A gracEmail subscriber writes: “My son-in-law is having a hard time respecting his mother, who left him with his grandparents when he was small until he was a teenager and then took him back to be a ‘servant’ to her and her new verbally-abusive husband. His grandparents are fine people and taught him Christian values which he practices. He has been a loving husband to my daughter for 15 years. He says he doesn’t love or respect his mother, but he continues a relationship with her because he is a Christian and wants to do the right thing. Please tell me your thoughts on the subject of honoring your father and mother.”
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I think personal respect must be earned. However, one can honor an office or position that is occupied by a very dishonorable person. If your son-in-law speaks kindly to his mother, neither intends nor does her any harm and seeks by God’s strength to forgive the wrongs she has done him, it seems to me he is honoring her position as his mother.
Loving someone does not necessarily mean liking them or enjoying their company. Again the point is to wish the person well, not to seek revenge or attempt to do her harm, and (as one is able) to be for that person an agent or channel of God’s love which is universal and unconditional (Matt. 5:43-48).
In view of the past does his mother now want to have a relationship with this son? If so, does she evidence a desire for a healthy relationship or an exploitive one? Are there grandchildren who are part of this picture? Has the mother ever apologized or expressed regret for the way she treated this son? Does your son know any of the circumstances in his mother’s own upbringing and background that might help him view her treatment of him in a less heinous light? Without excusing any of his mother’s wrong behavior, this situation could provide an opportunity for your noble son-in-law to grow personally. I wish the best for all concerned!