In part one I began addressing some principles involved in the fifth commandment. Christians have unique issues when dealing with a malignantly narcissistic parent which is why it's important to look carefully at principles so we can know what is truly expected of us. Narcissists who pretend to be Christian have the weight of one of God's commandments to justify themselves and force their adult children into a lifetime of servitude. I am endeavoring to show that this commandment is not a license for a parent to ruin your life.
Exodus 20:12 NIV "Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you."
One of the ways that children, both as minors and after becoming adults, show honor to their parents is this: by living honorably. Deservedly or not, if a child misbehaves it reflects poorly on the parent. When an adult child breaks laws of decency and good behavior it still reflects dishonor upon the parents. The parents of serial killers and other murderers, child molesters, etc. are looked askance upon by society when the crimes of their progeny came to light. I am sure many have changed their names in order to evade the shame. So, first principles of the fifth commandment to an adult child is this: live honorably in order to not bring shame upon your parents.
This principle of not shaming one's parents holds true in other contexts as well. You do not honor a parent when you publicly shame them. This is why I do not post under my real name at my blog. All identifying marks that would tell people who exactly my parents are, are not given. No one can link my blog to my parents. Only the principle players would recognize themselves in my descriptions if they were to stumble upon them. I would never write a book, even after my parents death, that would publicly shame them.
Religious Jews are big on keeping the fifth commandment, yet they do acknowledge there are times when a parent behaves in a way that dishonors themselves, therefore they teach that an adult child would be dishonoring their parent if they did not try to remonstrate with them to right the wrong. Again, one would do this privately so as to not publicly shame a parent. Religious Jews understand there is a principle in the fifth commandment that requires an adult child to not just stand by if their parent is in the wrong. Adult children are to make a sincere effort to persuade their parents to do what is right. We honor our parents in trying to bring them back to right principles. Which leads us right back to the reality that God never requires His people to honor what is wrong. If a parental figure is living contrary to God's principles, we are required to submit to God's authority and not our parents. "Children, obey your parents IN THE LORD" Eph. 6:1. That is an essential phrase, "in the Lord". Our parent's authority is superseded by God's authority. We can not honor God by honoring our parents if our parent's are doing evil.
Which leads us to the sometimes sad reality that sometimes parents who do evil can not be dissuaded from their course. If any person persists in evil, God's instruction is to leave them alone.
Titus 3:10-11 says: "Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him. You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned."
The King James Version calls the "divisive" person "heretic". A heretic is someone who teaches and lives contrary to the Word of God. In other words, they divide you from God. In the context of the verses that surround the word "divisive" is the picture of an individual who is argumentative and quarrelsome. Some versions use the word "troublemaker" instead of "divisive". A malignantly narcissistic parent's behaviors go far beyond these descriptors of the type of person we're instructed to separate ourselves from. Keep in mind that this instruction is to Christians toward other Christians. So if your parent lays claim to being a Christian, far from finding shelter from accountability, these verses apply even more directly to them.
The principle of these verses that we need to take into our consideration is to learn to recognize when another person's behavior is consistently influencing you or others close to you (i.e. your children) to live contrary to Biblical principles. If you are married, then your first obligation applies to your spouse, not your parent. If you have children, you are accountable to God to raise them according to truth and righteousness. If your parent represents a threat to these primary obligations of yours, then you would be in the wrong to keep such a parent in close proximity to you and yours. God has not been unclear as to the proper order of things. Your spouse is first, your children next. Your parent is described as the person you leave (Gen. 2:24) in order to embark on these new, and now primary, obligations. A narcissistic parent who is demanding first place in your life is betraying their disregard for God's order of things.
In the passage we're looking at, Paul uses the term, "self-condemned". Take note. If a person will not turn from their evil course, they are SELF-CONDEMNED. YOU are not condemning them. They do it to themselves. When you follow the instruction to "have nothing to do with them" they are not being condemned by you in God's eyes either. They have condemned themselves. The "Christian" narcissists in my family have decried my attempts to deal with the truth with them as evidence that I am condemning them. Then they would condemn me for condemning them. This line of logic doesn't hold to up the scrutiny of God's Word. They are self-condemned. My mother has acted like my choosing to no longer have her in my life is somehow condemning her before God. Nothing could be further from the truth. She has direct access to God's throne of grace. Nothing I do can prevent her from making things right with Him. I do not have the power to make God condemn her. Don't be diverted from by the silly logic of narcissists. They twist and turn to make you into the bad guy any time you refuse to give them what they demand. The Bible is misused by them to accomplish this with you.
Notice also that the Biblical number in dealing with overt and/or persistent sin is "two or three". It is part of Christ's instruction in Matthew 18 in dealing with someone who has sinned against us. We are not required to remonstrate with someone forever. They don't get endless chances for do-overs. There is an end to how much we are to deal with unrepentant evil. Why is this? I believe it is because evil is infectious. By close association with it, we become more tolerant of it. God isn't willing to risk the integrity of His followers by forcing them to rub shoulders every day with evil people in the church or the Christian home. Like Paul says, God isn't asking us to judge the world, that is His purview. But we are specifically to distance ourselves from those who call themselves Christians but who behave in evil ways:
1 Cor. 5:9-12...I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. "Expel the wicked man from among you."
There are a slew of verses in the Bible with similar instruction on how to deal with evil people. Paul is quoting the Old Testament when he writes, "expel the wicked man from among you." That specific phrase is used six times in Deuteronomy, which Paul was quoting. The list he gives above of types of wicked people is not an exhaustive list of evil. But it is important to note what he is really emphasizing here...that Christians are called to judge (i.e. use discernment) those who call themselves Christian. Not people in the world, but Christians. There are many Biblical exhortations for Christians to judge behaviors. It is presented as a duty to do so. We aren't to sit around and decide who is going to heaven or hell. That kind of judging is for God alone, but we are to decide whether or not someone's behavior is evil and deal accordingly. The Scriptures are clear that the prescription for a Christian concerning people who persist in evil is to "expel the wicked man from among you."
Notice in Paul's statement in 1 Cor. that the "greedy" person is condemned just as much as the sexually immoral. The "slanderer" is just as condemned as the idolater. This is important to consider because we often have our own ideas of what is "bad" or "evil". We may not tend to think the "slanderer" and the "greedy" are necessarily wicked, but we have the Bible telling us this is so. As Christians we need to allow the Bible to define evil, not our mother or father and not society.
Some parents force their adult children to honor their parents in the only way left to them, by living an honorable life. As long as you do that, you are honoring your parent.
What about Christ's statement to Peter that we are to forgive "seventy times seven"? You can find the exchange in Matthew 18:21-35. Christ follows this command of the number of times we are to forgive with a parable. What is forcefully portrayed in the parable is the picture of a repentant individual. We have no right to withhold forgiveness to someone who is showing remorse for their actions and is willing to restore what they've taken. In a few verses previous to this instruction (Matt. 18:15-17) is the formula for dealing with someone who has sinned against you. Going to them first privately, then taking two or three witnesses if the private meeting did not result in repentance for a sin against you. Finally, confronting the person in the presence of the congregation. After that, they are to be treated as a "heathen man and publican" by you. The juxtaposition of this instruction with the instruction given to Peter a few verses later has to be reconciled. Christ wasn't contradicting himself. We see a contrast here between a person who is repentant and a person who refuses to repent. Big difference in how we are to deal with them. Please note that Matt. 18:15-17 is about dealing with something objective. A "trespass against you" is something that can be objectively determined to be wrong. I have had people try to use this passage to say that their "hurt feelings" are my sin against them. Sorry. Doesn't fly. Sin is measured by an objective standard, the law of God. Hurting someone's feelings because you told the truth doesn't qualify as "sin against them". Narcissists twist this all around to suit their own agenda. Don't let them get away with that.
The last principle I'll touch on concerning the fifth commandment is how we deal with our evil parent(s) if they become indigent. We are required to make sure they have food in their stomachs, clothes on their backs and a roof over their head. Not our roof, but a roof. Basic humans needs are to be met. The fact that we are alive today is because they provided these basic things to us when we were helpless and dependent. I don't think a Christian can walk away from an indigent parent without dishonor. (If you have a parent who abandoned you and didn't raise you, and didn't provide any of these things for you as a child then I'm not sure this applies. Follow your conscience. My conscience would say this person is not a parent in any sense of the word.) There are ways to care for a horrid parent from a distance. It doesn't have to be "hands on". Arrangements for their care can be made. Other people can administer that care for a price. I'm not saying we have to take them into our homes in these instances if it would be destructive to our own family. Even social services are available and can be utilized by us to make sure the parent's basic needs are being met.
These are some principles that you can use to guide your thinking on the concept of "cutting off" a parent as it pertains directly to Christians. Remember, by doing so you are not condemning your evil parent. He or she has condemned themselves by their persistence in clinging to, and the excusing of, their evil behaviors. You are accepting the principle of free will. By the Bible's emphasis of two or three approaches to someone who is behaving badly and then leaving them to themselves we are seeing God's respect for free will. He does not instruct His people to violate the principle of free will because free will is a God-given principle. God Himself will not violate free will. We are to recognize what people are freely choosing to do and leave them to their decision if they persist in evil. You, by choosing to accept your evil parent's decision to persist in their abuse and cruelties, are simply acquiescing to their decision. Since you can not honor God and honor an evil parent at the same time, you are left with one alternative...to remove yourself. As long as they are unrepentant, you have no other choice but to "expel the wicked one from among you."
The fifth commandment is not a cloak for an evil parent to wear to protect themselves from all accountability. We are all accountable to each other for how we behave toward each other. It may be that our persistently evil parent(s) may force us to separate ourselves from them in order that we can fulfill our obligations to our own families, but by living honorable lives we bring honor to the name of our parents in the eyes of others. By refusing to publicly shame our parents, we honor them. So, even if separated from evil parents we are able to still honor them in a way that doesn't dishonor God.