Why did God command us to love him but not to love our parents? Why are we instead commanded to honor them?
God made us in such a way that we would naturally want to love him. In other words, we have an inbuilt desire to love him. However, through misapplying our free will, we sometimes give the love that’s meant for God to people and things. This is why God included the Commandment to love him specifically, and to do so with all our heart and all our soul and all our might. If we keep this Commandment, we won’t stray off the “love path” (lol) and mistakenly give the love that we’ve been made to give to God to someone or something else.
Our parents are not God. No matter how hard they try to be good parents, they are all too human and all too prone to the flaws and faults of humans. While God does put into our parents’ hearts a certain measure of his love for us at our birth, that love is conditional and can fade with time. Many things can happen to negatively affect the love. God invites and enables parents to love their children and vice-versa, but his Commandment is for us to love him.
Rather than commanding us to love our parents, God commands us to honor them instead. In simplistic terms, we honor our parents by not speaking badly of them. If we have a grievance with them, we take it to God. We take it ONLY to God. In Genesis, one of Noah’s three sons exposed his father’s nakedness to his brothers, but Noah’s two other sons honored their father by walking backwards towards him as he lay drunk and asleep and covered his nakedness with a garment. They covered their father; they didn’t gawk at him or expose him or ridicule him or blame him for his mistake: They covered him. And for so doing, they were later blessed by Noah and by God. The son who exposed Noah was cursed.
While it seems relatively straight-forward, honoring our parents is one of the most frequently broken Commandments among Christians. I have heard countless professional preachers present themselves as survivors of child abuse and go into gory detail about their alcoholic mother and/or physically abusive father. Then they make things worse by inviting their listeners to share their own abuse experiences.
Most of us born-agains love our parents and have no problem keeping the Commandment to honor them. But for those who do have a difficult relationship with their mother and/or their father, honoring can still be done even in the absence of affection. All that is required is a respect for the role played by the parents (not respect for how well the role is played; respect for the role itself). And at the same time, we should always speak kindly of our parents, covering their mistakes like Noah’s two respectful sons covered his. Do this, and you’ll be blessed. Don’t do it, and you’ll be cursed, because you’ll be breaking a Commandment, and nothing good ever comes from willfully breaking God’s Commandments.