Honoring the Ancestors
In many cultures it is important to honor your ancestors (incl. parents and grandparents).
The most common reason for this is out of thanks for everything they have given you. I think we would all agree that a good heritage has uncountable benefits for us in terms up upbringing, family status, education etc... and there is a lot of evidence that the affects of good forefathers can carry on for generations (always exceptions though).
Matthew 15:4-6 says: "For God commanded, saying, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’ 5 But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God”— 6 then he need not honor his father or mother.’ Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition."
It is clear from this that we are to honor our "mother and our father" for what they have done for us, and not just shrug our heritage off as simply a gift of God that they had no part in. What form however is this "honoring" to be though? Obviously to deify them is to deceive yourself and others. But even in many eastern cultures where they "worship" ancestors, they do not turn them into gods but rather honor their memories.
What then is wrong with being in some cultures where images of famous ancestors, grandparents or deceased parents are displayed in order to honor them? I know some friends who have what we in the west may call shrines, but really they are just sort of tables on which they have images or their grandparents/parents/great-grandparents. Sometimes they will light candles but most of the time they just keep it clean.
I am not sure exactly where my question is going here, but I guess key points:
1) How far can "honoring" your parents go before it becomes idol worship
2) Who are your "parents"? Should we honor our mother and our father but not our grandmother and grandfather? What about their parents and so on?
3) Is it wrong for a Christian to display images of their ancestors in their home as long as there is an understanding that these are not idols to be worshipped, but merely images of "honorable ancestors"? Can you light candles and put effort into maintaining their "honor"?
Trinity Reformed Baptist Church
Hamilton, New Zealand.