Sometimes the fifth commandment applies only to God.

True story.

Back in the seventies I was an MK. My parents lived at a missionary radio station. Of course, in that African country, a radio station required a power station to produce reliable electricity. And with all those people working there with their families, you needed a school. And it wasn’t too hard to see the need for a Hospital.

It was a little village essentially.

And we had a housekeeper, at least part of the time. This was my first through fourth grades. He seemed as old and wise as my Dad at the time. Now I realize he was probably still a teenager.

But he was not only an employee but a Christian brother in the Lord. And while he was working for us, he broke his leg (I don’t think this happened while he was actually “on the job.”).

He couldn’t have suffered in that way under better conditions in that country. He had access to some great doctors and state-of-the-art treatment, and the bill was paid by all those churches and Christians overseas who were supporting the missionaries. In no time, he sported a cast. I can’t remember this clearly, but I’m pretty sure I got to sign it.

And then his family came, put him in a car, and took him away.

He was under duress but he got in the car of his own free will. They took him up country, as we would say, cut off the cast, and gave him the full ancestral benefits of “country medicine.” If memory serves, that involved invoking and/or placating the right spirits to bring healing. But maybe it wasn’t that bad.

He returned, in more pain and with a guilty conscience. As far as I know he repented, and continued from then on in the faith. I don’t know if he was tested again in that way. I do know the entire country took a tour of Hell after we left and he has suffered more than I can imagine. I hope he is still alive. I hope he has living children and grandchildren. And I hope at some point the yoke got ripped off their necks. Or will soon.

There are, no doubt, ways to obey the Fifth Commandment that apply even to a Christian with pagan parents. But through most of human history, Christians have had to tell their converts and disciples that such honor does not include obeying them.

In fact, salvation means being rescued from your family:

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot (1 Peter 1:14-19 ESV).

Got that? Your family ways were Egypt and you’ve been brought through passover. Don’t go back to Egypt.

If your parents were discipling you in conformity to the Great Commission, then thank God and follow the full scope of the Fifth Commandment. But for many people all over the world Christianity is still the ultimate slap in the face to those who gave them life. If you have Christian friends who happen to be Asian and have to go back home for a funeral, you will see immense struggles over this issue. And that is just one example among many.

Of course, it is an open question whether we are really as well off as we think we are in North America, or if we are simply hiding from ourselves the compromises that we are making.

In the US, for example, we are coming to that time when the Christian churches customarily turn themselves into shrines to go whoring after the founding Fathers. We read books about Nazi Totalitarianism and how the Church succumbed under pressure to State-idol pageantry in the sanctuaries, and then judge those people for doing under pressure what we boastfully delight in.

“Country medicine” comes in many forms. Whatever spirit is pleased with “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee,” he is not the Holy One.


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