There have been few things in my life that have shaped me or been as formative over the past few years than learning to understand true and Biblical honor. It has revolutionized how I deal with people, how I love and encourage my leaders and how I lead my team.
I understand the triggers that likely go off when you hear the word “honor” in regards to church leadership. I have been triggered for my whole life by the word.
In my childhood, “honor” was code for “don’t question me because I’m the boss.” Pastors would talk about honoring the man of God and challenging people to honor them. But as I look back, I feel like there was confusion between honoring and obeying. The two many times go hand in hand, but are not always exclusive to one another.
But I believe Biblical honor goes way deeper than how you or I interact with our leaders. I think that honor is at its very basis love and grace combined. And when we live out a culture of honor, then we are truly living out a culture of love and grace.
So Jesus hits 30. He begins to wander Israel and to talk to people. Everyone seems to be in awe and wonder of this amazing man. He seems to have heard from God. They hear that he used to be a carpenter but He knows the Torah, the Word of God like the back of His hand. Like… this dude legitimately seems to have heard from God. And people start talking. Word gets around. People want to hear this guy speak.
And from a historical context, the Jewish people have not heard from God in four hundred some odd years. For years, they had heard from God through the prophets … His word raining down from heaven as if from a giant spigot that one day just stopped. Nothing. For four hundred years.
And during these four hundred years, the Jewish people had been owned. Israel had been conquered by Rome. People were poor, overtaxed, hurting and waiting for the Messiah, who they believed would come and conquer Rome and save them.
Jesus starts talking and people are thinking Hmmmm… this sounds pretty Messiah-ish. But then he started doing crazy stuff. Like healing people. Like raising people from the dead. He goes from just being the keynote speaker to being the straight up main attraction. He goes from city to city on his Magical Mystery Tour, healing and speaking and speaking and healing. And I’m sorry – I’m a Beatles fan. My kids are both named after Beatles. And the team Magical Mystery Tour only works in so many situations. So… bear with me.
Mark is unlike some of the other Gospels. He doesn’t start with the Christmas story. He picks up the story with John the Baptist preparing the way for Jesus, then John baptizing Jesus, then Jesus picking up His disciples, then starting his miracles. In succession, Jesus heals the man with the unclean Spirit (read: demon possessed), then Jesus heals a leper (lepers had leprosy … leprosy is a skin-eating disease that quite literally eats you alive … oh, and it had no cure … oh, and Jesus made this leper like new), then Jesus makes a paralytic walk again, then Jesus heals a guy with a withered hand (which seems mildly anticlimactic, unless A) you’re the dude with the withered hand and B) you take into account that nearly all jobs of this time involved physical manual labor – i.e., work done manually or, you know, with your HANDS), then Jesus straight up calms the storm with a whisper peace be still (sorry, I quote Scott Krippayne songs whenever possible), then He heals another demon possessed dude, then he heals a woman who had been just bleeding for twelve years straight from places you don’t wanna bleed for twelve years straight (I mean, technically, that’s … anywhere), and then He goes to this rich guy named Jarius’s house and He raises the man’s daughter from the dead.
Like I said – the Magical Mystery Tour. That resume is impressive. And that’s just the first 5 chapters of Mark. Jesus was legit. No questions asked. He had power.
Which is why Mark 6 is super interesting to me. Picking up in verse 1:
He went away from there and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him.
And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands?
Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.
And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.”
And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them.
And he marveled because of their unbelief.
So – let’s get this straight: Jesus just spent 5 chapters basically kicking death and sin in the teeth. Then He takes the Magical Mystery Tour home… and … what? Like, this should be His glorious homecoming. There should be parades and people like going crazy for Him, cuz you know He’s awesome. He legitimately might be the Messiah.
And people are like (read this in a Valley Girl accent), “Oh. My. Gosh. Who does Jesus think He is? Special or something?”
They’re like, “I went to school with this guy. He was not popular and He was not good looking then and He isn’t good-looking now!” (Isaiah 53). And, “Didn’t He make our table and chairs?”
And they either can’t or won’t give Jesus the honor He deserves.
But here’s the CRAZIEST part. It isn’t that they won’t give Him honor. It’s that when they don’t give Him the honor He deserves, His God-like superpowers of healing and necromancy and exorcism just… poof… are gone. It says “HE DID NO MIGHTY WORK THERE.” Instead of all the other awesome stuff, He heals some mild headaches. Not even migraines (cuz if you get migraines like I do, you know getting rid of that jazz is a mighty work).
Jesus’ power is bound by not receiving the honor He deserves.
We rightfully tend to think of honor in how we treat our superiors. Especially our spiritual superiors. The word honor is kind of a dirty word in some church cultures for a reason. It has been abused by many for a long time. But let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water.
At a former church of mine, we used to talk about honor like this: we honor up, down and all around. We honor those above us. We honor our peers. And we honor those who might be beneath us on an org chart. And we honor each equally.
As I study Biblical honor I realize that someone does not deserve more honor because of position. They may have authority, and their authority demands a certain level of obedience. But my honor should be the same of someone who is my superior to someone who is not. Not less for those I see as inferior (which is something I see a lot in church world) or less because they are my superior (something I also see a lot in church world).
Paul tells us in Romans 12:9-13: “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” Peter tells us in his 1st book: “Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.”
Honor here has nothing to do with position. In fact, Proverbs tells us “Humility comes before honor.” In other words, even if you have position, it doesn’t ensure you get honor, so don’t expect it. Humble yourself, then you’ll be honored.
My point is this: because we each are the children of God, we each were made in His image, each and every one of us deserve honor and respect, based on that alone. So I can choose to be kind and loving and excited about life when I have waited 20 minutes in a fast food drive through not because I am denying that it is frustrating to expect a five minute wait tops and you get quadruple that. No – that IS frustrating. But my own frustrations should not inform how I honor the people around me.
Because the thing that a lot of people come away with in the story in Mark is this: “Look, we have to honor our prophets/leaders because if we don’t they are not going to have the power they need to do what they need to do.” And that is ABSOLUTELY true. We do need to honor our leaders. They deserve it. Not because of position, but because of the blood that runs through their veins.
But I believe we should honor those around us… I believe we should create a culture of honor in our ministries, in our lives, in our workplaces, in our small groups, in our… whatever… because when we honor people we empower them.
We do not just empower the already powerful when we honor them. We empower every one to whom we show honor.
And what is honor? Well, as I said before, I think honor is a mixture of grace and love. Honor is loving someone even when they are unlovable. Honor is showing grace even someone has fallen from it. Honor is believing the best in people, and always looking for the good … even when there’s bad. Honor is seeking to highlight someone’s strengths and working to help them confront their weaknesses.
It is not agreeing with someone 100% of the time. It is not submitting without question. It is not blindly following.
It is grace and love.
So – I’m gonna guess that the people around you are not walking around Judea healing people and raising them from the dead. But you’ve heard the stories of how the people around have succeeded in the past. Is their Magical Mystery Tour ended since you came around?
If so, is it possible that maybe it’s you, not them?
Want a culture of honor? Honor people and empower them. Honor begats honor begats honor begats empowerment. And suddenly, your culture shifts and maybe – just maybe – the Magical Mystery Tour picks back up again. (which by the way, it did for Jesus, too).