To Love, Honour, and Care
Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you. (Exodus 20:12)
We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19)
In my marriage preparation class (MPC), I have a segment on relating with in-laws. The cardinal principle is this: Honour your father- and mother-in-law as you would with your own parents. Marriage is about the TOTAL commitment between a man and a woman FULLY accepting one another. This includes accepting each other’s background, including the family. We should not marry the person whom we are ashamed of his/her family of origin! To marry someone is to accept his/her family of origin, regardless of its defects and dysfunctions.
So, in the marriage, to begin building healthy relationships with our parents-in-law, we need to make a commitment to honour them as we would honour our parents. This may sound obvious and easy. Yet, in my own experience and that of observing the marriages I counselled, it would be a huge challenge for some of us!
When I was in courtship with my wife, I found out that her father was involved in secret society and was in jail for quite a while. I also found out that since his release from prison, he did not contribute towards the family in any way – emotional and financial. He would often come home late nights drunk, rowdy and violent.
Diana and her siblings (older sister and younger brother) naturally felt resentful towards him. When Diana became a believer, she resolved to show love, honour, and care towards her father. He sensed it but in his usual gang-ho style, showed no appreciation then.
I knew it was a huge obstacle for Diana to accept my proposal to marry her. She obviously worried how I would turn out as a husband and father. Thankfully, by faith, she decided to marry me and offered me a chance to honour my pledge!
So, to love, honour, and care for my mother-in-law who, though illiterate, single-handedly brought up her three children through hard labour, I had no problem. Even though she had already passed on, till today, I still hold her in high esteem in my heart. She was a woman of substance and virtue!
But, as for my father-in-law, I found it a huge challenge. But I was fully committed to obey God the Fifth Commandment. So, I made efforts to connect with him– talking about football, cars (which I knew very little), and everything else under the sun.
The biggest challenge came when he was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. Now, when he was able-bodied, absent from home most of the time, it was easier for us to profess and practise love. But when he was very sick and needed a lot of love and care, we are challenged to go on the second mile to show our commitment to the Fifth Commandment.
But the domestic helper informed us that my father-in-law told her that he appreciated Diana’s loving care. This encouraged and motivated us to do even more for him in the final weeks or months of his life.
When the doctors prescribed for him a month-long of daily radiology, I offered to fetch him to Singapore Cancer Centre. So, I took one month of no-pay leave to accompany him for the daily treatment. During the trips, I tried to strike conversations with him, including bearing witness to him the Gospel.
Diana and I never regret the time and efforts taken to show love, honour and care for her father till his final moments on earth. Our conscience was clear that we had sought to honour and glorify God by showing His love to someone undeserving, like us. We love because He first loved us. Without God’s love we cannot fulfil the Fifth Commandment in our context.
In another situation, Diana demonstrated the cardinal principle of healthy in-law relationship when she took care of my mother who moved in to stay with us after slipped-disc surgery. Day by day, Diana took care of her for more than eight months. Mind you, this was over and above her duty of daily trips back and forth to her mom’s home to deliver groceries and do peritoneal dialysis for her. These were acts of filial piety, fulfilling the Fifth Commandment - to love, honour, and care.
Other than the eight over months of my mom staying with us for recuperating from surgery, Diana’s mom stayed with us during weekdays for ten good years when she had to do peritoneal dialysis. Yes, we had to give up one bedroom for her and we had to squeeze the family in the master bedroom. But the boys learned how to love and honour their maternal grandmother. Each time they came home from school, they would go and hug grandma. Indeed, more things are caught than taught!
Mother’s Day and Father’s Day had just passed, yet my sharing is not late. Loving, honouring, and caring for our parents and parents-in-law – especially when they are aging – is a daily challenge and choice! It does not stop at annual celebrations of Father’s/Mother’s Day, birthday, anniversary, etc.
What and where is our resource in living out the Fifth Commandment? We love because God first loved us (1 John 4:19). Let His love fills us and flows through us to others, especially our parents.
Dear God, thank You for loving us unconditionally in Christ even when we are undeserving. In fact, we were objects of Your wrath. Let Your love fills us and flows through us, especially to our parents and parents-in-laws. Help us love because You first loved us. Holy Spirit, renew God's grace in me. In Jesus' Name. Amen.