Honor

written by Chris Hartenstein
Leading this past thirteen months has presented some unprecedented challenges. Lately, it has been harder to know how to help my family, small business, and ministry staff navigate the divisive, polarizing, and hostile world in which we live. There is so much confusion and the questions never seem to have an end. It’s pushed me to search harder for the clues in the life of Jesus, my ultimate model, and mentor. Here is where He and I have traveled…honor.

What does it mean to honor someone? How do we decide who we should honor? I think these are some “mission-critical” questions in the world we live in. I will dare say that as believers in and followers of Christ we need to stop looking at the world, government, Hollywood, politicians, organizations, and even some churches to instruct us on how to navigate these times in which we live. Jesus clearly lived a life we can follow after and was an example and mentor for us to learn from. His life was not marked by bigotry, race discrimination, taking political sides, etc. His life was marked by truth, grace, and love. He honored those who were seen as unhonorable: the poor, the broken, the wounded, the outsider, the whore, the thief, the betrayer, the lame, deaf, and dumb. Me and you. He honored God and the Torah. He recast and fulfilled the Law and moved the focus onto what goes on in the heart of every human.  Honor is a condition of the heart.  

In Greek and Hebrew, the words for honor are verbs or adverbs describing what is to be done or what has been done. It is the elevation or worship of another, holding one in high regard or esteem, rever, value or the price one is willing to pay for something, Obviously, primarily God was the center of all the honoring but also his creation, mankind, what he has done, who he is, his character, heart, and purposes.  

Let’s look at some truth -  let's be clear - We are “commanded to show honor to God (1 Tim. 6:6), to parents (Eph. 6:1-3), to employers (1 Tim 6:1), to fellow-believers (Rom. 12:10), to leaders and teachers of the Church (1 Tim 5:17), to civil servants (Rom. 13:1-7); in short... to everyone.” Notice there are no exceptions in the list. There isn’t mention of color, gender, race, religion, economic status, etc. NONE. It is just simply to honor everyone. Now I think this is hard because I base honor on how I see someone live, how someone acts, what they say, and too often if they believe what I believe. Honor is a forgotten, misunderstood, and misapplied word. I think about those who have served our nation in the military, government, first responders, and others who deserve to be honored for their service. They also “serve in an honorable” way, meaning how they did their duty was done in a way that was good, just, self-sacrificing. Certainly, their actions deserve honor.  I love these folks, and honor them, but what about those who don't act as I think they should? This is often a false or at least an incomplete measure of who we should honor. Honestly, this measurement leads me in some ways to express conditional love or withhold love. Jesus was clear that we are to “love our neighbor as ourselves” and also made it clear that “everyone is our neighbor.” Now love and honor go hand in hand. Love is the heart attitude that allows us to elevate someone, holding them in high regard, and “honor is the verb”, our outward expression, that lets love be seen, measurable and impactful.  

How do we honor people? Start with the lens we use to see them.  

In scripture and in the Kingdom God attempted to set up with the Israelites, the basis of honor was that a person was created in the image of God and, thereby, due honor. I am no scholar but, this idea is captured in this phrase: “b'tzelem Elohim - in the image of God. Every human must be seen as a reflection of God, his glory, and personhood. This comes from the biblical idea that each human is an image-bearer of God our Father (Gen. 1&2), each human has worth, value, and a soul, created by God. We must realize that honor is given to what they are created to be even if they chose not to live that. We honor that they are an image-bearer not if they act like one. We can honor the person and not the behavior. The opposite of honoring others is disrespect, a form of unbelief that denies that others were created b'tzelem Elohim - in the image of God (or rejecting the providential work of God in the world). Only by refusing to accept others as God's handiwork can people justify the atrocities they commit against their fellow man.” When we reject someone as an image-bearer then we can see them however we want.  

WOW…that is scary and convicting!  

Now, I am obviously speaking to believers here, but this also pushes into our beliefs about creation, God’s role in the world, and the example Jesus left for us. If we chose to remove God from the Story of creation and we espouse evolution or that we are the byproduct of some cosmic fart, then why would we have to honor others? Seriously, if I am just a “hair above a monkey” and simply another form of animal then why can I not simply “categorize” people as more or less “evolved” treating them differently? If we chose to reject the way God has created us and them, as an image-bearer, with dignity and worth, then in essence we are rejecting a part of God. If you cannot tell, this rabbit hole is deep. So If I chose to refuse to see another as an image-bearer that allows me to reject them and justify any behavior. Where does that lead us? No where good. I observe it has led to where we are right now. Hatred, anger, entitlement, division, us vs them, race clashes, and little to no restoration. If we see others as image-bearers of God, with dignity and worth. Where would that lead us?  I believe to God's Kingdom! His will being done on earth.  

As I have tried to navigate my heart and that of my family through these times we have discussed “how do we honor others?” Not how do we get more politically correct or vaccinated, on the side of social justice, conservatism, etc, etc. but simply “how do we honor others?”  How do we actively treat them like image-bearers? How do we honor the worth and value our heavenly Dad has placed on them? How do we see them as Jesus sees them? How do we share truth in love for their freedom? How do we calibrate our heart to the heart of our Dad?  

It has been tough as we weed out the ways in which we look at others and it is often not as image-bearers, not even close. It has made us aware of some ways in which we “assign honor” versus “give honor” without question.  It has brought up past wounds, some offenses that we haven’t released. It has surfaced some poor upbringing and church ideology that was way off. It has revealed how we judge and isolate and protect ourselves from what feels hard and dark. There has been confession and repentance. It has been really hard but really good...

But in the end, this truth of living like Jesus - honoring all and above all else, our heavenly Dad has guided our hearts, our actions, and attitudes to a place where we can freely express love and grace from a place of truth with a heart to bring reconciliation. It is a place of peace, freedom, and joy.  

So ask yourself this powerful but simple question...how do YOU see and honor others? Does it look like Jesus?

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