Aug 1 2013
Question: My father abused my siblings and me...for years. Recently, he demanded that we come to his house to receive an early part of our inheritance. We would no longer be considered his children if we did not show up and obey his decree. His “gift” had some specific conditions that I believed were wrong. Due to these conditions, I and several other siblings could not “obey” and declined or returned the money. This made him furious. How do I honor this man...who has shown no evidence of repentance at all...and when I am no longer his child, by his own vow? How do I address him as “father” or “dad” ever again?
Response: Paul wrote, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour 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).
So, first, children are to “obey” their parents “in the Lord.” We may not always have godly parents, and some of their commands may contradict the revealed will of the Lord. Paul writes in Romans:13:1, “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.” Our first obligation is to obey the Lord, regardless of our age.
Second, we are told to “honor thy father and mother....” Some may think that to “honor” our father or mother means to obey every demand they may make. This isn’t true. Again, our first priority is the express will of God, and when our earthly parents stand in opposition to this, we certainly cannot disobey the Lord.
There is a difference between a child in submission to their parents and adults who no longer live with their parents. “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Gn 2:24). In our view, adult children are accountable first to the Lord and are no longer under the direct authority of their parents.
What does it mean to “honor” someone? In 1 Peter:2:17 we are told, “Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.” Certainly “honoring” all men doesn’t include agreeing to or obeying every demand they may make. It does mean, however, to be respectful: “Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing” (1 Pt 3:9).
What should be our response before authorities? When Paul was before the “chief priests,” the High Priest commanded one of his aides to strike him (Acts:23:2). Paul replied, “God shall smite thee, thou whited wall...” (Acts:23:3).
Regardless of the unjustness of his “trial,” when the authority of the high priest was pointed out (v. 4), Paul’s reply (v. 5) was, “I wist not, brethren, that he was the high priest: for it is written, Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people.” Paul “reviled not again” (1 Pt 2:23).
When Daniel’s three friends appeared before Nebuchadnezzar, they answered firmly, but without railing, “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us....But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up” (Dn 3:17-18). God did intervene and the king “promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, in the province of Babylon” (v. 30).
You ask how you can “address him as ‘father’ or ‘dad’ ever again.” Shouldn’t the question be “how do I respond according to the Scriptures?”
Despite what your father has said or done, he remains your father. Neither you nor he can change that fact. If his “decree,” however, means there will be no further contact with him, that rests with the Lord. Who knows how the Lord may intervene as He did for Daniel’s three friends? Your godly conduct may be used of the Lord to convict, bring repentance, and change the heart of your father. And of course, you should never cease to pray for him.