Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God commanded you, 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. [Deuteronomy 5:16 ESV; see also Exodus 20:12]
Parents have children, and those children become parents and have more children. This is an absolute in God’s design. He commanded Adam and Eve to multiply AND fill the earth and subdue it.
And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” [Genesis 1:28 ESV]
Noah and his children were also told, after the flood, to fill the earth. (See Genesis 9:1.)
Parents have a primary job. They are to raise children to love and honor God. In turn, those children become parents who raise children who are taught to love and honor God because they have been taught to do so. Children emulate and copy their parents. From their parents children learn about God and how to treat others.
Parent who focus upon God teach their children to do the same. If the parent focuses upon themselves or anything other than God then the children are taught to do the same. Should the parent teach their child to sin then the sins of the fathers is passed onto the children and broken only through the grace of God. We honor our parents by being like them. Our parents honor God by living out His image in the world.
This places a tremendous obligation upon the parents. God placed this statement in the middle of the ten statements as a bridge between loving God and loving our neighbors. Those parents who know God intimately have no other gods or idols because there are none, speak for God with His given authority, and are resting in Him while looking forward to His final and ultimate eternal rest. They are unshakable in their faith and an example to their children.
What the parent does influences the child, but the parent is not responsible for the grown child’s relationship with God. When a child becomes a parent who they are reflects what they have been taught by their parents. They honor their parents who have honored their own parents and God by loving Him or they honor their parents by doing what their parents did. To “honor” means to be heavy with, weighty, rich with or abounding with, and to promote. Psychologically this is what every child does, whether they seek God or rebel against their parents or Him. However, the question is not are children doing what they have been taught but have they been taught to love God.
Children do not have to be taught to sin. Sin is part of their fallen nature. Children are taught how to sin in various ways by many different people. Children must be taught to love God but can only be taught this by those who love God. Everything a person is exposed to teaches them something.
Jesus has devastating words for all people.
Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! [Matthew 18:5-7 (and following) ESV]
What we do right now counts for eternity for ourselves and for those around us. If what our children do reflects who we are and how we honor God then our relationship with Him is of utmost importance. If our parents were not godly we may honor them by being as they are. But then, we will not honor God by being as they are. I was struck with fear when I realized the great responsibility God placed upon my shoulders when I became a parent. My fear has driven me toward God. I am far from perfect, my sin showing black against the brilliant white of His righteousness. I live by His grace and pray my children will do the same.
Those who persecute the righteous because of their relationship with Jesus Christ have been taught to do so. Their parents, or those who have the influence of parents, have raised them up to view a lie as truth, and to view the truth as a lie. Even within the organized church are those who lead people, not toward God but toward an idol.
Those who are citizens of the kingdom of God show the evidence of citizenship as God works out in them the characteristics Jesus has given in the Sermon on the Mount. Being a citizen of God’s kingdom invites the persecution of those who hate God. Persecution does not relieve us of the responsibility of loving and obeying God and teaching our children to do the same.