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  • Writer's pictureAllison Wilcox

The Fourth Commandment

“Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. ~ Exodus 20:12

"We should so fear and love God as not to despise nor displease our parents and those in authority, but honor, serve, obey, love, and respect them." ~ Martin Luther

The first commandments cover the "Love God," portion of the commandments. Now we are moving into the "love your neighbor as yourself part." They mirror in many ways the first three. In the first commandment we are told to honor God above all else.

Here, we are told also to honor our parents.

It's a big task - and sometimes difficult one - to put God above everything: to have no other gods - idols - before God.

Is this one easier to follow?

What about for children whose parents abuse them? Or neglect them? Or abandon them?

What about those children whose parents are addicts? Or convicts?

I really question Luther about expanding on the commandment to include "serve" and "obey" here. And even on the Commandment itself to "honor." Certainly there is a place for love - since we are even asked to love our enemies.

But how do we honor and serve and obey those who cause us harm?

I don't have an answer for you except to say that sometimes honor, and love, have to take place from a distance. A safe distance.

And then notice how Luther includes "authorities" along with parents. I'll bet there are some authorities you struggle with honoring, even if you know you should obey them.

See...not so easy.

A Prayer by Martin Luther: Dearest God and Lord, strengthen and uphold us in your pure, precious Word through Jesus Christ our Lord, and help us to show and live our thanks with our fruits of faith to your praise and thanks forever. Amen.

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