QUESTION: How can we who follow Jesus, particularly Jewish believers with unbelieving families, resolve the forsaking” of family—as Jesus calls us to do if necessary—with God’s command to honor our parents? Is this a contradiction?

ANSWER: Of course God does not contradict himself. The concept of honoring one’s parents does not mean absolute, slavish obedience. In ancient times, one rabbi taught that a child would be right in disobeying his parents if they commanded him to worship idols or to commit incest. Obviously those two situations would be totally offensive to God.

Like many teachings of Scripture, the admonition in the Decalogue to honor parents involves certain conditions. The mature Christian knows how to balance the teaching of Scripture by taking the whole of Scripture into account. Ephesians 6:1 clarifies the teaching on parental obedience when it says, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord” (italics ours).

Jesus, speaking of the reaction to faith by unbelievers, told his disciples: “And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me#8230;” (Matthew 10:36, 37). Here we see that love for God is put above love for family. We who love the Lord also love our families; yet we cannot obey them if they tell us to turn from the Savior.