The Bible doesn't specifically mention respecting our parents. So, does that mean we're off the hook? Nope. The idea of respect is implied in the other commands God gives us about honoring our parents.
Honoring someone is giving value to that person and treating them with the dignity they deserve as part of God’s creation and plan. Regardless of our parents’ behavior and character, we are supposed to give them honor (Exodus 20:12). The idea of honor is directly connected to respect, and the formula for honor shows us how to treat our parents. Because of their assigned, priceless roles as mother and father, we should give them attention and esteem.
As children, obedience is the way we respect our parents. In fact, obedience is a commandment (Ephesians 6:1; Colossians 3:20). It doesn’t matter if we approve of what they tell us or not; kids should listen and obey. Parents should expect obedience to help children grow into respectful adults, and they ought to teach through example by respecting what their kids have to say. The only instance where disobedience is acceptable is if a parent asks the child to do something that goes against God’s other commands (Acts 5:29).
Of course, as we grow up, respecting our parents can get harder. They don’t see that we're becoming our own person, that we want and need independence. Yet, respect is still absolutely necessary. Most of the time, they're doing their best to raise us to become functional humans. If you feel like your parents are not letting you spread your wings enough, a respectful conversation is much better than rebellion. One is commanded by God, and the other is a sin. Plus, a respectful conversation shows you've been learning and taking their guidance to heart.
Adults living on their own no longer need to obey their parents, but they still need to honor their advice and consider their counsel (Proverbs 23:22). Keeping in touch with your parents is another way to honor and respect them. Let them stay in your life, especially as they age. Older parents have increasing needs, and adult children should be aware and be prepared to meet those needs if possible. Refusing respect leads to bitterness (Hebrews 12:15), which isn't healthy for anyone.
We know not all parents are good. There is abuse and neglect in many households, and survivors need to maintain strict physical and emotional boundaries to stay safe and break toxic patterns. But those boundaries should be instigated with humility and respect, because even bad parents are made in the image of God (James 3:9). The relationship between adult child and abusive parent may be different and more distant than other examples, yet we can still be respectful. If possible, we should take steps to restore the bond, but it may be wise to do so under the guidance of a trusted counselor.
The relationship between a child and their parent is an irreplaceable one to be treasured. Our parents deserve respect and honor, even if they've failed us in small and large ways, because of they are creations of God and have been given a special role in our lives.
Respecting our parents is not specifically mentioned in the Bible, but it is still an important biblical principle. God calls us to honor our parents all our lives (Exodus 20:12). Children show this honor by obeying their parents (Ephesians 6:1; Colossians 3:20). Adults show respect through maintaining the relationship and listening to and considering their parents’ advice (Proverbs 23:22). Even bad parents deserve respect—which can be maintained through healthy boundaries—for the part they played in God’s plan for us.
Amanda is an awkward literature nerd who is more comfortable with words than people. Her family, understanding this shortcoming, has lovingly supplied her with many books over the years to give them reprieve from her attempts at conversation. She is now in college, where she gets to read entrancing textbooks on research and ethics, and where she attempts to share some knowledge in coherent sentences working as a peer tutor. One day, maybe, if she studies hard enough, God will help her have a natural interaction with a stranger.