“You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the LORD.” Lev 19:32
Over the last year, both of my grandfathers have passed away. They were both a part of what is often referred to as “the greatest generation,” as well as life-long pastors and learners – godly men who loved people and feared the Lord.
Today my family also celebrates one of my grandmothers’ 88th birthday, marking another year of blessings, another year of restoration and hope, another year of our Father’s gracious and good gifts in her life.
So here I am, reflecting on God’s Word and what it has to say about interaction with the older generation, regardless of upbringing, culture, or background. This is still a hard shift for me, as I often wrestle with the beauty of having grown up in a culture that holds highly respect and honor of the “older,” and now live in a context where it not only seems to be a lost concept – but when honor is shown to one another, it seems to be more so demonstrated in the setting of an award ceremony or service.
Isn’t it interesting, though, that when God first gave His newly freed children boundaries of the law to be practiced on a daily basis in order to protect and care for them, one of the things included was how to treat the older generation with honor?
Honor in the Hebrew is translated as “to glorify, to adorn.” This is the same word often used in reference to interacting with a king, the highest individual deserving of honor. Part of this honor, is also wrapped up in being humbled before the one being honored.
God also reminds us of the close connection between obedience in honoring the “older” and fearing Him in this passage! Why? Because He is the LORD!
Is it possible that by not actively honoring individuals in our lives belonging to older generations, in not lifting high their example of faithfulness and heritage, in not recognizing the many days of abiding in Christ and sleepless nights on their knees, that in turn we are not living in awe of who the LORD is, seeing Him and truly fearing Him?
Distinguished from Christ’s love and how He flows through us to those around us, I have to ask: how do I love and honor those in my life of the older generation in the now of where the Lord has them? Whether this season has them still independent and able to care for themselves, or if things look different than expected, possibly having faced many more losses than they could have imagined – how do we bring honor to them where they are?
Are we willing to humbly honor those who have gone before us, even if we cannot “naturally” relate to the season of life that they are in? Are we not only willing to honor them, but to learn from and be taught by them and their example?
When is the last time that you took the opportunity to slow down and deeply breathe in the blessings of the faithfulness of our good Father through simply listening to a story from an older woman who attends your church, simply honoring her by hearing?
How does serving and spending time with an older woman, possibly preparing and sharing a meal with her, or helping in daily household chores that we often take for granted, demonstrate humility and honor towards her?
As we take the time to honor those who have gone before us, those who have paved the heritage of our faith, we see more deeply His faithfulness, His goodness, His love for His children. Through our honoring them, we ultimately glorify Him – so that others see our good works and glorify Him as well (Matthew 5:16)! I love how we see His goodness, and find joy in living out His commands; as we obey, we know Him more deeply and are able to more fully love and honor those who have lived many years before us…all for His glory!