiple woes today in family relationships are a direct result of children's not following the sound advice of parents. Youth never profits from the valuable experiences of its elders. It is common everywhere for the fledgling adult to think of his parents as from another bygone age — inexperienced in the contingencies of the present generation! This disregard in all too many cases has degenerated into utter contempt, and the family ties are painfully broken! Little consideration is given to the fact that life's lessons are much the same in any age. TRUE VALUES do not change, but are eternal! Parents who have learned this lesson themselves late in life suffer heart-wrenching grief when witnessing their children stubbornly refusing to learn those same lessons out of their own painful experiences, and reaping permanent scars and warped personalities that sometimes mar generation after generation. It is rare to find a youth who seeks his father's personality and love; who loves, respects and honors his wise counsel; who drinks in the father's years of experience of learning the hard way which can be the key to abundant living. The most frequently heard expression of regret among men and women everywhere has been, "Why, oh WHY didn't I listen! If I could only live my life over I would do as my parents begged me so many times to do!" Experience is an expensive — also a very painful — teacher. Few seem able to realize! Are you able?
The Inspired Educational System
The original way of God for man to receive instruction was through the family, through the aged patriarchs, old in wisdom — father to son; mother to daughter. "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it" (Prov. 22:6)! Notice how often we are admonished to listen to our fathers! "My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother: For they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck" (Prov. 1:8, 9). Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, was inspired further, "My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee; So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding; Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; Then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God" (Prov. 2:1-5). All through his writings, wise King Solomon stated a wise son hears his father's instruction and words of wisdom. There were no radios, television sets, movies and telephones in the days of Solomon. The God-inspired system to educate succeeding generations was that of father-to-son-to-grandson teaching. It was a PERFECT APPRENTICESHIP and love — bond. In the modern age of gadgetry, we have lost sight of God's ways and have turned to man's degenerative ways — ways contrary to the teachings of the Father. This system is an inspired system — Satan-inspired — to break up the only sound basis of a firm society, the home! We need to get back "to the faith which was once delivered" (Jude 3).
Chaos in Two Worlds Resulted
The Bible reveals a remarkable truth that few have taken into account. An important statute of God's was broken. Note it! "And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the fare of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose" (Gen. 6:1, 2). Numerous Biblical accounts prove that God-inspired parents selected the wives for their sons. However, in this account we find the men (these are men, not angels, Matt. 22:30) taking or choosing for themselves wives. The result was emotional upheaval and physical violence to all other life and to the earth within the space of only ;I few short years. God brought this to an abrupt end. "And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth" (Gen. 6:13)! The Flood at the time of Noah was that abrupt end. It was brought about because men had broken free of the God-inspired means of selecting husbands and wives. Sons had rebelled! They "knew better" than their parents. They had broken the fifth commandment and dishonored the advice and counsel of their parents! They reaped the full final penalty along with their fathers. Today continuing rebellion to this principle is apparent in "this present evil world" (Gal. 1:4) all around us. It's time we repented of our part of it.
A Natural Tendency
Men continue to disregard the counsel of their elders. It is natural for them to do so! The results have been far-reaching. Disobedience and disrespect for the views, the wisdom, the advice, the love and the concern of their parents is a growing "right" among even the educated, learned leaders of the world — and among people of God's own Church. Adam and Eve began the fatal trend of following the dictates of an evil and deceitful heart. Disrespect for parents has been an abiding principle of man through the ages. It is popular! Why? You need to know, as Satan knows, this trait was instilled in every man at birth. Man has closed his mind to this profound truth. Here are some of the proofs: "And God saw... that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart [man's heart] was only evil continually" (Gen. 6:5). Also, "for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth" (Gen. 8:21) David became more specific, "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me" (Ps. 51:5)! (David did not say that it was a sin to be conceived, but that from the very moment of his conception in his mother's womb he had instilled within him an evil, vile and sinful nature!) Yes, from the moment of our conception, before ever we are born to our parents, we are bent toward evil. We need desperately to understand that fact! If we understand it, we can shape our tactics in our battle to overcome ourselves and yield to God in real, deep conversion. Paul wrote, "all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23)! "We all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and WERE BY NATURE the children of wrath, even as others" (Eph. 2:3, Phillip's Translation). Solomon summed it up with the words, "There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, hut the end thereof are the ways of death" (Prov. 14:12).
God's Desire for Us
God intends us to me our minds, and to use them properly in evaluating right and wrong, and choosing the right! "O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever" (Deut. 5:29)! God has set a stiff and difficult way before us (Matt. 7:14), but the desire of His heart is for us to choose the rich, joyous and abundant way to real happiness. "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly" (John 10:10)! Again God declares, "I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore CHOOSE LIFE" (Deut. 30:19)!! His desire, His command is for you to choose the way to life! The fifth commandment is the first commandment with promise. "Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honor thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise:) That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth" (Eph. 6:1-3). To honor means to esteem or hold in high regard; to prize; reverence; to have profound respect mingled with love or devotion. That is a large order! Yet it is one that will bring to you undreamed — of blessings and happiness. Are you depriving yourself of these riches?
Clarification Is Important
"Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?" (Matt. 19:4, 5). Some ignore this injunction! One man put it this way, "When my children are grown to adulthood and marry, I'd just like to build on a lean — to to the house and keep them all under one roof with me!" This man's heart was deceitful, playing tricks on him. The scriptures just quoted command just the opposite! He could never be happy disobeying that injunction. His intentions were of the best, but by his own way of thinking. No, God says young people are to leave father and mother and set up housekeeping apart from them. But He did not intend for parents to be cut off from all social contact! There is a happy medium. We all should seek right balance in parental relationship. God exhorts, and warns, "Ye shall fear [hold in reverential love and respect] every man his mother, and his father, and keep my sabbaths: I am the Lord your God" (Lev. 19:3)! "Cursed be he that setteth light by his father or his mother" (Deut. 27:16); "Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord" (Col. 3:20). Here is a circumstance common in God's Church! Some have wrapped themselves up too thoroughly in their own private study habits; some in working too much overtime; and some in personal and family recreational programs. Others are holding down more than one job in order that their contributions to support this end-time Work of God might be increased. At first sight this appears very commendable. But a second look reveals that the elderly, the parents are suffering from lack of fellowship with such. These have unwittingly reared up an impenetrable barrier between themselves and normal associations with the older ones of the family. Such individuals maintain, usually, self-righteous airs when advised of this shortcoming. Failure to see the parallel between self and the Pharisees and the scribes whom Christ reviled can be dangerous. "For Moses said, Honor thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death: But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift.... And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother; Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition" (Mark 7:10-13). No matter how much one does to benefit God's Work, he is still required to honor his parents — even more so than before, wherever possible!
Difficult Situations Require Wisdom
If yours is an unusually difficult parental circumstance you should seek wise counsel before stirring up old fires. Impossible entanglements could bring tragic results One man recently said, "God somehow broke through to me the realization of just how wretchedly I have treated my mother all of these years!" His mother had been forced into the role of being father and mother to the family due to a tragedy that had occurred, She had risen to her responsibilities, becoming provider, counselor — slaving, asking nothing in return. She received little in the way of appreciation for her enormous sacrifices. She never complained, only sacrificed the more! In the misery of remorse this man told me how he had deliberately gone out of his way to be tough, to make his friends realize he was no "mamma's boy"; how he never attempted to conceal his escapades from "Mom," even taking pleasure in getting back at her for "dominating" a fatherless home! Today, this man is attempting to undo years of evil works. The battle is hard. He has made a total about-face in a desperate attempt to make up to her for her lifetime of loneliness and heartache, before it is too late. He will succeed, but he needs your prayers. How about you? Will you succeed? Many of you could put that shoe on and find that it fits to a "T." Are you aware of what your true relationship to your parents — father and mother should be? God has not left you in doubt. Study into what he says on the subject even more thoroughly than has been possible in this article. To carelessly assume you are on your way into God's soon-coming Kingdom, when, in reality, you have shut out your own parents, and are therefore yourselves shut out as well, is deadly!
Christ displayed tremendously, and publicly, His great love for His own mother. Many have callously read right over the terrible agony Christ suffered as He hung on the cross gasping out His very life for us. Some have missed entirely His last words. Our Saviour, as He was about to gasp out His last breath, indicated many facets of real, Godly love. He forgave His tormentors through tearing pain when He said, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34). He said to the malefactor suffering with Him, "Verily I say unto thee today, Thou shalt be with me in paradise" (Verse 43). But the Bible records still another facet of Christ's personality — His love for His two parents. Christ's earthly ministry was at an end. He knew His mother was both grief-stricken and destitute. He was concerned! "When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved [John}, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! "Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home" (John 19:26, 27). Here was a love-provision for the care of His mother. Even in agony He mustered the strength to provide for her. Undoubtedly this apparent show of strength angered His Roman executors, for "one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side" (Verse 34). Crying out with a loud voice and knowing that life was now rapidly pouring away from His body, Christ turned to His Father and said, "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost [breath of life]" (Luke 23:46). Here is our perfect example of selfless concern for others and REAL LOVE FOR PARENTS!!
Paul said, "Be ye followers of me, even as I also am [a follower] of Christ." A right principle inspired by the Holy Spirit! It applies today in our relationship with the ministers God has ordained and placed in office. Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong is one of these ministers. Become followers of him as he follows Christ!! To those who know personally Mr. Armstrong, his love and regard for his mother in her great age (95 1/2 years old at the time she died) was an outstanding example of a son's honoring and respecting his mother in a way well-pleasing to God. He was not too busy to shower her with love and attention. He publicly gave her credit for teaching him many of the right principles that guided and affected his life powerfully in both the business world and in God's service as His minister. Before over 2000 of God's people gathered together for the Days of Unleavened Bread in the Civic Auditorium he introduced her personally. She received a grand ovation of appreciation and love just six months before her death. He was a real joy to his mother. How about you? You, as a son or a daughter, can make known your love and concern in countless little ways. Flowers, cards, a visit, or a telephone call can transform these waning years of your parents' lives. If close by, taking them for a ride through the countryside is a marvelous way to re-establish damaged ties. Often, family get-togethers and picnics are enjoyable. Certainly, regular letters to distant parents, whether or not they are answered, can bear much fruit towards improving the love-bond that rightfully should exist. Because most of this world's customs have been proven wrong, many in God's Church have given up honoring mother on Mother's Day and reserving something special for father on Father's Day. These practices are nowhere condemned in your Bible. They are based on Biblical practices and are carryovers from the observance of the fifth commandment whether the participants recognize it or not today. If Dad is accustomed to taking the hack seat in affairs of the family you can help set matters right. Directing your questions — your conversation — more and more to him. Become reacquainted with the man bearing the title, "Father." Let it become known in the family that you hold his advice in high regard. Listen respectfully and patiently to his accounts of activities of bygone days. Glean carefully the many noteworthy items that will prove blessings to your store of knowledge.
Never Too Late to Change
In many instances these changes in your relationship will be difficult. God has not promised an easy way of life. It takes character to turn about and go the right way — it is character God wants you to develop. Desirable, acceptable character will not be the only asset you will reap — but many thrilling rewards in improved family life as well. If diligently applied — if earnest preparation in prayer to God, your ETERNAL FATHER, for divine help and guidance is your first step — you shall see a remarkable transition in your parents' lives. There will be new dash and verve in their personalities. The final result will be the sense of real love, and a stirring realization that together you are preparing to enter into God's very Family as His Sons! May God inspire you to take these very necessary steps.