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In the Gates

Parents First

The Rule of Law: Government of the Conscience (5)

Honoring our parents and forebears teaches us self-control and love.


Every one of you shall revere his mother and his father, and you shall keep my Sabbaths: I am the LORD.” Leviticus 19.3

There are two reasons why honoring our parents must be included among the most central of priorities of the conscience. First is that God includes it along with the Sabbath, which, as we have seen, caries the “above all” qualifier as a high priority for God’s people. Second is that the same word is used to describe our relationship with our parents as to the Lord Himself: “fear.”

The ESV translates the verb, “revere,” in this case, and that is not incorrect. But in the Hebrew mind “fearing” God and “revering” one’s parents would have been very much on the same spectrum of attitudes and activities.

In the same way that the Lord’s Day provides weekly practice in the pursuit of holiness, honoring our parents – and our forebears in the faith – provides the daily discipline of nurturing fear of God – through our practice of obedience – and love for our neighbors – in all the particular ways we show reverence and respect to them, according to the fifth commandment.

As children, honoring our parents requires that we learn self-control; as mature adults, honoring our parents provides daily practice in the obligations of love. This fifth priority of the conscience once again reinforces all those which we have previously explained, thus contributing to a tight and interconnected circuitry of priorities in the soul.

For a practical guide to the role of God’s Law in the life of faith, get The Ground for Christian Ethics by going to and click on our Book Store.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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