Sermon Colossians 3.18-4.1--Honor Your Father and Your Mother

Notes & Transcripts

Sermon Honor Your Father and Your Mother.

Text: Colossians 3:18-4:1

Theme: God’s people ought to submit to all those placed in authority over them.

Goal:  to encourage believers to submit to all those placed in authority of them.

Need:  Christians tend to fight against authority and be suspicious of it.


Introduction: a story about the suspicion against authority.

Theme:  God’s people ought to submit to all those placed in authority over them.

1.  Honor, love and be loyal.

2. Obey and submit to correction and punishment.

3. Be patient with their failings.

Conclusion:  Nail goal encouraging believers to submit.


        I have another question for you this evening.  What do Bank Executives, Richard Nixon, and the federal sponsorship scandal from the early part of this century have in common?  They all have high powered people that destroyed the trust of those who they had authority over.  In the Banks from a couple years ago, we trusted that they would be making decisions that were best for worldwide economies.  We trusted that they would regulate banks themselves and do what was best of the continued advancement of our ecomonies and the wellbeing of our people and societies.  Richard Nixon called for many people to break several laws in an attempt to get a political upperhand in the Watergate scandal.  And the sponsorship scandal saw millions of dollars of tax payers money being channelled into companies and to individuals while the wool was pulled over the public’s eyes.


        These are just three examples of people in authority who have helped to destroy whatever respect people of our generation have for those in authority.

        Its not like we needed any more reason to distrust authority afterall?  We do live in the post Woodstock and Vietnam era where it became socially exceptable to distrust against all authority.  It became fashionable to be a rebel.  Stick it to the Man!  I don’t know if any generation has ever been so vocal about their rebellion as the generation that grew up in the 60’s and came to adulthood in the 70’s but the same themes of rebellion and fighting against the system have continued on for today.

        But rebellion against authority is not something new.  It is just a part of young adulthood it seems.  I am just glad my children will never disagree with me or challenge my authority!

        But its not always the young who have trouble with authority.  In general we have trouble thinking that anyone else can really hold any sort of sovereign authority over the big M.E.

        In our society I am sure the perception is out there about pastors and elders and deacons in the church.  They must think they are better than the rest of us and think they can boss us around.  I know there are people out there who will look at you with suspicion if you are a leader in the church.  If you asking someone to explore the faith you must be trying to take my money or something.  That’s why its more important for people who are not ordained in the church to be good examples in the work place and why its important for everyone together to be promoting the work of Christ.  Today it is more influential to hear the truth of Christ from a factory worker than it is from a member of the clergy.  Its unfortunate, but its true.  Authority is often looked down on in our world today.

        But the 5th commandment is one that challenges us to give the appropriate loyalty, submission, and patience for those in authority over us.  That’s the way the Heidelberg catechism summarizes it for us.  Loyalty.  Submission.  Patience for all those who are in authority is what is at the core of what is commanded for us to follow.

        The command of course speaks only of the family authority.  It says “Honor your Father and your mother so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.”  And Jewish scholarship has pointed out that in Leviticus 19:3 when the command is stated for a third time the order of father and mother is reversed.  It says “each of you must respect your mother and father.”  There is no difference in the respect we show.  Its not more to the mother or more to the father.  The command is that we honor our parents both of them.

        Its wonderful that God commanded this.  It reminds us that one of the primary relationships that needs to be nurtured and upheld is the relationship between parents and children.  We have known for a long time and have seen it in scripture: the strength of our society is based on the strength of the family. 

        We have lots of ways to measure financial progress of our society.  Stock markets.  Home sales.  Cost of Living.  Inflation.  GDP.  We can measure military might by our level of arctic sovereignty and the number of F-35’s over Canadian skies.  But we really have no measure that gets at one of the most important measures.  How strong are the families in our society.  Perhaps that should guide our measure of strong our nation is.

        But the catechism rightly broadens the scope of this command when it says “and all those in authority over me.”  That’s exactly right.  Its what Christ tells us elsewhere in Scripture when he says give to Caesar what is caesars.  And we hear it from Paul in passages like the ones we read for this evening.  It probably states it the best in Hebrews 13:17.  17 Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you. [1]

        Whether its authority figures in government or in schools or church or in the home, give honor and submit to the authority that was given to them by God.

        The catechism describes what we must actively do when being obedient to this command.  We must honor, love, and be loyal to our fathers and our mothers it says.

        Those three are very similar to each other.  We need to be loyal to our parents.  What does that look like?  You know, that could take on many different forms depending on the family and the way your parents would like you to show your loyalty to them.  And it is probably much different today than it would have been for our good friends Ursinus and Olevianus the authors of the catechism.  They probably didn’t have too many different options you care at home for you parents in their old age.  Sons carry on the family name.  You name your kids after your parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts.  That’s just what you do.  Today there are more ways that we have to think to honor our parents.

        Now we honor our parents often by constantly showing them the respect that they deserve.  That reminds me, I didn’t call my parents this afternoon like they like me to do.  We honor them by not moving out of the house and then pretending that they don’t exist for us any more.  We honor them through gifts and thank yous and by many different means.  We hold them up in prayer.

        The same would be true for all the officials that God has put over us.  We honor them because they are people in a position of authority.  Perhaps we should rethink the way we treat our government leaders.  They are under so much pressure to perform and yet we poke fun of them and do all kinds of things that disrespect them and make their life even more difficult.  Rick Mercer is hilarious, but I wonder when political humour cross the line into the realm of disrespecting those in God-given authority.

        The second thing the catechism tells us about this command is that we ought to obey and submit to them.  As we get older the role this plays in our lives diminishes.  Less and less we need to obey our parents wishes.  But when as you look back, the younger and younger you are the more and more important this command.  In fact, this is really about the only command that really governs the life of the youngest child.  Just obey your parents. (see Kuyvenhoven).


        We must obey our governments as well.  Its true.  We shouldn’t play all these silly games to hide money away from being taxed by the government.  We really shouldn’t.  We shouldn’t break laws of our communities.  We shouldn’t.

        But there is an area that falls right in the middle of these two parts of the understanding of this command that can cause us lots of inner turmoil and wrestling.  There are places where it becomes apparent that obeying your parents would not be the loving thing to do for them. 

        Perhaps your children have made some of those discisions already.  One place might be in the area of driving.  Your children may have decided that its time to take away your vehicle and license.  Most likely they wrestled with that decision for a long time.  You see they want to obey your wish to let you continue driving.  But they have decided that the chance of an accident is so great that they honestly believe it actually shows their deep love for you that they would take away your freedom in that way.

        Maybe you are in one of those places with a parent right now where there wish is something so much different from what you know is best for them.  In that situation, what do you do?  In that situation it has to be a judgement call.  When was the love part of honouring your parent override the obeying specific instructions.

        We ought to continue to see the importance of this command.  In the Old Testament the punishment for dishonouring your parents was exactly the same as blaspheming the name of God.  The punishment of those two sins fall into the same category.  Execution.  Stoning.  As we live out our faith then without the fear of being executed for disobedience, we should continue to see that a life of faith in Christ involves commiting our lives and hearts to our family relationships.  And it also involves showing the proper respect for whatever authority God places over us at the time.

        But since parents are not perfect, we need to honor them in the third way mentioned by the catechism, and this one can often be difficult with parents.  Patience.  Sure they don’t get it.  You’re a teenager.  Your parents are from the stoneage.  They seem to not look at the full picture on things.  Don’t worry, they thought that of their parents too.  Since neither side of this relationship is perfect we need exercise discipline in the way we react when other let us down.  We don’t snap.  We hold off with patient understanding that no one is perfect.  Even people given authority by God make mistakes.  Yet it is not because they are perfect that have authority over us.  It is because God has given the authority that we respect their authority and honor their failings with patience.

        This command to honor our father and mother is the first command on the second table of the law.  The first four commands tell us how we are to love God.  And the last six express how we are to show our love to the people around us.  And just like how the first command love God alone is the ground level and supporting level of the commands that follow, this command to obey and respect others gives the foundation for the obedience and respect spelled out in the next five commands. 

        So begin in your lives considering the authority in your life.  Pay due honor.  Obey and submit to their instruction and teaching.  And be patient when they let you down.  And we will hear in the coming weeks other was in which we can love our neighbour as our selves. 


[1]The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (Heb 13:17). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

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