Echo High School just wrapped up a series on relationships that we called “Brothers, Mothers, and Others.” There are few things that impact the life of a student more than his or her relationships. The old Youth Pastor cliche says (somewhat rightly): “You show me your friends and I will show you your future.” In this series, we talked about the way that our fallen and broken condition impacts the way we relate to one another. We are suffering from “relationship sickness.” There is something broken in the way that we conduct relationships. This goes all the way back to the beginning, and we can see the relational decay that sin has caused very early in the epic story of the Bible. We talked about the vision of Jesus that is the Kingdom of God, and the new way forward for our relationships that it describes. Through the grace, mercy, and self-giving of Christ we find a model for the way to conduct our relationships differently with His help. This might be especially true when it comes to the way teens relate to their parents.
The bible gives two commands when it comes to relating to parents: Obey and Honor. Paul says this in Ephesians 6:1-4: ‘Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— “that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.’
This passage gives instruction to both children and their parents, and it seems very cut and dry: parents-raise your children with discipline and teach them the ways of God, children-obey your parents. Anyone that was ever a teenager or has had one in their house knows that parent/teen relationships are never that easy. It might help to understand that the bible actually gives two different commandments regarding parents, one to children and one to adults. Children are to obey their parents. This command is about the channel of authority and training and protecting children. Adults are to honor their parents. This command is about preserving and recognizing the wisdom of older generations for the good of the community. It is also about making sure that adults care for and honor their elderly parents.
This gets complicated with teens because they are in a stage of transition. They are moving from total dependence on their parents to a life of independence. This is one of the main tasks of the adolescent journey, to move toward autonomy and become an adult. This is why teenagers instantly know everything. They are trying to figure out who they are uniquely and independently from mom and dad. So they are on the road to adulthood, even if they haven’t arrived yet. This is the source of a lot of conflict on the parent relationship front. Teens want to be treated like adults and enjoy adult freedom, but they are not yet showing us adult wisdom or adult levels of responsibility. When you are a child, you obey because you must. They are bigger than you, so you really don’t have a choice. As you transition to adulthood, there are new dimensions to this relationship. Things shift slowly from obedience to honor. The idea of honor is one of respect mingled with love and adoration. One of the most difficult tasks of the teen years is figuring out how to honor your parents as you assert autonomy and find Independence.
Obey – for teens, you have to understand that as long as you depend on your parents for anything (you live in their house, eat their food, wear their clothes, drive their cars, or enjoy their cell phones), you must follow their rules. You feel like you want independence, and that is great, but you are still dependent. You will leave the house someday, but that isn’t today. The rules aren’t bad, they exist to keep you from harm.
Honor – An independent adult is not commanded to obey his or her parents in all things, but hey or she is commanded to show them honor. Our culture puts such a high value on everything being equal that we have lost our understanding of how to honor people. When my parents generation was growing up, men would stand when a women came to or left the table, take their hats off when they were indoors, and listen respectfully when in the presence of someone older. The model today is one where even our Olympic athletes show little reverence for the national anthem (as our medal winning snowboarders demonstrated this winter). When you figure out what it means to treat people above you with honor, you will have found one of the great marks of maturity. This generation is very casual with teachers, pastors, coaches, and even parents. There is something positive about the familiarity, but when it obscures honor, it is sad. Learn what it means to treat your parents with profound respect, and you will be unlocking a trait that will set you head and shoulders above your peers. Honor might be a lost art, but it is one that followers of Jesus should rediscover.
Food for thought:
*Are we guilty of “exasperating” our children?
*Does the way we do discipline as a family help bring our teens toward the things of God?
*What can we teach our teens about honor? How can we encourage them to show honor?
*What does a healthy level of independence look like for our teens? At what age or at what level of maturity do we release them to certain privileges or levels of freedom? How can we leverage these moments?