I have been bothered recently by a trend I see both in the church, in our culture, and in a younger generation.
I couldn’t quite put my finger on it until I heard of good friends who were “canceled” by their professing Christian daughters. Sharon and I raised our children with this couple, and while they certainly were not perfect, as far as we can tell they were not abusive. A second close family had a similar situation happen to them. They relayed their story to us with broken hearts. Both families have been cut off from their grandchildren.
In addition, the national mood of many of our young people seems to be one of cynicism and self-righteous criticism. There seems to be a profound lack of gratefulness.
The United States is not perfect and is still moving toward her ideals. But anyone who looks around the world and realizes the brokenness of the world will see there is much we get profoundly right. Nevertheless, anger and the ingratitude seem to dominate.
Missing from the Mix: Honor
What is missing in both of these scenarios?
I would suggest that it’s honor. Biblical honor.
The concept of honor has fallen on hard times. Sometimes it seems to manifest itself in dis-honor or dis-respect. Other times, it manifests itself in, to use a new phrase, unhonor. Unhonor is my new word for when the concept of honor does not even cross the mind of a person.
Yet, when we look in the Scriptures we see that honor is essential to any culture. And those of us who follow Jesus have a duty to honor God and others.
Let’s start with a definition. To honor is to value or perceive worth, fix a price, revere or respect. Honor is a heart attitude that also expresses itself in actions (Matt 15:8).
Christians are first to honor God. After all, who is the most estimable of all? It is God, our creator, sustainer, and redeemer. Unwillingness to honor God as God and show thankfulness is the first charge Paul levels against all of mankind (Romans 1:21).
There is much more we we could say about honor in the Godhead and our call to honor God. But let’s turn our attention to the call to honor other people.
7 People God Tells Us to Honor
God’s word commands us to honor at least seven different types of people.
1. Honor your parents.
Honor your father and mother, that your days may be long in the land that Lord your God is giving you. (Exodus 20:12, see also Ephesians 6:2-3)
The chief commandment to honor other people is found in the 10 Commandments. Scholars call this a bridge commandment, bridging the first four commendments which are godward and the last five which are manward.
For children, expressions of honor will change over time. While obedience is required when we are young, it is not when we are adults. It will change as our parents change. It might include some form of financial support (1 Timothy 5:8).
Honor will also be different based on different callings on our life. For instance, God called me to pastor in New England for many years. Honoring my parents who still lived in the South required some work and sacrifice.
Honor will also be different based on the actions of the parents. As much as I hate the dreadful word “boundaries,” it does carry a true concept. Honor must be worked through when there is ungodliness from parents.
And by the way, honoring parents also means honoring our in-laws. No mother-in-law jokes.
How can you honor your parents?
2. Honor those who are older.
You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an older man, and you shall fear your God. I am the Lord. (Leviticus 19:32)
It may seem quaint now, but when I was in school, when the teacher came into the classroom, you stood up. And if another adult can in in the middle of class, you stood again.
Our culture’s fascination with youth believes that those who are older are out of style. Perhaps this comes from the worldview that people come into the world innocent and older people mess them up. But this perspective comes not from the Bible, but Rousseau.
Our youth fascinated cultural needs to recover honor for those who are older. I have had older people say to me, “The time will come when you will be overlooked.” Again, this is the unhonor I was talking about for.
How do we show respect for those who have lived a long time and presumably been faithful to the Lord, their spouse, their church, and their country? Don’t overlook the gray hairs. Honor them.
How can you show honor for those who are older than you?
3.Honor your spouse.
Husbands…showing [your wives] honor as coheirs of life. (1 Peter 3:7 CSB)
Let the wife see that she respects her husband. (Ephesians 5:33 ESV)
God tells us that marriage itself is to be honored (Hebrews 13:14). We can see a breakdown of respect for this commitment. But as Christians, honoring marriage also means that we honor one another.
Love for the other respects and esteems. It does not despise. How many of our marriage issues would be softened if each would seek to honor and esteem the other? Scripture specifically commands us to hold the other in high esteem. That means we care for the other. We do not make jokes at the expense of the other. We offer protection (but not secrecy).
How can you show honor to your husband/wife today?
4. Honor those who are over you in governmental authority.
Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. (1 Peter 2:15)
[R]espect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. (Romans 13:7)
Amazingly both Paul and Peter encouraged honor of the Roman governmental officials even in a time of persecution. Authority can be misused and abused. Examples of this abound in the home and in the world everyday. I have written more about that here.
Even as we take our stand against abuses, the Christian posture is one of honoring those in authority. This includes governmental officials, law enforcement officials, teachers, and coaches. We could continue down the list of authority that we encounter and our children encounter. They need to see us speaking and acting with honor. And we need to train them in this habit.
How can you show respect and honor to those in authority over you?
5. Honor those over you in authority at work.
All who are under the yoke as slaves are to regard their own masters as worthy of all honor so that the name of the God and our doctrine will not be spoken against. (1 Timothy 6:1)
While politics in the workplace may divide us, one thing unites too many of us…complaining about the boss. Yet, Christians are to be those who wisely and appropriately honor sinful bosses. When we do not complain about their decisions but show proper respect, we stand out in a world of grumbling.
How can you show proper honor to your boss at work?
6. Honor those over you in church.
The elders who rule well are worthy of double honor. (1 Timothy 5:17)
We have authority in the home, in the government, and in the workplace. A Christian is to show honor in all of those spheres of life. But we also have authority in the church. Yes, there has been abusive authority. And those leading the church are imperfect. But God calls us to show honor to those who watch over us spiritually. Are you taking their service for granted? Do you esteem them for their work (1 Thes 5:12)?
How can you show honor to those who are pastors and overseers?
7. Honor those in your church.
Outdo one another in showing honor. Romans 12:10.
Lastly, we come to the all-encompassing verse that shows us that honor is a way of life for the Christian. We are to “compete” with others to show honor to others. This command comes from Paul in the midst of a paragraph where he is showing the many facets of Christian love. One of those facets is giving honor to those around us.
I remember learning a practical application as I listened to a guest preacher who would regularly start his sermon praising the host specifically. I tried to make that my habit also. It may mean thanking those who serve us. Honoring means looking for the best in another. Honoring allows no place for racial or financial partiality. It would see this person next to me as a brother or sister for whom Christ died.
As we honor others in the body of Christ and outside we will establish a church culture that is different than the world.
How could you show honor to others around you?
These verses make it clear that Christians are people who actively esteem others. This starts from a proper esteem for the Lord. With honor in our hearts, it works outward into our actions.
Then the fifth commandment establishes a pattern where we show appropriate honor to our parents and all those in authority. As usual, God doesn’t tell us the specifics. He gives the principle and then expects us to use Spirit-guided wisdom to apply it to our situations.
As parents we are also training our children to honor others. We encourage them to honor us, honor their grandparents, and honor the authorities in their lives.
Finally, as I mature into an honor-giving person, I will be different from the world and will bring Christ glory.