If your parents still live, you ought to love them

Why? Because honoring goes beyond obedience, which can be accompanied by resentment and resistance.

If your parents still live, you ought to love and honor them.

In Houston, the third murder trial of Antonio “AJ” Armstrong Jr. is currently underway, with AJ being accused and tried for the horrific July 29, 2016, murders of his parents, Antonio Armstrong, Sr., and his wife Dawn. AJ has proclaimed his innocence and the first two trials ended in hung juries.

As the trial again takes a prominent place in the local news cycle, it both sickens and saddens me. It also reminds me of how far we have strayed from the timeless words of God.

John 15:12: My command is this: love each other as I have loved you. Luke 6:31: Do to others as you would have them do to you. 1 Corinthians 16:14: Do everything in love. Proverbs 17:17: A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. John 13:34: A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.

Could He have been more clear?

I don’t know if this 23-year-old man is innocent or guilty. And there is great danger in accepting circumstantial evidence as truth of guilt. But it’s irrefutable that the relationship between AJ and his parents had some challenges. It was troubled, to say the least.

In May 2016, AJ’s mother sent him a text that read, "All you do is drink, smoke and lie." One of his father’s last texts to him read, “I am sick of getting reports about silly crap you’re doing…last warning." This is not the parent-offspring relationship that God intended. He desires better from all of us.

This past weekend, I took a quick trip to my hometown of Haughton, Louisiana, to visit my 82-year-old mother. Reflecting on that visit, with a lot of time in the car on the way home, these trips become more and more bittersweet.

Like a real-life windup toy or Energizer Bunny, my mother is slowing down and talks often of her mortality. Lest the Lord tarries, she doesn’t expect to be here many more seasons. That may be, but I do recognize that God is sovereign, and she may yet outlive me.

The fifth commandment, “Honor thy father and mother, that thy days may be long…,” is often quoted as the first commandment with a promise - a conditional blessing. IF you do this, then God will do this.

Since 1993, when we first met, I’ve always admired Vanessa for the love and care that she shown to her mother and her father, as well as for my parents. As she has fallen more in love with Jesus, she has taken on the Christ-like qualities that He exhibited every single day of His sojourn on earth.

I wish everyone could witness the selfless devotion she gives her Mom when she visits. It’s a master class in the art of love and putting someone else first.

She literally becomes her mom’s twin, mirroring her every move. She cooks for her, helps her dress, makes sure she takes her meds, makes her laugh, stimulates her brain, takes her “thrifting,” listens to her repeat the same story over and over as if she’s hearing it for the very first time, encourages her, ministers to her…in short, she LOVES her.

We are aware that our mothers draw strength from our presence and we genuinely count it an honor to serve them. “Life is short” as they say, and we try and stay in the present with them and appreciate every moment.

Both of our earthly fathers have passed into eternity. Our relationships with them were complicated at times, but we loved them deeply, and we were also able to care for them in their last years on Earth. We appreciate God giving us the opportunity to spend quality time with them.

Ephesians 6:2 repeats the fifth commandment. Note the precise wording of God, and that He didn’t say to obey your father and your mother. He said to honor them.

Why? Because honoring goes beyond obedience, which can be accompanied by resentment and resistance. Obedience can be accomplished with head knowledge, just doing what you’re told. But honor must be accompanied by heart knowledge. True honor is an act of the heart that can include admiration and respect.

Honoring might not occur until maturity sets in, when an older child (or adult) can look back and appreciate the parents’ sacrifices and investments in their children.

If one or both of your parents live, take full advantage of the commandment with promise. Parent-offspring relationships are often complicated and sometimes require hard conversations. That’s perfectly fine - and it’s important to share your heartfelt feelings, thoughts, and experiences. But always in an atmosphere of respect, even when you don’t feel that you were given that same respect.

The responsibility of a parent is enormous - as a parent, Moms and Dads are the CEOs, CFOs, COOs, Pastors, Teachers, Chefs, and so much more of their homes. Sometimes, their decisions will be poor, but hopefully, they, like their children, will evolve into maturity.

I don’t know what happened inside the walls of the Armstrongs' home on an awful night in July 2016, but it breaks my heart. Somewhere, there was a severe disconnect, and those parents’ lives were cut short in an awful manner as the assailant used the elder Armstrong’s own gun against him and his wife while they were sleeping.

The Armstrong family will never be the same, and I do hope justice will be served.

AJ Armstrong faces life in prison with parole eligibility after 40 years. Whether he is found innocent or guilty of murder, if he does not belong to Christ, I pray that he will come to know Him.

Vanessa and I treasure our mothers, and the Armstrong trial reminds me of how precious theirs and our lives are.

Life brings on all sorts of challenges for us all. We ought to endeavor to love one another.

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