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"Honour your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you." Exodus 20.12

The first 4 of the 10 Commandments focus on our relationship to God; the latter 6 on our relationships with one another. St Paul referred to the 5th Commandment - "Honour your father and mother" - as the first "with a promise" (Ephesians 6.2) because it continues: ".. so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you."

Of course that was referring to the Promised Land of Israel, not Ephesus or Asia Minor. So Paul was applying the promise in a general sense. That is significant because, being scriptural, it sets a precedent allowing us to apply it to our own situation too. So what does it mean?

As children grow they begin to see their parents in a different light. The change goes through different phases and varies from family to family but it leads inexorably to a growing desire in the young person to break away from parental control in order to assert their independence and, eventually, create their own family and so on...

This may sound very natural and as it should be. Which it is as long as, running through the whole process, is a healthy mutual respect between the generations concerning the different, albeit changing, roles and responsibilities each occupies. And these subtle differences remain, even into adulthood. Respect rather than resentment is what binds families together, forming the bedrock of society: an ever-expanding network of inter-related family webs (to change the analogy and mix my metaphors!). Though it pertains both ways, older generations respecting the young as well as young respecting old, it is particularly important to respect our elders because that it is how the chain of inheritance operates, facilitating the transfer of everything from wealth to experience to wisdom &c.

Ours is the first generation where that system threatens to break-down. For the first time in history, there exists the pervading feeling that younger generations know more than their seniors, that history is irrelevant and that living in and for the moment is all that counts. This is a recipe for disaster because renders the whole of society vulnerable to forgetting the lessons of history and ignoring the wisdom of experience. The upshot? Our days in the land may be numbered...



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