I’m fully aware of what’s happening in our country right now. How can you not be? There is a lot of vitriol and division in the hearts of our country. There’s a lot of anger in the voices of our conversations. There is a lot of emotion. As the church, we are called to be peacemakers in times of disagreement. As Christian’s we are empowered to bring unity to division because that’s where God’s blessing is commanded (Psalm 133).
Our country is severely divided and the church should be one of the places where we bring unity. And we need unity at a time when we are easily saying and loosely throwing around strong, divisive words like “racist”, “white supremacist”, “fascist”, “bigot”, “hate speech” and other highly charged and offensive words. While these have been and still are ugly themes in humanity’s past and present, I have to talk about a word that I haven’t heard thrown around amongst all the lively conversations and this word is the word… “honor.”
Cultures and communities can go toxic. History proves that. I believe that bringing honor into a situation is one of the ways to cultivate to remove the toxicity and add dignity, consideration and reverence. Why do I believe this? Because honor is the culture of heaven. As a matter of fact, it’s one of the 4 words that is on the “musac” of heaven according to the book of Revelation,
And then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea. They sang: "Blessing and honor and glory and power belong to the one sitting on the throne and to the Lamb forever and ever." Revelation 5:13
If you want to make a point in a song, then sing it over and over again. In other words, honor is a big deal to God. If it’s on the eternal playlist then it should be on our minds often, too. If so, why do we as Christians find it hard to give honor? I think part of the reason is we don’t know what honor is. It’s a lost art in our modern era. Have you been on your Facebook feed recently? It doesn’t take long to spot a political or social rant because social media has become the “go-to” place to be dishonorable, to mock and insult those in authority that we disagree with.
While we can and should feel strongly about our political and social issues as followers of Jesus, we are called to a higher place of authority and respect. Whether we agree or disagree with those around us, in showing honor to others, we are respecting God (1 Samuel 2:30). Not only is it the right thing to do but it can be one of the most powerful ways to show the world the authenticity of our faith.
Honoring is hard. It’s easy to honor others who are honorable. It’s a lot harder to honor the dishonorable. If they aren’t worthy of it, we don’t want to show them respect and in many cases we insult them. God doesn’t put conditions on our honor of others. As a matter of fact, it’s quite the contrary. Whether from parent to politician, the Bible makes it crystal clear:
Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king. (1 Peter 2:17)
God has made it clear to us in the New Testament that we must honor all people. Not just those we agree with, but everyone. To honor is “to value, see as weighty and precious” and it also carries the meaning of “respect” and “reverence.” To honor and respect someone is to see them as valuable. Plain and simple. If we are ALL considered creations of God, then we are ALL valuable. Which means even the most offensive of people deserves to be heard and respected. When we don’t see others as valuable, we feel we have the right to be disrespectful, yell, destroy and hurt others. If you find yourself thinking you are more valuable than the other on the screen in front of you, across the table near you or next door to you, then you are in danger of being dishonorable and well…kind of a jerk.
Not only are we to honor everyone, but we are to honor those in charge (… “honor the king” ) Webster defines honor as “to revere, respect; to treat with deference and submission, and perform relative duties to.” From this definition, we see that submission to authority is an aspect of honor as well. To say we honor authority, yet we choose to not practice submission to teachers, police, political powers, parents, etc. then we are missing it, completely.
We are in a heated political season. Ok, so the Holiday’s might have been awkward. Your “fox news” family will be sitting next to “I’m with her.” There is two ways to look at this: it can be either difficult or you can see this as an opportunity to live countercultural to the typical partisan spin is around us. I think Christians should be the most spiritually refreshing of all people no matter who is in charge. And here’s why: because the Christian community is positioned to pray for those in charge of our institutions and government. As long we aren’t being asked to sin against God, following Jesus includes submitting to and praying for all of our public authorities.
Jesus knew how to love and serve the government when they weren’t in charge and feeling the effects of a political power that didn’t seem fair. During Christ’s life on earth, the New Testament Christians were routinely marginalized, persecuted and even put to death by the Roman state. Even though this was the “normal” for the Jesus’ community, honoring and cooperating with and praying for the Roman officials was part of being a follower of Jesus. That’s why Peter’s plea to “honor all men” and “honor the king” was the right thing to do and yet so counter-cultural in his day and ours, too. But it’s hard to honor leaders when they are dishonorable. Yet, Jesus was not protesting against the government when He didn’t agree but was submitting to all Roman authorities in compliance. Even when His followers wanted Him to riot because the authorities were being dishonest and unjust, Jesus chose not to resist but to submit to their rule (John 18:11-15). Even in Peter and Paul’s context, Nero is on the throne and Christians are being thrown to the lions and burned at the stake. It seems like an ideal time to fight back. But that is not what Peter and Paul teaches the Christians to do. They tell them to submit to the unjust authorities in leadership. Jesus, Peter and Paul (3 of the most well-known leaders in Christendom) spoke words of honoring those in authority:
Jesus honored by saying: “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.” (Mark 12:17)
Peter honored by saying: “For the Lord’s sake, submit to all human authority—whether the king as head of state, or the officials he has appointed. (1 Peter 2:13-14)
Paul honored by saying: “Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted. (Romans 13:1-2)
Jesus knew the Kingdom of God was more powerful than the rulers and political climate of this world. For some reason, there is a Kingdom strength in honor that releases heaven on earth to make a difference than a protest or march ever could. In the midst of personal and political violence and disagreement, three of Christendom’s most powerful influences (Jesus, Peter and Paul) chose the dignity of others instead of disruption of others. They choose to bless instead of blame. They chose honoring others instead of hastling others.
As young people, one of the hardest emotions we have to manage is our passion for justice. More than ever we are a generation that desires to “right wrongs” that are happening in the world around us. And that’s a good thing! However, there are times when our passion for justice overides our command to honor. Jesus chose to honor first before bringing justice to the world and we should do the same. Perhaps we should leave the justice to God because God is leaving the honoring to us.
But I’m fully aware that it’s not as easy as were saying. So, how do we honor those God has put over us when we don’t agree with them? Here some suggestions:
Stop labeling each other and start learning from each other
Christians can fall into the trap of dishonoring others whose political beliefs or ideas are different. Left-leaning Christians engage in rhetoric that labels our right-leaning authorities as anti-poor, anti-woman, anti-immigrant and so on. Right-leaning Christians can label our democratic friends on the left as anti-capitalist, anti-white, anti-baby, anti-cop, etc. What if we labeled each other as human beings? What if we saw each other as creations of God? Those labels give us a starting point to engage with others that isn’t political but personal to God. They give us permission to accept each other despite our political positions so we can listen to each other rather than scream at each other. Pursue the right perspective of each other before pursuing the right to push back against each other. Your perspective of who you are is the best starting point to engage others where they are at.
“Pump the breaks” on conditional honoring
We are quick to dismiss others who don’t agree with our political views, parenting views, etc. We seem to have drifted into a conversational norm of “ I will respect you if you respect me but if we disagree then ‘screw you.’” People are going to disagree with you. Simply writing them off and calling them a name or putting a label on them doesn’t make us better as a community. Just because you don’t agree with them doesn’t mean they aren’t human. God wants us to honor all people (1 Peter 2:17). Honor is not emotional response but is meant to be a humble response. Even Jesus who was being dishonord by everyone around him who was deserving of honor but received none, chose the higher road and we should too:
“Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names.” Philippians 2: 3-9
Being disagreeable doesn’t mean being dishonorable
When the actions of your leadership disagrees with your view of what leadership is, you have a choice to make. Young David, an up-and-coming leader became successful and did everything right with those around him. Even with those who were in authority over him. King Saul, a political and spiritual leader that David reported to, chose to be irrational and dysfunctional. To the point of wanting to kill David. How would you honor a man who relentlessly sought to kill you? David had an understanding of the authority. That God puts kings in charge and he knew that God had established making Saul king (1 Sam. 9:15-16). While Saul was his political leader, David’s honor for Saul was seen through is “honor lens” every day. Every response by David towards Saul’s rants and ravages revealed to others how not only how much David loved God by how much he honored. David spared Saul's life in the cave (1 Sam. 24:4-22) and again on the field of war while Saul was sleeping (1 Sam. 26:1-12) until finally this irrational ruler was defeated in battle and fell upon his own sword. David not only grieved his death, prayed and fasted but wrote a song about his fallen leadership (2 Sam. 1:17-27). Instead of recounting all of Saul's weaknesses, the song he wrote actually recounted his honor. Whenever possible, show respect for those in charge no matter how crazy they can sound (and maybe even write a song about them).
Engage with maturity don’t expel with immaturity
It’s hard when we don’t get our own way. My kids have taught me that. They throw a tantrum, hit, throw and scream. That’s what immaturity fosters. Maturity provokes civility, conversation and peaceful discourse. When we choose to riot, rebel and resist, it communicates a message to others that is immature. God wants us to be mature as Christians. Not just mature but “Christlike.”
For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps. He never sinned, nor ever deceived anyone.
He did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly. 1 Peter 2:21-23
It’s tempting to bully behind your keyboard and tweetstorm. But it would be far more valuable to donate your time, financial contributions or professional skill-sets to an organize your community (life group, small group, facebook group, book club, etc) and find where you can be a resource of information and a steward of conversation. Many people feel like they can’t get involved because they don’t know where to start. Just find a door of opportunity and start the conversation.
Instead of creating walls, create opportunities
Jesus chose to go into difficult places, not avoid them. He was seen with the marginalized, the broken and the hurting. He was a friend of drunks, sexual deviants, outcasts, etc. He was more pro-woman than any political figure in history considering the context of the first century. He was more “politically right” with his beliefs about Scripture, loving the religious, supporting the Roman military and leading with charity. He also was more “liberal” with the way He chose to love: Jesus fed the hungry, reached out cross-culturally, identified with the poor, loved the religious and fought for the outsider. , etc. He chose to live by breaking down walls. When we break down walls and come together with those who are different than us, we show the world that we are His disciples and that Jesus is who He said He is (John 17).
Live in the “in-between”
We know a lot lately about not wanting to live in the “upside-down.” But do you know about living in the “in-between.” The in-between is that space between the extremes of faith and politics. Here’s what I mean. Take Matthew and Simon. These are two of Jesus disciples. Jesus recruited Simon the zealot (essentially and anti-government, religious radical) to be on his team and Matthew (a pledged allegiance to the Roman government employee). Jesus showed us all that two people on polar opposites of the political spectrum can live and love in community together. We will always be surrounded by these two sides: those who “share my faith but don’t agree with my politics” and those who “share my political view but don’t agree with my faith.” How you live in-between will determine how you honor.
Submission to authorities not subversion of authorities
Imagine being forced to live under a political leadership you didn’t vote for and completely despised. Some of us would say, “lived it for 8 years” and some would say “living it right now.” In Daniel, four young and ambitious leaders found themselves living under and working under an administration that was different than what they believed in. The administration was enforcing rules that was against the convictions these young people believed. Rather than rebelling and resisting, these young people took a different approach: they honored their leadership about the expectations, the rules and regulations they didn’t agree with:
[Daniel] asked the chief of staff for permission not to eat these unacceptable foods. Now God had given the chief of staff both respect and affection for Daniel. …Whenever the king consulted them in any matter requiring wisdom and balanced judgment, he found them ten times more capable (Daniel 1:8-9, 20).
The result of responding the right way gave them more political and relational clout than they ever could have imagined. Instead of just protesting and screaming at the sky, what if we chose to have rational discourse with those in charge over us? We may have the right to protest, but is it the right thing to do right now in your disagreement?
Anything else you would add?