I was just reading the essay on your website about "honoring your father and mother". I have been doing some research on the meaning of the word "honor", and I was wondering if you could answer a question for me, or just give me your opinion? Let's say that a young adult male was of the Amish religious beliefs. His ancestry have all been Amish. Let's say that he was 18 years old. He has recently been reading the Bible and praying a lot, and feels that he is not suppose to be a member of the Amish any longer. He still lives with his parents who tell him that they want him to remain Amish. How is he to "honor" his father and mother in this case?
I know there are several things that you could say in response. I guess what I am really wondering what the "AGE" is when a young person who is coming into adulthood should begin to make decisions for himself even if they are not "honoring" to his parents. And maybe there is not a black and white answer to this but I would very much appreciate it if you could just share with me your opinion.
Sometimes side issues clouds judgment, so let me put your same question in a different scenario. Suppose a young man was raised by staunch atheists. He has been studying the Bible with a friend and realizes that atheism is wrong. Does God expect him to remain an atheist in order to "honor" his parent's beliefs?
Actually, your own question isn't too far off from the situation early Christians faced. People were converting to Christianity from Judaism. They had to face deciding between Christ or their parents. It would have been hard to turn their back on over a millennium of traditions to follow what they knew had to be right. Choosing to be a Christian might mean losing your family ties and even your inheritance. God understood the difficulty. What might have to be left behind, God promises to replace. "So Jesus answered and said, 'Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel's, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time--houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions--and in the age to come, eternal life'" (Mark 10:29-30).
Honoring your parents means to give them respect. They brought you up. They taught you much about life. Honor them for the good that they have done you. But parents are human beings. They make mistakes. It is not an honor to them to blindly follow their mistakes. Suppose a young man had a decent father, but he had a bad habit of cursing. The young man sees that it is wrong, and decides not to follow his father in this habit. Is he dishonoring his father? I think most would say, "Of course not!"
Paul said, "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right" (Ephesians 6:1). Note carefully the phrase "in the Lord." A child must be obedient to his parents in as much as what his parents ask of him is in accordance to what the Lord asks.
The question really boils down to the sincerity of your faith. "Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven. Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to 'set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law'; and 'a man's enemies will be those of his own household.' He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me" (Matthew 10:32-37). If your parent's faith is not according to what the Bible teaches, then your first obligation is to obey the Heavenly Father. But make sure that it is because you know this is what the Almighty wants of you and not because this is a way to strike back at your parents.
As Christ warned, following him will cause rifts in some families. After all your parent's choice wasn't blind or arbitrary. They might not be right, but let us give them credit for doing the best with what they knew. Most parents will take a child's change in religion as a personal blow against their own choice. It will be hard to deal with the emotions that arise as a result.
I knew a woman in New York whose family disowned her when she decided to become a Christian. For many years her own mother would not speak to her for leaving the Catholic religion. It wasn't until her mother's dying days that she actually relented and they were able to have a heart-to-heart talk.
When I first moved to Omaha, I had the pleasure of meeting a young man who told me that when he was fourteen he decided that he wanted to be a Christian. His mother was a strong Baptist and she literally threw him out of the house. He moved in with members of the church. I met him when he was in his early twenties -- the nicest man anyone could know; I would have been proud of him to have him as my son. His mother eventually got used to his decision. She even went to his wedding and was amazed at the friends he had from across the country.
You asked at what age you should be able to make your own decision. The answer is when you are mature enough to decide and are willing to live with the consequences. If you are willing to deny what you know to be right just to please another, then you haven't grown up -- even if you are forty-two. But if you can say, "Mom, Dad, I love you, I appreciate all that you've done for me, but I've been studying the Bible, and I've decided to be a plain, simple Christian as they were in the beginning. I would like to talk to you about why if you will let me." And then be willing to live with the results, even if it means being shunned and facing living life on your own -- then you are acting as a man.
Does that mean you stop honoring your parents? Absolutely not! Your folk still deserves love and respect even when it is not properly returned. Always speak to them respectfully. Always treasure the good moments in your heart. Tell others about how well your parents did by you. Send them notes to let them know how you are doing. How they receive these things is up to them. But what you do is up to you.