Tuesday, 12 November 2013

How to Live Long and Prosper

It is far from easy growing up into adulthood these days. Peer group pressure, online bullying, teenage fashion trends, relationships, body image, not to mention the demands of teachers and of course the expectations of parents, can make the business of growing up long and arduous.

As a former deputy head of a large west highland secondary school, a significant part of my career involved dealing with a huge variety of pupils and their parents/ guardians. In this context, I must confess that on many occasions, I felt heart sorry for some pupils whose feckless parents had provided them with little in the way of security or moral guidance.

On the other hand some highly controlling parents stifled the very creative and energetic lifeblood from their children, while others still, tried to live their lives through their children, denying them the time, space and encouragement to grow as individuals.

Brought up in a loving Christian family, my siblings and I were regularly reminded of the Fifth of the Ten Commandments, particularly when our attitudes or behaviour sometimes fell short of what was expected: ‘Honour your father and mother. Then you will live a long, full life in the land your God is giving you.’

As I got to an age when I could read the Bible for myself, I found with a little glee, that the honour children were due their parents was not a one way street. The Apostle Paul in his letter to the Christians in Ephesus explained that parents have a responsibility to conduct themselves so as to be worthy of honour:

"Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honour your father and mother. This is the first commandment with a promise, that it may be well with you and that you may live long on the earth. Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord."

This Commandment is important today, although it is too often misapplied to young people and their parents only.

Very sadly, 21st century western culture does not give the elderly the place of honour they so richly deserve today. The philosopher, Bertrand Russell in the latter years of his life complained, "I was born in the wrong generation. When I was a young man, no one had any respect for youth. Now I am an old man and no one has any respect for age."

Today our local churches and the Christian media, with its burgeoning music industry honours youth. However, youth is not the age to which the Bible gives the greatest honour. In the Old Testament the Patriarch Moses said: "Show respect for old people and honour them", and in the New Testament, the Apostle Peter reiterated this principle when he wrote: "You younger men must submit yourselves to the older men".

Writing on the website Christians.org, the editor-in-chief, Dr. Douglas Beyer says: “The fifth commandment is addressed primarily to adults........it has more to do with medical care, old-age pensions, and retirement homes than with disobedient minors. It means quite simply: ‘when your Mum and Dad have to depend on you, don't let them down.’ Honour your father and mother.

Although social security, health care, and old-age pensions have largely taken over the kind of responsibilities enjoined by this commandment, no system can honour your parents for you. Many systems are terribly impersonal and even insultingly dehumanising.”

Jesus gave the Fifth Commandment its most potent application when he said: "Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me".

We honour others by treating them with the same high respect we owe to the person of our Saviour Christ Jesus. Today, our elderly citizens need more than ever to be honoured in this way and reassured of their worth.
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