I'd like to point out something in order to emphasize the importance of this commandment. The first four commandments have to do with our "vertical" relationship": our relationship with the Lord. The last six commandments deal with our "horizontal" relationship: our relationships with other people. Of the latter six commandments, the very first one God mentions is the one telling us to honor our parents. And by the way, the very next commandment is the one forbidding adultery, thus displaying how much God values marriage. This tells me--and of course both common sense and history bear this out--that the family is the foundation of society. A society might last a while after its families break down, but it's like a tree branch that's been cut off from the tree: Seemingly alive for a while, but dying.
I believe that in America this is one of the most openly flouted commandments of the Ten. At least three generations in America so far have been fed on the notion that anyone older than them is a fool at best and an evil person at worst. The rallying cry in the 1960’s was “Don’t trust anyone over 30,” and subsequent generations have followed this example. Of course, this is a youth-obsessed culture: Most of its advertising resources are channeled into snagging teenagers and pre-teens, and most of the music and other media target this group as well. One might think from listening to most people that the world started on the day they were born, so there’s no need to study history, American or otherwise.
The odd thing is, this overemphasis on youth makes us the oddball. All of the culture and societies which have populated this planet over the several thousand years of recorded history have tended to trust old over young (both ideas and people). God’s command in Leviticus to stand up in respect for the aged would have been practically unnecessary for most people, but not us.
This isn't to say that it’s impossible to go overboard in the other direction. Most of the conflicts you find in the book of Acts are from the Good News breaking through barriers of tradition, and "tradition" (as we’ve mentioned before) really is just “how we’ve always done it.” Having said that, I believe that this command is a wonderful corrective to our culture.
The first obvious application is how we treat our physical parents. None of us have perfect parents (some a lot less perfect than others), but we owe them for at least one thing (bringing us into this world). This command is not conditional in any way: Even when we have moved out of their home and established our own family, even when they're long dead, I believe that we're required to honor them as best we can, and treat them with respect. This respect is not necessarily because of what they've done; it's required because of who they are. Of course, this respect should be a hundred-fold if we were raised in a Christian home and influenced in any way towards the Lord. Naturally, strict obedience to our parents is limited to children (who live inside the home), but honoring them has no time limit for adults. If you were 70 years old, you should still show respect towards your 90-year-old dad.
I also believe that we should honor our non-bio “parents” as well. Paul called himself the “father” of everyone whom he led to Christ, so I think we should be eternally grateful for those who (directly or indirectly) led us to our Savior. And maybe it’s just me, but I also feel gratitude towards the spiritual heroes over the centuries who have influenced the church for the better and who inspire me to follow my Lord more closely. As Lewis said when complimented on his writings, we're all midgets standing on the shoulders of giants.
Lord Jesus, I am so grateful for the blessings you have poured out over me. You are so good to me.
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