Our culture: The practice of honour

Written by Simon Munday
Monday, 02 December 2013

"Honour" is a strange word to modern ears. It suggests medieval chivalry or Victorian chastity; what, if anything, does it mean in the 21st Century? For a follower of Jesus, it's simple: honouring a person means treating them according to God's idea of their value, because our honour for Him means that we want to see and do everything just the way He does.  We're going to look at how that works itself out in practice, but first let's take a moment to explore why and how we honour God.

Honouring God

Whether we know it or not, the way we live demonstrates what or whom we honour above all else. When we are living out of our redeemed identities, we naturally honour God. It's simply a response to what we see when we look at the Author and Perfecter of our faith, the Beginning and End of all things. We honour Him with our words, with our praise, with our actions – the whole way we live becomes an act of worship to God when we see Him for who He is.

As Christians, we long to honour God in all things. But sometimes the way we treat ourselves and others reflects the culture we live in rather than the reality of God's kingdom. So what are some of the ways we honour God in our relationships?

Honouring the dishonourable

Firstly, honour doesn't react to behaviour but acts on certain irrefutable truths: that all people are made in the image of God, however distorted that image might appear; that we are each unique, irreplaceable and therefore inordinately valuable; and that, above all, we are wholly and dearly loved by God Himself – every one of us.

When we treat those around us with contempt by speaking harshly to them, comparing ourselves with them or undervaluing and dismissing them in our minds, we are actually responding disrespectfully to God and His passion for the people He created. Even if their actions seem to justify our response, we are violating our Father's heart if we dishonour them, whether with our words, thoughts or actions.

Honouring the honourable

The Bible also has something to say about honouring another group of people – our leaders.

"Let the elders [those who oversee the church] who rule well be considered worthy of double honour. . ." (1 Timothy 5:17, ESV)

"Honour everyone. . . . Honour the Emperor [the government]." (1 Peter 2:17, NRSV)

In a culture steeped in cynicism and merciless satire, how strange it seems to honour those in authority. And yet it is vital that we rise above the norm and be deliberately encouraging, respectful and slow to ascribe blame to them.

We rely on those in authority over us to carry the weight of responsibility for our protection and our freedom: how can we possibly justify adding the weight of our complaining or our mockery? They need encouragement and respect more than anyone; if we deny it, we hurt both them and ourselves.

Honouring ourselves

Finally, we need to honour ourselves. Self-deprecation seems to be a virtue in British culture, but in fact it is irreverence. We embody of God's infinite, wondrous creativity, a breathtaking exhibition of His wisdom and goodness. You are one of His best ideas! When we put ourselves down, we tell a lie which dishonours the One who made us.

There's no question of bragging in ourselves, but we should absolutely recognise and celebrate the greatness of His design in us. Those who understand their own value and aren't afraid of it are immeasurably freer, happier and more fun to be around than the so-called "humble" whose attitude is just a smokescreen for self-absorption and self-pity.

Honour is beautiful

So rise above the culture – what you've been told is normal and what people are expecting you to say. Forget the tired idea that negativity indicates intelligence and instead live in the true wisdom of honour. Ignore the petty, temporary truth of people's weaknesses and instead fixate on the grand, sparkling truth of their God-resemblance.

Breathe out respect, encouragement and honour, and you will leave the aroma of Heaven wherever you go.

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