Anyone who has been involved in home education for longer than a week has probably had to deal with relatives who don’t approve of their decision. This is always a touchy subject. However, things get a little more dicey when the skeptical party happens to be your parents. What is a respectful, God-honoring child supposed to do when the parents who raised them don’t like what they have chosen to do in the education department? How about this? Honor your father and mother, hold fast to the word, and hold fast to your spouse.
Honor Your Father and Mother
Whatever we do, we must begin with the unalterable biblical mandate to honor our mother and father. The Bible is clear and unwavering in this regard. ““Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.” (Exodus 20:12 ESV; cf. Deut. 5:16) This is the Decalogue; God’s Moral Law. We are bound by and to this commandment for all time, and under all circumstances. Therefore, we must honor our parents even when we cannot agree with them.
Honoring our mother and father means that we must be respectful in the way we communicate with them. There is never an excuse for being disrespectful to our parents. We teach this to our children, and we must also model it before them. How hypocritical would it be for us to demand respect from our children on the basis of the Fifth Commandment and not render the same respect to our own parents?
This does not mean that our parents are always right. Nor does it mean that we must always agree with them. Nonetheless, we must be respectful. We honor our parents’ position. The same principle applies in the political arena. Do we have to agree with everything our President says in order to respect him and address him as, “Mr. President” when we are in his presence? Do I have to agree with the way the officer is addressing me in order to give him the respect of saying, “Yes, Officer”? No. I simply give honor to whom honor is due (Rom. 13:7). Therefore, even if my father is a raving maniac who was a terrible, abusive deadbeat, I must offer him the respect his position is due even while I am disapproving of his lifestyle, or making an educational decision with which he disagrees.
You see your decision to home educate as a mandate from the Lord. However, your parents may see it as a repudiation of the way they raised you. They hear you saying, “Christian parents are obligated to give their children a Christian education,” and they can’t help but feel that you somehow think they were “unchristian” in their decision to send you to the local high school. Of course you don’t mean that (at least I hope you don’t), but the implication is almost inevitable.
Try to hear your words and view your decisions from their perspective. Think about what you say to your parents and how you choose to say it. Pray that the Lord will help you “be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16) Ask him to “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” (Colossians 4:6) This must be especially true when we speak to our parents.
Hold Fast to The Word
While we must honor our parents, we must also remember that our relationship with them changes when we are married and have families and households of our own. The Bible is clear at this point as well:
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” (Genesis 2:24-25; cf. Eph. 5:32)
While I am a complimentarian, and fully embrace male headship in the home, I do not ascribe to the type of “patriarchy” some attempt to impose wherein a man serves as the head of his own household and the households of his married children. When a man takes a wife he ‘leaves’ his father’s household and establishes a new household over which he is now head; not his father (see: Gen 3:16; 1Cor 11:3; Eph 5:23).
Therefore, while it is wise to seek and respect the advice of one’s father (especially if he is a godly man), a married man or woman is not obligated to follow such advice. Jesus said:
““Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:34-39 ESV)
This is clearly hyperbole. However, we mustn’t miss the point. Our obligation is to Christ first and foremost. If there is ever a choice between following Christ and following our family... we follow Christ. This can be a difficult tightrope to walk. However, walk it we must. We must honor our mother and father (Exodus 20:12 ESV; cf. Deut. 5:16), and we must leave and cleave (Genesis 2:24-25; cf. Eph. 5:32). We cannot violate Scripture in either instance.
Hold Fast to Your Spouse
In addition to holding fast to Scripture, we must also hold fast to our spouse. We must not allow anything, or anyone to violate the sanctity of our marriage; not even our parents. For example, the Bible teaches women to submit to their own husbands (Eph. 5:22-24; cf. Col. 3:18; 1 Pet. 3:1-6). How is she submitting to her husband if she is allowing her father (or mother) to overrule household decisions? By the same token, if a man is merely following the whims and wishes of his parents and not leading his own family is he really exercising the headship to which he was called? Of course the other question is, if we allow parents to dictate what we do, whose parents overrule? Do we listen to his, or her parents? Do we draw straws, go by age, or find some other criteria? Where does it end?
Marriage is tough enough without in-law drama. When we make decisions about the way we educate our children, we should welcome sound, biblical advice from our parents. We should also be understanding and respectful when we disagree. However, we must not violate Scripture, or the sanctity of our own marriage in the process. Does this make it any less awkward? Absolutely not! However, it is much easier to “suffer the slings and arrows” of disapproving parents when we are doing what the Scriptures teach and preserving the unity and sanctity of our marriage. Remember, “if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed.” (1 Peter 3:14)