The study of how to interpret biblical laws and apply them to our lives today (the text we study in class is the command in Deuteronomy 22:8 to build a parapet around your roof) results in many opportunities to talk about issues related to spiritual formation, including such areas as celebrating the Sabbath, helping the poor, and identifying legalism. One interesting area we examine is how to honor our parents.

Although many Christians today view this command as specifically for children, I think that this command is primarily for adults and only secondarily for children (perhaps I will include more argumentation for this view in a future blog post). Ancient Israel did not have nursing homes or other places that cared for the elderly; the only way for an elderly person to be cared for was by their children. I think that the command to “honor your parents” primarily refers to the responsibility of adult children to care for their parents as they age. As a way to encourage my students to think about honoring their parents as adult children, I give them the following assignment.

Actively honor your parents in a way beyond your usual relationship. For some, this will mean initiating contact and having a full conversation in which you actively listen to what they are doing and struggling with currently, and you share about your life. For others, it will involve doing something for your parents, such as cleaning their house, or taking them out to lunch or coffee (and you pay for it). Or you could express your appreciation for them in a way that is not common for you. If you have never had a spiritual conversation with your parents, perhaps you could do a Bible study with them on a text that you have studied for a class. If you are not able to complete this assignment with your parents, find a way to honor another person from a generation older than you, such as another family member or an elderly person at your church.