Learning to Love Your Parents
Jeremy Yong | NOVEMBER 25, 2018 | 6 MIN READ
Let’s be honest. Many of our relationships with our parents are challenging.
In my Chinese American family and community, parenting styles were unidirectional, with the parenting coming from above and little coming from alongside. This was compounded by our communication and other cultural barriers.
But just because our relationship with our parents were poor when we were children doesn’t mean the relationship can’t change. As grown children, we have the wonderful opportunity to try and walk alongside our parents as we seek to honor and love them as God calls us to. This is an opportunity to make Christ and His ways beautiful to them.
1. God wants you to minister to them
To my (entirely appropriate) shame, I sinfully saw my parents as people who must be endured, especially in what felt like endless lectures with wagging fingers and shaming scowls. Thank God he convicted me, and I have since come to find opportunity in moving towards my parents in love.
God himself has placed us in our parents’ lives that we might minister his grace to them. They too need prayer, godly wisdom, and biblical community as they battle against the world, the flesh and the devil. It certainly takes patience, strategy, grace, and determination. But of course it would. Because God wants us to love as he loved — with grace, mercy and fierce determination.
2. Seek to know them
On the one hand this is a risky venture. You might ask your mom, “Tell me again, Mom, about how you didn’t have the chance to go to school,” and she might lecture and shame you in the reply: “It’s because we didn’t have the same opportunity we have given you. So you better not mess up.”
But through patience, gentleness, and genuine curiosity, your parents might be convinced that you are trying to know them and love them.
I like asking my parents about specific events in their past. They’ve shared about upbringing, family history, work history. I learned about how they set out from Malaysia to settle in London and then the United States, living in Yonkers, Dallas, and now Southern California. Hearing their stories and seeing them laugh as they reminisced about hard times and joys made it all the more enjoyable when on one family vacation, we went to visit my parents’ apartment in Yonkers.
The more you get to know your parents, the more accurately you’ll be able to love them in word and deed.
3. Try to find and bond over interests
My relationship with my dad started taking a turn for the better when he started teaching me how to follow the stock market and make trades. Though it was almost 20 years ago, I still remember my dad teaching me like it was yesterday.
Even though I haven’t traded on my own for over a decade, what has continued are conversations with my dad about the market. I’ll get to hear not only his financial analysis but also how he is doing with the market’s ups and downs.
Our conversations about finances has paid off huge dividends in our relationship as father and son. In these conversations, there are opportunities to encourage with biblical truth — to steward the money God has given us while not “[setting] our hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy” (1 Tim 6:17). It has also led our conversations in other directions, in which we could continue to encourage each other.
Find and bond over your parents’ interests and yours. As you do things together (whether trying new restaurants, going hiking, or watching movies), focus on the relationship. Hear your parents out, try to have conversations, and build memories.
4. Genuinely seek wisdom
Seeking your parents’ wisdom shows you honor their experiences and opinions. I remember the first time I asked my parents for guidance. I was already 23 years old! What a fool I was for refusing to ask and listen to their thoughts for so long.
Just remember, hearing their wisdom doesn’t always mean you need to heed it. If you are living apart from your parents, one hopes they already understand that. But your parents will appreciate it even more if you are living independently but still asking for their input.
There are so many things to ask them about, like what they would have done differently about marriage, parenting, their jobs, their careers. If they are Christians, ask them about how following Christ has affected their lives in relation to those categories. You might get great wisdom. You might not. But that’s OK. Just seeking your parents’ wisdom strengthens your parents’ confidence in you and shows appreciation and respect, which honors them.
5. Talk about Christ
As a Christian, your ministry to your parents should be distinctly Christian — done in the love of Christ, speaking about the gospel of Christ, aiming for the glory of Christ.
If you are seeking to know them, bond over interests, and ask their wisdom for your life, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to talk from a Christian worldview about life’s most important things.
Whether they are Christians or not, perhaps they might learn from you what it means to live a Christ-centered life where the gospel transforms all facets of living in God’s world. You have the opportunity to represent your Lord and Savior as his ambassadors, telling and showing them that life ought to honor and be lived under Christ the King.
We know children are to honor their parents (Ex 20:12; Eph 6:1). In our younger years this pretty much means listening to them and submitting to their authority. But as we enter into adulthood, honoring our parents takes on an aspect of ministry. Let us honor our parents and, more importantly, the Lord, as he is the one who has given us our charge.
Jeremy Yong serves as senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Hacienda Heights, CA. He received degrees from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (D.Min., M.Div.) and Biola University (B.A.) where he served as adjunct theology professor for a number of years. Before returning to the LA area, Jeremy served churches in Dubai, Louisville and Washington DC. He is married to Melanie and together they have four children. He loves trying foods from different cultures, as well as practicing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.