It seems to me that one of the greatest needs of the Church at large is a recovery of and thereby a thorough repentance with regard to the fifth commandment.
The command to honor father and mother is not limited to merely honoring mom and dad. Honoring father and mother applies to all lawful authorities. Civil magistrates are fathers and mothers, pastors and elders are fathers and mothers, teachers, employers, principles, police men, uncles, grandparents, older siblings and all others ‘over us’ in our lives are fathers and mothers due honor and respect and as far as possible obedience.
Strikingly, one of the places where we are in the greatest danger regarding our keeping of the fifth commandment is in some of the most conservative, family-values sorts of homes and communities. In the Leave-It-To-Beaver outposts of conservative Christianity there is frequently a robust disregard of authority that is being lived out by moms and dads, and the lesson is being learned fabulously by their children.
So this is the drill: Dad leads the family, mom teaches the kids, bakes amazing dinners, and the kids all generally obey and are respectful. The family is all squeaky clean. But when any lawful authority imposes upon mom and dad, the reality bursts out into the open. So for example, when the elders of a presbyterian church do not allow the young children of this family to partake of the Lord’s Supper, the parents throw a pietistic hissy-fit, cause a ruckus, and leave to find a church that will allow them to do what they want.
And of course it is all done with somber faces and pious tones. There are solemn conversations about following the conscience and submitting to Scripture, and all the rest.
But the kids are busy taking notes: “Always get your own way. If they say ‘no,’ throw a fit and leave.”
Or maybe the issue is baptism or education or taxes or in-laws or grandparents.
And my suspicion is that the consequences may frequently be worse in good, Christian families. The greater the order, the better the lesson is learned. The more engaged the kids are, the more likely they will get the point. The more strictly they are required to “obey dad” while this is going on, the more clearly they will get the point.
And so ironically, the home where the fifth commandment is most fervently venerated on the surface may in fact be the breeding ground for some of the worst dishonor, some of the most flagrant disrespect and disobedience.