What Does it Really Look Like to ‘Honor Your Father and Mother’? Exodus 20:12, Deuteronomy 5:16

    Honoring your father and your mother is the only commandment out of the Ten Commandments that is followed by a promise, Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may be well with you in the land which the Lord your God is giving you. (Deuteronomy 5:16)

    Exodus 20:12Amplified Bible

    12 “Honor (respect, obey, care for) your father and your mother, so that your days may be prolonged in the land the Lord your God gives you.

    The Word of God for the Children of God.

    Adeste Fidelis. Venite Adoremus. Dominum.

    Gloria. In Excelsis Deo. Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Amen.

    Most Christians are very familiar with the verse “honor your father and mother”, but few actually know of it’s origin in the Bible.

    The command to honor your father and mother actually comes from the Old Testament book of Exodus 20 in the story of the 10 Commandments.

    However, it is also a command that is repeated several times in both the Old and New Testament. 

    Chapter 20 of the Book of Exodus serves as a powerful reminder of the intimate relationship God has with humankind.

    This passage specifically reveals the intense care and concern that God shows toward His Children.

    Today this chapter remains popular because of a very special occurrence – the Ten Commandments.

    At eighty plus years old, after venturing up to Mount Sinai, Moses, a father, brought down the Ten Commandments, rules given Him directly from God.

    The Ten Commandments described ten precepts for how God expected His people to behave.

    This monumental moment follows after the Israelites fled Egypt. 

    Chapter 19 in the Book of Exodus details how the Israelites camped in the wilderness, now living a life outside of slavery for a few months.

    God informs Moses that He desires to bless the nation of Israel.

    However, He also wants them to keep a covenant with Him (Exodus 19:5-6).

    The Ten Commandments serve as part of that covenant.

    One of these commandments spoke to the relationship between a child and parent and is a guideline we as Christians still ought to be following today.

    Exodus 20:12The Message

    12 Honor your father and mother so that you’ll live a long time in the land that God, your God, is giving you.

    The reason this commandment in addition to the other nine is still relevant today is because Jesus indicated such to later believers (Matthew 5:17-20).

    Jesus did not abolish the law, but rather came to fulfill it.

    The Apostle Paul wrote to the followers at the church at Ephesus;

    Ephesians 5:1-2 Amplified Bible

    Be Imitators of God

    Therefore become imitators of God [copy Him and follow His example], as well-beloved children [imitate their father]and walk continually in love [that is, value one another—practice empathy and compassion, unselfishly seeking the best for others], just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and sacrifice to God [slain for you, so that it became] a sweet fragrance.

    We are to do our part yet today in abiding in Jesus, by these commandments.

    Today, I do not believe there is little to no controversy about whether or not the Ten Commandments are still relevant.

    What has been up for rather contentious debate in the meaning of “honor” in the context of parents and children.

    There are many instances of children being the victims of incest, abandonment, neglect, or other severe and seriously exploitive forms of ultra damaging abuse.

    In these situations, how does a child honor a parent, when the parent lacks any concept or context of abiding in God, His Son Jesus and have honor for the child.

    To understand this commandment, we have to examine the original context.

    What Is the Original Meaning of Honor Your Father and Mother in Exodus 20?

    The commandment to honor our father and mother is the fifth of the ten mentioned.

    The commandment to precedes this one is honoring the Sabbath, followed by the commandment to not murder.

    Scripture explains the reason why the commandment should be followed.

    Exodus 20:12Amplified Bible

    12 “Honor (respect, obey, care for) your father and your mother, so that your days may be prolonged in the land the Lord your God gives you.

    The benefit of abiding by this commandment is longer life, specifically for the Israelites venturing on toward the Promised Land.

    Dennis Prager [https://dennisprager.com/] emphasizes that though this could be viewed as a reward, this is also a reason.

    And many of the other commandments are not given explicit reasons to be followed.

    Prager suggests in a society where parents are honored by children, the society is bound to survive longer, than a society with a weaker family structure.

    This commandment in Exodus is mentioned a number of other times in the Bible, each time as an admonishment to God’s people to better establish them. 

    Deuteronomy 5:16 tells us, “Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, so that your days may be long and that it may go well with you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.”

    Ephesians 6:2 states: “Honor your father and mother” – which is the first commandment with a promise”

    God blesses the people when their parents are honored, but the people are punished when they do not.

    To honor is to hold someone in high regard or reverence.

    The word honor does not mean agree with or even obey, but does suggest in this context a child should hold the highest utmost respect for both of their parents.

    Now that we better understand the original context and interpretation of the commandment to honor thy mother and father, we can try to discern how this precept applies to modern-day life.

    How Can Christians ‘Honor Your Father and Mother’ Today?

    With an understanding of the word honor, there need not be a change in how parents are respected by children today.

    However, with modern cultural shifts, this commandment for some has taken on a different interpretation.

    We can perhaps better, more prayerfully understand the proper ways of honoring parents by first understanding how honoring should not appear.

    As Dennis Prager discusses in his video analysis of the commandment, some parents yearn to be loved, rather than honored.

    The visual example given in his video is that of a parent showering their child with gifts in order to receive affection.

    This same parent when trying to discipline their child instead receives severe retaliation from them.

    This is definitively not an example of a child honoring their parent because instead of respecting them as an “authority” figure, they are simply seeking what else, exactly how much more they can manipulate, gain from the parent.

    Much like the Bible commands us to love others, the call to honor our parents is an outward action – something we do for others.

    Honoring our parents is therefore not contingent upon what they give in return.

    Within the Ten Commandments, verse 12 of Exodus 20 gives no clarification as to what parents are to be honored or even how.

    We can conclude then that all parents are deserving of honor, and we can use the context of love within the Bible to discern appropriate ways to show honor.

    We can even in some instances see how people have honored God as Father as an example.

    Ways we can appropriately honor our parents include:

    Expressing Gratitude
    Parents invest time and effort into raising children.

    Those reasons alone are enough to show them gratitude for the sacrifices they make.

    Parents provide shelter, food, clothing.

    For every action they do in their support of their child is in itself a far more than sufficient reason for expressing their appreciation and gratitude.

    Spending Time Together
    When physically possible, children can and should get together with their parents.

    This acknowledges their existence and places a level of importance upon the relationship.

    If being together physically is not an option, calling a parent on the phone for a check-in is also beneficial.

    Dennis Prager shares with fellow believers he called his parents once a week.

    Another way for children to honor their parents is to find creative ways to serve their desires, wants and needs, much like parents perform on behalf of children.

    To Honor or Not to Honor

    It goes without saying and preaching to the choir that modern parenting is not equivalent to the parenting in ancient biblical Jewish culture.

    Children today learn differently and have certain responsibilities such as owning a cell phone [I never did], which was not true for past generations.

    No matter the time, parents should always be honored.

    One concern followers, nonbelievers have with the commandment is the issue of bad parents, individuals who have abused their children by various means.

    The Bible does not qualify which parents deserve honoring.

    Additionally, Jesus mentions we are to love others as ourselves (Matthew 22:39) and to bless those who persecute us (Romans 12:14).

    We, therefore, know that even when seemingly impossible, we should all do our best to express love for our parents, our children as we express love for our God.

    This fifth commandment, however, does not advocate for putting ourselves in danger with bad parents.

    Applying this commandment for children who have been abused will look different in terms of how they show their honoring.

    Spending time together may be an impossibility but talking on the phone or writing a letter could prayerfully be an option depending on the circumstance.

    Sometimes we have to set boundaries in relationships, and whenever that is the case we have to pray unto our ABBA God for wisdom, so that we may honor His commandment and honor our parents while keeping ourselves safe (James 1:5).

    There are no easy or set human answers how to be complete, perfect parents.

    As Mom’s and Dad’s together …

    The very best we can do is diligently consult the Word of God for His Children.

    Study it …

    Like Jesus did, intentionally plumb its depths, its ways, its truths and its life.

    Pray without ceasing over every aspect of it, revelation from it …

    Koinonia, Fellowship with our ABBA Father, His Son Jesus, Holy Spirit, other Parents …


    Be Still, Be Quiet, know only God is God, and can, should be, exalted as God.

    Matthew 6:25-33New King James Version

    Do Not Worry

    25 “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 Which of you by worrying can add one [a]cubit to his [b] stature?

    28 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not [c]arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

    31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

    In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

    Let us Pray,

    Heavenly Father, thank You for my parents and for giving me life. Thank You for the pleasant and harsh lessons I have learned and the good times and the bad we have shared together. Forgive me for the times when I have not sufficiently honored my father and mother as I ought – for I am now acutely aware that this is dishonoring to You. From this day forward, I pray that I should honour You in all my interactions with my own family and with my friends, and may my life be honoring to You.

    Adeste Fidelis. Venite Adoremus. Dominum.

    Gloria. In Excelsis Deo. Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Amen.


    Imitating Jesus. Modeling Jesus. Learning to See Our Neighbors and Ourselves (Part 2). Ephesians 5:1-2

    The Apostle Paul calls his fellow Christians to imitate God in order to live up to the reputation of God’s family.

    He challenges generations of believers: “walk in the way of love,” as Christ did.

    This is about our loving the way Jesus loved.

    This is about our modeling love the way Jesus modeled love.

    And Jesus always acted in line with the Father’s will.

    The love of Jesus embraced outcasts, pardoned sinners, healed the hopeless, challenged the complacent, and willingly sacrificed everything so that we sinners could be reconciled with God.

    Modeling Sacrificial love is our most visible and defining family trait.

    The only reason we are in the family of God in the first place is because of God’s extravagant love.

    As Paul calls us to imitate God’s love, he reminds us that we are defined by it—we are “dearly loved children.”

    Our own love emerges from the depths of that eternal love.

    Our love is an overflow of the love God has personally shown to each of us. Love is the DNA test that determines paternity with our Father God (1 John 4:7-8).

    God loves you because you are his child, you are his child because he loves you.

    Children of God are called: “be caught up into the infinite circle of God’s love.”

    We are most like our Father in Heaven, most godly, when we allow that love to flow into us from above and flow like a river from us into the lives of others.

    Ephesians 5:1-2 The Message

    Wake Up from Your Sleep

    1-2 Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.

    The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

    Theologian Brennan Manning spoke a challenging truth, when he wrote,

    “How I treat a brother or sister from day to day, how I react to the sin-scarred wino on the street, how I respond to interruptions from people I dislike, how I deal with normal people in their normal confusion on a normal day may be a better indication of my reverence for life than the antiabortion sticker on the bumper of my car.”

    Treating our neighbors and ourselves as eminently valuable is not easy.

    And this leads us to the next thing we learn from Jesus ….

    How could Jesus communicate the reality of what he saw?

    Well… I think Jesus also teaches us to…

    3. Ho to exercise the power of initiating.

    Referring back to the Narrative Luke 19:1-10,

    Jesus does not sit back to see if Zacchaeus will come out and express his hope.

    He is high up in a Sycamore tree…. It’s sort of obvious that he is only hoping to “see” Jesus from an “untouchable” distance. So, Jesus takes the initiative.

    Jesus calls out to Zacchaeus. (Luke 19:5 Amplified)

    When Jesus reached the place, He looked up and said to him, “Zaccheus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house.”

    Can you sense how significant that is? So many people can seek attention by becoming shy or fearful or by becoming dramatic and demanding …. but our demanding attention is entirely different than simply being given attention.

    There is nothing more powerful than our initiative

    …because it expresses what is really within us

    …not merely responding to what we HAVE to respond to

    …but what we WANT to respond to.

    Love never just does what is required.

    Love doesn’t just see people as an obligation

    Love does not just see people … as a duty to fulfill when it is “required.”

    Love initiatives: (1 Corinthians 13:4-8 Amplified)

    Love endures with patience and serenity, love is kind and thoughtful, and is not jealous or envious; love does not brag and is not proud or arrogant. It is not rude; it is not self-seeking; it is not provoked [nor overly sensitive and easily angered]; it does not take into account a wrong endured. It does not rejoice at injustice but rejoices with the truth [when right and truth prevail]. Love bears all things [regardless of what comes], believes all things [looking for the best in each one], hopes all things [remaining steadfast during difficult times], endures all things [without weakening]. Love never fails [it never fades nor ends].

    Our initiative speaks…… Are we risking it all trying to climb the Sycamore Tree?

    Jesus makes a significant point of this when there is conflict in a relationship.

    We won’t venture outside of our “comfort zones” into all that he teaches…

    but the one striking element is that when… either … we should decide to stay on the ground, battle the crowds or should go… immediately, directly, to the tree.

    And while we are deciding on whether we will “climb the Sycamore Tree” or if we will do what is always customary, stay on the ground battling the crowds,

    If Christ is on our minds, if we reflect on our own…we realize he is teaching us how we treat another amidst life’s conflict… reflects how we will honor them… whether we can be trusted to care for their good and not just our protection.

    It communicates whether they really matter to us.

    The key word is “go” … we are to go pursue setting things right.

    Do we realize we have the power of initiative with some people who are afraid?

    And finally…we see from Jesus… the power to…

    4. Embody the reality of grace with our presence.

    If we step back and look at this scene… it was loaded for Zacchaeus.

    The scene was full of hatred…. animosity … and judgment…

    and Jesus took the initiative and stepped decisively, directly, into that space.

    Imagine the awesome significance of Jesus looking beyond the crowds and calling out Zacchaeus…. then announcing he would be coming over for lunch.

    Imagine what it communicated to everybody.

    In essence… Jesus took the initiative, stepped into the line of fire… directly into harm’s way, he brought the power of his presence into the space of judgment.

    And isn’t this the example Jesus was setting for us by doing it so frequently?

    He was accused of being a friend of sinners…. because he didn’t join in practice and purpose of one group riling itself up, condemning, canceling one another.

    It was the space he was unhesitatingly chose to be seen by everyone standing in.

    When a woman was brought before him who had been caught in adultery.

    When those who were disabled or diseased were shinned… or children told to be quiet… or a Samaritan woman deemed ethnically unclean.

    It could lead some to think Jesus was either ignoring their sin… or ignorant of it.

    The presence of Jesus was never one of ignorance…but of divine insight… he didn’t see less… he intentionally, innately saw more of our neighbors than us.

    He didn’t worry about condoning their behavior…because he wasn’t.

    Never with the slightest compromise of his own righteousness

    In fact, what spoke volumes was he never saw these moments as a podium to speak about tax collecting… prostitution… or politics or government because the point was not that he didn’t see the outworking of sin…but that he saw more than the working of sin – but saw sinners for whom salvation was good news.

    Some may recall that when he spoke to the Samaritan woman who had come out in the middle of the day to get water at the nearby well…

    She said… “how is it that you a Jew speak to me a Samaritan… and a woman?”

    She’s saying, “Don’t you see me like everyone else?”

    She is saying, “Aren’t you as biased and prejudiced as everyone else?”

    She is saying, “Are you here to try and cancel my life like everyone else is?”

    Are you just that blind and ignorant …unaware of who I am, what I have done?

    Jesus would answer that by asking her to go get her husband. And that opened up her heart to know he saw so much more… yet he did not simply reject her.

    It was always clear if one looked… that Jesus was not PARTICIPATING in the behaviors of others…nor was he giving PERMISSION or CREDENCE to the behaviors of others…. He was simply being among, present, with such people.

    What we can learn from Jesus …

    is that our willingness to move away from what is “customary prejudices and biases” is simply to be among and present with those who presume judgment… can speak of our “above and beyond” efforts of imitating Jesus seeing “more.”

    Jesus always risked his own reputation. In a world in which people rarely defy the obvious power of social reputation… Jesus showed the power to be trusted to truly, selflessly, serve the interest of others more than his own social interests.

    If we want to love God, our neighbors and ourselves like Jesus… we will have to mature in being trustworthy… of being those who won’t just serve our social status… who will come be with someone who our friends may look down upon.

    Are we or are we not someone who someone else can share their fears and failures with…and know that we won’t use it to serve our own personal gain?

    This is essential to becoming safe people.

    So, we would do well and better to imitate and model Jesus: embrace the Love of the Father and power of our presence. We may need to enter the space of grace.

    Luke 19:1-10Amplified Bible

    Zaccheus Converted

    19 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. And there was a man called Zaccheus; he was a chief tax collector [a superintendent to whom others reported], and he was rich. Zaccheus was trying to see who Jesus was, but he could not see [a]because of the crowd, for he was short in stature. So he ran on ahead [of the crowd] and climbed up in a sycamore tree in order to see Him, for He was about to pass through that way. When Jesus reached the place, He looked up and said to him, “Zaccheus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” So Zaccheus hurried and came down and welcomed Jesus with joy. When the people saw it, they all began muttering [in discontent], “He has gone to be the guest of a man who is a [notorious] sinner.” Zaccheus stopped and said to the Lord, “See, Lord, I am [now] giving half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anyone out of anything, I will give back four times as much.” Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this household, because he, too, is a [[b]spiritual] son of Abraham; 10 for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

    That day… so many people could not fully see all that was going on around them. When someone (Jesus) saw more… someone came down from a tree….

    I believe that each of us have a desire to help people both climb up to see Jesus, come down from hiding in the trees… where they hope nobody will see them.

    The visual exchange between Zacchaeus and Jesus is unique in some respects…

    People aren’t looking at us as the Messiah… if they did, they may not be so quick to look for us or to receive us… or to change with us…. but it DOES capture what our world needs. It captures how we can climb, mature grow in loving like Jesus.

    It speaks to how we receive God.

    It speaks to how we receive our neighbors.

    It speaks to how we receive ourselves.

    It speaks to how we experience God’s love through resurrected Jesus Christ.

    It speaks to how we experience the love of God and model it for our neighbors.

    It speaks to how I experience the Love of God and become inspired to share it.

    it speaks to how others approach God,

    It speaks to how willing our neighbors are to approach God and approach us.

    It speaks to how our neighbors are to approach the Christ in us

    It speaks to how willing our neighbors are to experience the Christ in us.

    It speaks to how approachable we are… how safe we are.

    It speaks to how approachable God is.

    It speaks to how approachable Jesus is.

    It speaks to exactly how worthy Jesus is to be the model of our maturing lives.

    Ephesians 5:1-2Amplified Bible

    Be Imitators of God

    Therefore become imitators of God [copy Him and follow His example], as well-beloved children [imitate their father]; and walk continually in love [that is, value one another—practice empathy and compassion, unselfishly seeking the best for others], just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and sacrifice to God [slain for you, so that it became] a sweet fragrance.

    Christ as Our Only Example …

    When we read a passage like the one in our Scripture for today, we recognize that God is totally different from us.

    Christian teachers sometimes talk of God as being “wholly other.” That teaching reflects the words of God himself through Isaiah the prophet:

    “To whom will you compare me?

    Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One…

    “I am the LORD,

    and there is no other.” (Isaiah 40:25; 45:18)

    Although the Spirit works in us to make us more like Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18), believers do not become divine. We cannot become God, but in God’s strength alone we can become godly. Sadly, in this life we still remain sinful, but through God’s charity, forgiveness and redemption we are reconciled to our Maker.

    Except for the example of Jesus, who is divine as well as human, there is no human achievement that provides an adequate example for us.

    So, we must rely on what God himself has done in Christ by his Spirit.

    He showed us what love is.

    God the Father has provided for our salvation, and Jesus, the Son of God, has given himself as the penultimate sacrifice in our place to be our Savior.

    The Holy Spirit helps us to receive and live out that love.

    So, all three persons of the Trinity work together for our salvation, for our good.

    I imagine that there is someone in each of our lives…. who we can help climb up and come down from a tree… out of the place of not feeling safe in how we live.

    Is there someone in your life that may need to know that you see more than others see….

    More than they can, see?

    Are there people in your life that need to experience that you are safe?

    And how about ourselves?

    Do we know that we can both climb up, come down from the Sycamore Tree?

    In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

    I want to offer all of us a short prayer that has been serving me to take hold and stay ahold of life in God.

    God, I see the Sycamore Tree Zacchaeus Climbed.

    What should I do now? Climb into its heights or chop it down for my firewood?

    If I choose to Climb, … what then?

    Do I hide in it, remain anonymous or make myself known to Jesus from it?

    I know Jesus is coming down the road …

    I see the dust rising up from where he is approaching the crowds and me.

    Do I fight against the crowds to see him, to touch the fringes of his garment?

    I see the Sycamore Tree again ….

    I see its branches inviting me to come forward ….

    Do I stay on the ground or do I risk everything to climb into its heights?

    God, I belong to you.

    May your will become my will.

    May your love become my love.

    May your neighbor become my neighbor.

    Today, may I be a better imitator and model of the life your Son has given to me.

    Lord, grant us the love to serve others with such selfless devotion that our kindness will help transform their lives and draw them to Jesus, the source of all love. In his name we pray. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen.


    Selflessly Modeling Jesus’ Example: Learning how to see others, up to and including, Ourselves! Ephesians 5:1-2

    I begin today’s devotional by asking each of us to reflect for a moment.

    Are you a safe person?

    I don’t mean are you likely to become violent… I mean… do you believe you are safe for other people to approach….and relate to? Do you relate to other people as a potential threat you need to defend against…. or as God’s gift to be opened?

    What kind of space do you create for others?

    Our Christian focus is on “being like Jesus,” on “imitating Jesus,” building better relationships… so this may be one of those most important questions.

    This devotional is about building better relationships in every point of relating.

    We are engaging the qualities that can help us develop better relationships with those “neighbors” we are just beginning to engage…as well as building better relationships with the family and friends who we have known for many years.

    No matter what the state of our relational life is… we can all move further from self-isolation to His intimacy. We can all develop more meaningful connection.

    It is incredibly, almost embarrassingly easy to say but it’s not ever so easy to do.

    I hear the prophetic words of Isaiah’s Commission ringing through my soul.

    Isaiah 6:8-10 Amplified.

    Isaiah’s Commission

    Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I. Send me!” And He said, “Go, and tell this people:

    ‘Keep on listening, but do not understand;
    Keep on looking, but do not comprehend.’
    “Make the heart of this people insensitive,
    Their ears dull,
    And their eyes dim,
    Otherwise, they might see with their eyes,
    Hear with their ears,
    Understand with their hearts,
    And return and be healed.”

    We do not love ourselves as naturally as we would all profess, we do

    We don’t love our neighbors as naturally as we would all profess, we do

    We do not love God as naturally as we would all like to profess, we do.

    We do not imitate or model our Savior Jesus Christ as we all profess, we do.

    So, now we are looking at the one who embodied the very nature of God…that is Christ Jesus, our Savior…and how he loved in this world…how the love of God was reflected within the patterns of his life…which we can embrace as our own.

    Ephesians 5:1-2 Amplified Bible

    Be Imitators of God

    Therefore become imitators of God [copy Him and follow His example], as well-beloved children [imitate their father]; and walk continually in love [that is, value one another—practice empathy and compassion, unselfishly seeking the best for others], just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and sacrifice to God [slain for you, so that it became] a sweet fragrance.

    Ephesians 5:1-2The Message

    Wake Up from Your Sleep

    1-2 Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.

    The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

    Watch what God does, and then you do it …… like children who learn proper behavior from their parents.

    Observe how Christ loved us. … then model Love like that. (1 John 4:7-12)

    And today… the pattern we are about to be engaging is how to see others up to and including ourselves. Learning to see others EXACTLY as Jesus saw them.

    Because (shamefully?) the way we see people determines how we treat people.

    Most of us may fall into a dangerous snare: presume that we see people with respect and treat them well…like Christ treated us but what about if they aren’t being kind to us? What if they are being just plain annoying… or offensive?

    Or, what if I am the one who is being just plain annoying?

    Or, what if I am the one who is consciously or unconsciously giving offense?

    Or worse… if I don’t see what they can do or me…maybe I don’t see them at all.

    So how does God see people?

    What did Jesus see?

    As the Biblical account of Matthew describes…

    Matthew 9:36? When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

    Matthew is telling us how Jesus saw the crowds.

    How Jesus observed his neighbors – The crowds.

    Not the select. Not the special. But the crowds which represent the common nature of people like you and I…and everyone else in this world.

    We can assume such lives included the same annoying offensive attitudes and behaviors that are, even in our days and seasons, common among human life.

    There is no sense that they held much that Jesus could get from them… as he seemed to have already understood how the hearts of humanity would turn on him when any sense of transactional desires for power were deemed done with.

    He sees these common lives with compassion.

    Compassion is not simply having pity for someone at a distance.

    It’s a word that speaks of actual connection. The word used here… translated as compassion… speaks of exactly how another life is allowed to be taken in… and to affect us deep inside our hearts. It’s about bringing them in toward yourself.

    It’s helpful to understand that it is not simply the opposite of seeing someone critically. It is not a matter of being blind to the problems in another person.

    Seeing with compassion is about seeing more that simply seeing with critical eyes and souls. Seeing critically and seeing compassionately are not simply opposites but rather a matter of one being more fundamental than the other.

    A parent may be deeply critical of their child’s behavior…but they are more defined as a parent than a judge… more given to restore than to condemn.

    And this is what we see in Jesus.

    Jesus said…

    “I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world.” – John 12:47

    Jesus doesn’t summarily dismiss the behavior of others… but he sees more than simply our behavior. He saw they were lost… they had wandered …gone astray… like sheep without a shepherd… leaving themselves harassed and helpless.

    He didn’t come to simply pronounce the judgment we face…but to provide the grace, charity, forgiveness, to come home…. and be who they were meant to be.

    We have a great example of how Jesus saw someone…and related differently… which we can read an account of in the Gospel narrative of Luke… 19:1-10 Msg.


    19 1-4 Then Jesus entered and walked through Jericho. There was a man there, his name Zacchaeus, the head tax man and quite rich. He wanted desperately to see Jesus, but the crowd was in his way—he was a short man and couldn’t see over the crowd. So, he ran on ahead and climbed up in a sycamore tree so he could see Jesus when he came by.

    5-7 When Jesus got to the tree, he looked up and said, “Zacchaeus, hurry down. Today is my day to be a guest in your home.” Zacchaeus scrambled out of the tree, hardly believing his good luck, delighted to take Jesus home with him. Everyone who saw the incident was indignant and grumped, “What business does he have getting cozy with this crook?”

    Zacchaeus just stood there, a little stunned. He stammered apologetically, “Master, I give away half my income to the poor—and if I’m caught cheating, I pay four times the damages.”

    9-10 Jesus said, “Today is salvation day in this home! Here he is Zacchaeus, son of Abraham! For the Son of Man came to find and restore the lost.”

    This encounter has long been a joy for me to imagine….and it captures how Jesus loved people in an “in your face” provocative and powerful way.

    Jesus is once again nearing a city.

    It’s the city of Jericho… which was no small town.

    It was a town with plenty of merchant activity…and a choice spot for tax collectors.

    Rome knew the best way to collect taxes was to employ some local Jews to do the work… which meant finding someone, or several someone’s willing to turn their hearts, souls and their backs on their own people and serve the oppressor.

    And even worse…such tax collectors were known to use the opportunity to demand even more than Rome required…and to take for themselves…which made then hated by both their fellow Jews…and the Romans.

    You can imagine the depth of hate the people felt towards one of their own both betraying his own people in service to the oppressor…and likewise, audaciously, cheating his own people out of sheer unadulterated greed.

    A tax collector was the very definition of a moral outcast… the lost cause.

    In fact, Jews of this time often use the phrase sinners and tax collectors… suggesting that the hated tax collectors were seen as a class of their own.

    Jesus sees him… calls to him… invites himself over… and it becomes a complete reset for Zacchaeus.

    In the end… a man came down from the tree in which he was hiding in shame.

    How can we learn to “see’ people like Jesus?

    How can we learn to “see’ people like Jesus… with compassion?

    …. that allows us to model Jesus’ example and be “safe” and approachable?

    The first thing we can learn from Jesus …is to….

    1. Slow down… and maintain a margin for grace.

    There’s a lot of people in this scene… and Jesus is just reaching his destination… so we can imagine for ourselves observing a biblical scene in which it’s time to first prioritize getting through the crowds and get a meal and some rest.

    It’s the type of moment we only just want to get to what we immediately need.

    But Jesus lived in what some call the pace of grace.

    He never moved faster than the speed of love… and love requires slowing down.

    We see how Jesus slowed down.

    How slow?

    Long enough to really see people.

    How many of us know all too well that our professed busyness competes with how well we stop and care for others. We need to maintain a margin for grace.

    As Carey Nieuwhof recently expressed, 

    “You are …the most kind when you have the most margin.”

    Many of us have probably felt the challenge of being so rushed we are not really present amidst various exchanges we may go through.

    We have a sense of the challenge to maintain a margin for grace.

    Despite those pushing him through, Jesus was able to stop and look up …and see him…and though on his way… he used the rhythm of a meal… a break for lunch.

    Amidst sharing such a meal with “Zacchaeus”… there is the ability to listen to your heart and soul…not just your head. The Holy Spirit is able to help us see.

    Our head might raise walls of busyness and fear and judgment…but if we slow down… the Holy Spirit will intercede and allow compassion…. space for another.

    What we first see… is the outward… and we make a thousand calculations to help manage life … it’s easier for our minds to simply create categories …… and then associate them unconsciously… with clothing… context… behavior… social status… moral nature…all in about a grand total of less than one second.

    That is what labels serve… like “tax collector.”

    Everyone knew how to see a tax collector.

    And the shameful truth is that most of us have similar ways of seeing those who we “categorize” as homeless…old… young…healthy or disabled or handicapped.

    If we hope to connect with our neighbors as Jesus connected with his neighbors … then it means we will have to 1000% slow down to actually see the individual.

    Jesus didn’t lose sense about his destination… but he also didn’t stop seeing people through the eyes of God alone, as being His children, along the way.

    Slowing down to become available… means becoming both physically and emotionally available.

    We all know that it’s possible to be physically and spiritually close to, with, someone and yet not really giving much thought to paying attention to them.

    Try to talk to someone who’s engaged with their smartphone or TV… you really don’t have their full attention.

    How did Jesus know Zacchaeus’ name anyway? We can only imagine.

    But at the center… a man is seen.

    But at the center … a Child of God is seen!

    We live amidst how many 100’s of millions of people… of our neighbors, and there are so many millions more who will just wish someone could see them.

    And I would venture to say

    … there is a part of every one of us…that may not feel seen.

    Here’s a question that can be hard for us to ask of ourselves … but so healthy.

    Would the people who know you best say you’re largely available or distracted?

    See others beneath the outward behavior… to the soul that bears God’s image.

    Without anything else within our sights…we (shamefully?) tend to see people’s outward appearance and behavior…in relationship to how that does or doesn’t serve our own shamefully, embarrassingly fragile, sense of our self-esteem.

    How easily we tend to see people outwardly.

    We can tend to see people as merely annoying …as those with needs which should be avoided.

    We tend to see people as potential sources of “micro-aggression” “triggering.”

    We tend to see people as an “offensive” threat to our own fragile sense of value.

    We can tend to see people as reflecting some radical element which we can rush in headlong and headstrong to judge … as a means to feel a sense of superiority.

    Fortunately for us, our Living Savior Jesus saw infinitely more than “just a tax collector.” He saw through the eyes of His Father, a sheep without a shepherd.

    He did not go to the home of a tax collector…. he was not just relating to a tax collector…but to one who was created by God, to be and live as a God’s child.

    This is where Jesus confronts our religious nature.

    By that I mean our (shamefully?) human ways of trying to be “religious.”

    “Religion” sees people as the enemy…and rushes to condemn them as sinners. Jesus sees sin as the enemy…and wants to reclaim all God’s Children by grace.

    How easily Jesus could have joined the common way of seeing Zacchaeus… as a betrayer… a traitor… labels that speak of what he does… as if it is who he is.

    But Jesus intentionally looked and saw beneath the behavior that had come to define people’s lives…he saw then with great compassion and understanding.

    What great compassion and even greater understanding? He never excused what they did by speaking of them as simply victims of someone’s else will…but he also understood they had given themselves to a system of destruction…and that they could choose to turn back…and through him… be reclaimed, restored.

    That is what Zacchaeus appears to have found in Jesus.

    Jesus saw what was beneath the grime of their sin and our own.

    Jesus said … “Stop judging by mere appearances…” – John 7:21, 24

    How can we learn to see people, like Jesus did, with only the grace of God… to see beyond and through what may elicit judgment… and develop compassion?

    Many might presume that Jesus was failing the way of righteousness.

    Many only chose to see that Zacchaeus was “only” a tax collector… living in a life of sin…and he needed to feel the shame of the community to help provide a clear message. In their minds, “What didn’t Jesus understand about that?”

    As best as I can understand in this moment… Jesus wouldn’t have dismissed the obvious association of him being a sinner….and even of Zacchaeus being faced with the consequences of that decision …. but Jesus bore the power to see more.

    Zacchaeus as “only just a sinner” was not his first nature… his original existence… not what he most fundamentally was created to be… nor what should be accepted as the most basic truth, fundamental claim over his life.

    What Jesus saw were lives created to live in the love and will of the Father.

    Psalm 139:13-16The Message

    13-16 Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
        you formed me in my mother’s womb.
    I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!
        Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
        I worship in adoration—what a creation!
    You know me inside and out,
        you know every bone in my body;
    You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
        how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
    Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
        all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
    The days of my life all prepared
        before I’d even lived one day.

    Sin was no one’s original nature… it was by nature a sheep gone astray… and making the decision to repent was to turn around back to the arms of God.

    Savior Jesus doesn’t see people simply as sinners in the sense that sin is simply a behavior… seeking behavior modification. Sin is about identity… about what we ourselves are choosing to self-identify with and then choose to react upon.

    We can (shamefully) (embarrassingly) tend to simply judge people only as good or only as bad… then rush in, condemn them to a state of value or lack of value.

    Compassion sees the tragedy of sheep that have gone stray… needing to be found and led back. Jesus didn’t focus on the symptoms but rather of the cure.

    The Love and Charity and forgiveness of Jesus represents the Father’s love for each and every single one of His children that have not come home. (John 10:16)

    God is set on reclaiming lives, not rushing in headlong and headstrong to, like man is shamefully, embarrassingly apt to do – to condemn them. (John 8:1-11)

    What the crowds could not see…and Praise God, what Jesus did…is that God was not even close to finished with Zacchaeus. And He is not finished with any of us.

    If we are to build better relationships…we need to learn to see people like God does…and to treat them with compassion. This means we need to see what lies beneath and beyond how we may appear…and sees the sacred value of every life.

    PART 2 – TOMORROW ….

    In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

    Let us Pray,

    Father God, you created our life, you gave the sacrifice, Jesus set the example, and you’ve given me your Word to light my path. Help me to imitate you with everything I do. Help my heart to be as forgiving, my words to be as loving, and my thoughts to be just as pure. Go with me as I follow your commands with the faith of a child – Your child. In your Son’s name I pray, Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen.


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