Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Honor Above and Below

I've been thinking more and more lately about the concept of honor and how is is similar yet very different from respect.  Honor is important not only to our relationships but to our faith, and seen and practiced well gives us an opportunity to make our relationships healthier, our faith stronger, and even allows God opportunities to shower us with blessings.  We live in a culture where we are encouraged to treat others with the level of respect we feel they have earned, nothing more, nothing less.  What this means is that people we don't know shouldn't get any respect, people who have hurt or disappointed us surely don't get it, and people who don't respect us shouldn't be given respect in response.  If there is someone above us in authority it is no longer necessarily essential to treat them with respect, if anything it makes you a bigger target for disrespect today.  If someone is below us in authority we can use our power to force obedience, but there is no need to do it in a respectful way.  If someone is beside us in authority then it is fine to see them as competition in need of being squashed so that we can get ahead while they lag behind.  All of this runs contrary to what following Christ actually looks like, it's rather just following our culture.

Phillipians 2 is a great chapter describing how Jesus lowered himself to take on the form of man rather than lording his power and authority over others.  Jesus encouraged paying taxes to Caesar and supporting the authorities we have been placed under with honor and respect.  I would say that how you handle power and whom you are willing to honor may be the most insightful peek into your heart possible.  How do you choose to act towards those you feel like you don't need, how do you care for those underneath of your authority, how willing are you to submit to the authorities you are under?  These are the questions that reveal your real character, not just the polished exterior you present to the world.  If you are only kind, giving, and respectful to people you feel you need or can benefit you in some way then you aren't loving, you are exchanging or manipulating.  You either wait for them to do something beneficial for you then honor them and therefore pay them for their services or you do for them with strings tied, expecting a payout down the road, and therefore are manipulating them to get what you want.  How well do you treat those under your authority or whom you have more power?  Do you lord your power over them expecting perfection or do you use your position to display grace when they mess up, compassion when they struggle to meet demands, and forgiveness when they wrong you?  What about the authorities over you, do you submit to them as unto the Lord, do you openly defy them with flagrance, or do you sneak around trying to get away with as much as you can without being caught? Do you feel like you can pick and choose who is in authority over you or do you believe what the Bible says about government leaders being established by God, children needing to honor their parents, husbands and wives needing to submit to each other but the husband being appointed as the head, employees (slaves) needing to obey their bosses (masters)?  Often we decide that since I didn't vote for the current president I have the right to criticize, demean, and defame him privately and publicly - yes we have the American right of free speech, but if we claim to be a Christ-follower we are called to a higher standard of honor.  Often we decide that when our spouses don't meet our expectations then we have the right to criticize them openly to anyone who will listen rather than honoring them with our hearts, minds, words, and actions.  Children who pick and choose what they will or will not obey of their parents will develop the hearts that rebel against God's authority.  Children who see their parents berate their teachers for daring to expect compliance from their child are being taught that authority figures are to be challenged and that honor and submission are signs of weakness rather than Christ-likeness.  Children who see their moms criticize their dads learn that either mom is the true highest authority in the house or that there really is no authority and everyone gets to just decide on their own.  We need to model humility, honor, and submission to authority to our children if we ever expect them to respect our authority or to ever be able to bow their own selfish will to God's authority over them.  Because that is what it comes down to when it comes to honoring and submitting to those in authority over us - if we feed the rebellious, stiff-necked, selfish, unable to be corrected spirit within ourselves by dishonoring those in authority over us it just reveals our true heart towards God, that we'll listen as long as we agree but then do whatever we really want behind closed doors.  I heard a woman married over 55 years telling her best advice for how to have a loving, long-lasting marriage and she said: be able to forgive well and be able to receive correction well.  Both of those are power and authority issues - who has the right to tell me what to do and what will I do to someone I feel wronged by and therefore have power over.

One area I see this coming out often in counseling is the clashing of my generation with the one that came before mine (I am 35 if that helps).  Both generations have erred when it comes to honor and the differences create major conflict as we interact as adults.  The generation of my parents were raised in a society that taught that children were to be seen and not heard and that elders were to be catered to and always given deference.  My generation was raised in a society that said that children were to be the most important people in the house and elders should cater to them.  Put them together and you have parents who spent a great portion of their lives placating and pandering to a bunch of adults that treated them like a nuisance at best or cattle at worst.  They grow to become older and expect that their investment will now be paid back with the generation below them placating and pandering to them now.  This is met by my generation's narcissistic response that old people are great if they are doing stuff for us, but otherwise are just a nuisance - the reverse of the seen but not heard principle.  Put it all together and both sides expect to be catered to and feel slighted that the other isn't doing what society promised them.  The solution is honor; when you honor those below you, above you, and beside you not just with lip service but in response to the love and honor God has poured out for us then we all have life breathed into us.  When we choose dishonor it not only hardens our hearts but limits God from being able to fully bless us the way he would like.  If you feel like you just aren't making strides in your walk with Christ it's worth asking yourself; do I have any unconfessed sin, do I have any bitterness from not forgiving others, or is there anywhere that I am not honoring those above or below me in authority?  God opposes the proud, he despises when bullies use their power to harm rather than enhance, but he also can only do so much with people that rebel against authority, that can't be corrected, and who are unteachable.

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