Does the Lord Require me to Honor Evil Parents?

I have been asked this question several times and I thought it would be good to post here what I tell people who ask it. We want to obey the Lord. If He calls us to a difficult post, we are willing to go. But we also want to be wise with His wisdom and we know that most of us have been taught the traditions of men that are parading as God’s Word. One example of such false teaching is that this…

Ephesians 6:1 ESV  Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.

….is to be applied unconditionally in all cases. It is not.

Fundamentally as we interpret and apply God’s Word, we must always remember this:
Matthew 12:7 ESV  And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless.
The Pharisees of course ignored mercy as they imposed their evil legalism on people. So when it comes to seeing how the Lord would have us deal with  evil parents, and as you try in their case to apply the commandment to honor father and mother, we must do so in a way that understands “mercy, not sacrifice.” In other words, God is merciful toward YOU. He does not put a burden upon us and demand that you sacrifice yourself by continuing to allow evil people to attack and mistreat us. He is merciful for us, and He is against the wicked.
Let me give you some scriptures that I think demonstrate this proper application of the commandment to honor parents, but with mercy and not sacrifice:
Matthew 8:21-22 ESV  Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.”  (22)  And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.”
Matthew 10:34-36 ESV  “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.  (35)  For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.  (36)  And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.
Matthew 19:29 ESV  And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.
Luke 2:48-49 ESV  And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.”  (49)  And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
Luke 14:26 ESV  “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.
You can see in each of these passages that the commandment to honor father and mother is not unconditional, it is not to be interpreted and applied in a merciless, wooden and stiff unbending absolute manner. When Jesus calls us, we go.  We don’t stay behind and disregard His call in order to “honor father and mother.”  In many cases, to remain with our parents, to continue to have any relationship with them (even if at a distance), would require us to submit ourselves to people who hate the Lord and who will always pressure us to follow them and not Christ. (even if they claim to be Christians).
These are the worst kind of evil people are those who claim to be Christians and yet revile and attack and destroy. Hypocrites. Wolves in wool. But we have specific instructions in scripture as to how to deal with such people:
1 Corinthians 5:11 ESV  But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.
There is no exception to this command just because the evil one is a parent. Wicked false Christian parents are most always reviliers. They accuse and slander and shame. They use their speech to villify us, to make us the villain. God hates such people and we are to have nothing to do with them.
Finally, notice this:
Ephesians 6:1 ESV  Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.
You see that the commandment specifies obedience “in the Lord.” This tells us that it is not unqualified obedience. It is only obedience in the realm of the Lord. Evil parents are not in that realm. They operate in satan’s realm and their commands to us are evil. You are not bound to obey or honor such people.
And yes, we can pray imprecatory Psalm prayers against them. I do not think these kind of wicked people are ones the Lord wants us to keep wasting time and energy on, praying for their salvation. He told the 70 if a town does not received them they are to shake the dust off and move on.  I John 5 says there are certain classes of people we are not to pray for.
If you struggle with wicked, evil parents or other family members, I think if you will think through and apply these scriptures to your case and your parents, you will see that you can be free of them and in doing so you will be honoring the Lord and obeying Him.

11 thoughts on “Does the Lord Require me to Honor Evil Parents?

  1. I was taught growing up that I was to show honor and respect to my pedophile parent by forgiving him (which meant no interruption of relationship) and being silent about what had transpired. I now know that I can forgive him without reconciling or continuing any contact at all. I can speak about the evil he perpetrated and that is not slander or disrespect—it is truth. Rebecca Davis said that everyone is entitled to the reputation they deserve—that struck a cord with me. To cover who he really was meant that others were victimized before he was finally brought to justice.

    The Bible admonishes us to walk in the truth. I have such freedom now! And my heart is not filled with hate or loathing of him, yet I do not pray for his conversion either. He mocked God by sitting in a church pew for 30 or so years shouting amen and carrying a large Bible from which he quoted profusely. But God says that He will not be mocked and people will reap what they sow. That is not disrespectful to acknowledge! God loves justice and truth. The evildoer, especially one pretending to be a follower of God, will not succeed in his deception.

    Thank you again, Pastor Jeff for continuing to speak the truth in love and help folks to understand God’s heart for us in these matters! Tina

  2. This subject has plagued and bothered me all my life. My mother was an abusive parent and when I was converted she became virulent and poisonous in her dismissal of me and my faith. However I did not see any way of getting away from her, since for a period I was unemployed so without a source of income.

    In the last year she has started to suffer from senile dementia and I have felt obliged to care for her. This caused me extreme stress. She is now in a care home and I cannot visit…however I am isolated and even miss her! I do feel let down by the church as I’m still going through a protracted divorce and have so many problems. I feel that other Christians/Christian families are metaphorically sailing by on the sea of life calling out words of encouragement while I flounder along barely keeping my head above water.

    1. I hear you, Aimee, on your last sentence. I suspect that many times Christians/Christian families who haven’t lived it themselves have no idea how to truly support. The more I see, the more I am confirmed in my belief that it takes one to know one. You have to be a fellow abused woman to possibly understand all the stealthy abuse, all the flying monkeys, and so forth.

      The words of encouragement fall flat because what a drowning person needs is someone in the water with them. You need a fellow survivor of abuse/wife-beating, to walk with you. (I assume the protracted divorce is with an abuser.) Perhaps the local battered women’s shelter has a counselor or a support group that meets (although they might not meet right now due to COVID-19) so you can get support. Ultimately, most women have to walk it alone. It does feel like drowning.

  3. I’ve had this leveled at me, sadly. First of all, the Ephesians 6 command is to CHILDREN, not adult offspring — can you imagine the chaos that would result if all adults had to OBEY their parents? What would happen in a marriage if the husband thought he had to obey HIS parents, and the wife thought she had to obey HER parents? Total anarchy. When a person reaches adulthood, they become their own sovereign ‘household’, and they are directly accountable to God.

    Yes, adults are still commanded to ‘honor’ their parents, but nowhere does the Scripture command adults to OBEY parents. And sometimes the best way to ‘honor’ parents is to speak the truth to them (not tell them pretty lies) and treat them as God has commanded us to treat them — whether they are wicked reprobates or redeemed believers.

  4. Without going into all the ways and all the years false teachings about obeying (as a child) and honoring (as an adult) physically, sexually verbally and mentally abusive parents (both) who claimed falsely to be Christians AS they abused me all my life harmed me, I thank you Pastor for setting out the TRUTH of God’s Word on this subject. I hope it frees people struggling with those false teachings on this subject that satan uses to keep us in bondage. He used them to keep me in bondage for a lifetime. The false burden to keep praying for them to change (as professing Christians, shouldn’t their evil hearts HAVE shown fruits of change?). The guilting me to keep associating with known evil among professing Christians and to “love them to Christ” (they already professed to follow Christ!). Nonsense and unbiblical. No more though.
    I have No Contact with my “Christian Abuser” (not possible) parents, as they are reprobates. I do pray the Imprecatory Psalms for God to bring about His justice for all the evil they have gotten away with on earth. And also for His justice for all the false teachers who were witnesses to and enablers of the abuse. Such harm they ALL inflicted on me-a true child of God. He will not overlook their mocking of His Name all these years. Great post!

  5. Thank you for posting this article. Today is Mother’s Day and I didn’t see my parents because I had to walk away from their wicked behavior. I felt so sad all day until I found your words here.
    Thank you again! I found some peace. God Bless You!

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