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 from alongside. This was compounded by our communication and other cultural barriers.
But just because our relationship with our parents was poor when we were children doesn’t mean the relationship can’t change. As grown children, we have the opportunity to 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. I have since come to find (and create) opportunities to move toward my parents in love.
The Lord 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.
God has placed us in our parents’ lives that we might minister his grace to them.

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 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, and 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 reminisce about hard times and joys made it all the more enjoyable when, on one family vacation, we went to visit my parents’ old 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.
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 took 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 him teaching me like it was yesterday.
Even though I haven’t traded on my own for more than a decade, the conversations with my dad about the market have continued. 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 have paid big 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’ve continued 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, make conversational efforts, and build memories.

4. Genuinely seek wisdom.
Seeking your parents’ wisdom shows that 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’d been for refusing to solicit their thoughts for so long.
Now, hearing their wisdom doesn’t always mean you need to heed it. If you’re living apart from your parents, one hopes they already understand that point. But they will appreciate it even more if you are living independently but still seeking their input.
There are so many things to ask them about, like what they would’ve done differently about marriage, parenting, their jobs, and so on. 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 okay. Just seeking your parents’ wisdom strengthens their confidence in you and demonstrates 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 seek wisdom, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to talk from a Christian worldview about life’s most important things.

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.
Whether or not they are Christians, perhaps they might learn from you what it means to live a Christ-centered life in which the gospel transforms all facets of living in God’s world. You have the opportunity to represent your Lord and Savior as his ambassador, showing your parents that life ought to honor and be lived under the kingship of Christ.

Honor Them
We know children are to honor their parents (Ex. 20:12; Eph. 6:1). In our younger years, this pretty much means submitting to their authority. But as we enter into adulthood, honoring our parents involves a measure of maturity and ministry.
So let us honor our parents and, in so doing, honor the Lord.

 

Jeremy Young