/ Parenting / Warren Peel

The Key to Utopia

If you were able to put one law on the statute books that would transform society if everyone obeyed it, what law would you choose? Of course the greatest commandment encompasses all the commandments (…you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength) and all God’s commandments, rightly understood, will bring immeasurable blessing and happiness to us as individuals and as a society; but I wonder if you would think of proposing the fifth commandment as your key to utopia? ‘Honour your father and your mother.’ This commandment alone carries with it the explicit promise of societal bliss: ‘…that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.’

The fifth commandment is the first commandment that relates to our duty to other human beings. It’s striking, isn’t it, that the Lord puts this one first? I suspect most of us might have chosen ‘Do not murder’ to head the list of duties to our fellow man. Surely this reflects the fundamental nature of the family in society. Every human being has a mother and a father. This is the only relationship that is true of everyone. We don’t all have siblings or spouses, sons or daughters, but we do all have parents. For this reason the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights asserted in 1948 that the family is the ‘natural and fundamental group unit of society.’

This fact is greatly obscured and disputed today, but that doesn’t make it any less true. If we build a strong family life, many—most—of the other evils of society will cease to be so problematic. Someone who has learned to honour authority and respect others in the home is much more likely to respect authority outside home. Conversely, if someone can’t even honour and respect and obey their own parents, who love and care for them more than anyone else in the world, what chance is there that they will honour and respect anyone, least of all complete strangers? Stable, obedient families produce stable, law-abiding societies.

When Paul quotes the fifth commandment in Eph 6.2-3 he changes it slightly to apply it not just to the Jews entering the promised land of Canaan, but to all people everywhere: …so that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land. This is not to be understood as a guarantee of old age to obedient children. God doesn’t supernaturally alter their metabolisms so they are immune from disease and ageing! Nor does it mean that anyone who dies young didn’t honour their parents. This promise is to be read as a general principle for individuals and society.

The child who honours his parents by respecting them, listening to their warnings and advice, and putting them into practice—such children tend not to make a mess of their lives. They avoid bad company, they say not to drugs, they don’t abuse alcohol or spend their money foolishly; they tend to eat well and live sensibly. They respect authority. And all of this conspires to produce a happy life. Children who ignore the good, wise advice and loving guidance of parents tend to wreck their lives.

And this is true not just individually but for the whole of society. Can you imagine what the world would be like if everyone lived out the fifth commandment? Everyone’s life quantity and quality of life would be dramatically improved. We would have a society where people respected the elderly; there would be no more muggings and break-ins. We wouldn’t need to be afraid to walk out in the streets. We would live long and fare well in land. As one writer has put it, ‘If we build a society where old age has a place of honour, we can hope to enjoy that place one day.’

Authority would be given proper respect and obedience: crime rates would plummet, anti-social behaviour would cease. Schools would be places of learning instead of the exercise in crowd control that they often are. Better educated children would lead to more productive adult members of society, filtering down into the media, arts, science, politics. The result? It would go well with us and we would enjoy life in the land.

If only the policy-makers in our governments see this. They undermine the family to the incalculable cost of the whole nation. The family needs to be strengthened and supported by legislation, not weakened. This promise has never been more relevant than today. The family is of fundamental importance to the well-being of the whole nation. The health and prosperity of society depends on the values taught in the home.

Parents–insist on your children honouring you. It’s not self-aggrandizement—it’s essential for the well-being of your children and our societies. No stay-at-home mother should ever feel like she isn’t contributing to the good of society because she devotes her time to her children. There is no more vital work if we want to change society and culture.

What better way to celebrate fathers' day than by putting into practice this commandment from our Heavenly Father?

Warren Peel

Warren Peel

Warren has been married to Ruth since 1998 and God has blessed them with four daughters. He is Pastor of Trinity RPC in Newtownabbey, Northern Ireland. He serves as a Trustee of the Banner of Truth.

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