I remember being really annoyed with the fifth commandment when I was a kid ("Honor your father and mother..."). It felt like an unfair commandment to all those kids like me who had an absent parent. "Because God said so" didn't really connect with my heart. It took me a long time to wrap my heart and mind around those words.
According to Jewish tradition, children should honor their parents as though God himself dwelled with the family and they were honoring him. Parenthood -- as God intended it -- is a part of God's creative order of the world. Healthy parenthood imitates the work of God: creating life, care-giving, nurturing, instruction, identity (and so much more). Parenthood isn't a random institution but was a foundational part of creation. "Male and female, in the image of God he created them..."
It's the only one of the 10 Commandments that has a blessing attached to it: "so that it may go well with you in the land." That wasn't some sort of cosmic threat; it's just the way it is. In ancient tribal societies, if you rebelled against your parents, you were isolated from community -- and you could not survive without the tribe.
We think we are much more evolved than primitive tribalism, but I think this still holds true. Children and young people with disrupted families struggle. This is the story of almost every gang-affiliated and incarcerated young person I know.
We live in an era that celebrates dishonor and disrespect and tries to tear down every construct of life. Nothing means anything anymore. But then God enters our wilderness and reminds us that there is an order to life, and this order -- as God designed it -- is a gift to us. Parents need to imitate God so that things may go well with their children, and children need to honor their parents as God's provision for their lives.
This commandment is deeply rooted in the love of God! He wants it to go well with us in the land. God knows how we are designed, and he's given us parents -- mothers and fathers -- to care for us in the same way He cares for us. The love of God always gives us what we need.
Honoring your mother and father is a way of honoring the Father of Life whose creative order sustains the universe. Honor starts in the heart of God, and it begins in us in our hearts and homes.