By Thom Mollohan
One word we think too little of and one which is certainly not observed enough is the word “honor.” When we hear the word its meaning is often muddled in our minds. At best, it makes its rare appearances in verb form in the same sentences as the words “promise” or “agreement.” We also hear it in wedding vows as the bride and groom pledge to honor each other. Practical application of these vows deserves a place of supremacy in the values and priorities of each and every marriage. Still, I suspect that until we obtain a better sense of what honor is and its priceless worth, the point of honoring one another will be lost on most couples, children, in regard to their parents, and Christians, in general.
God’s Word delineates correct priorities clearly in the commands to love God above all other things and love others at least as much as we love ourselves. Intricately wound up in this love is the fact that honoring another is a means by which we demonstrate love.
We are therefore admonished to honor God above all things. In other words, we are to revere and esteem Him more than anything else (1 Corinthians 6:20, Numbers 25:13). Then, as beings who carry His image and recognize that others have also been created in His image, we honor others, too. More to the point, as Christians, we are to “honor others above ourselves,” (Romans 12:10).
A specific way children honor God is by obeying their parents (Exodus 20:12, Matthew 15:4, Ephesians 6:2). We also honor God when we respect those institutions that He has created for His divine and holy purposes. Marriage, the joining of a man and woman in a holy covenantal relationship, is specifically to be held high (Hebrews 13:18), for it recognizes what Jesus has done by giving of His life for His church and joining His Spirit with the church. Marriage is to be highly esteemed because it is the primary vehicle for aligning our culture with God’s plans (Malachi 2:14-15). Aided and strengthened by God’s church, it perpetuates godliness in our darkened world, inasmuch as the husband and wife place their home under the loving control of God.
But what does it mean to have honor or to defend one’s honor, and what does it mean today to be a man of honor? I have known soldiers who have had a better idea than most of what honor is, but I haven’t had the same experience in discussion with those outside of the military. I am grieved to find that talking about honor with most people is like talking in another language.
Honor, as a noun, means simply an esteemed reputation or a reverenced name. To have honor simply means that we live up to the name that we now carry as Christians. If a Christian lies, then he dishonors the name of Jesus. If a Christian cheats, or steals, or is unfaithful, then he is not living up to the name that he has been given, the very name of Christ.
A look today across the landscape of broken promises, selfish acts and cowardly decisions will expose the fact that there are few, indeed, who truly have a sense of honor. Honor means little, because we generally do not understand its worth, nor do we care to ascertain it.
Think for a moment about the price that Christ paid for you! Jesus, the ultimate Man of Honor, courageously forsook selfish motives and endured a life of hardship, so that He could revere His Father’s holiness. He boldly spoke the truth to all, even when He was hated for it, so that He could establish His Father’s Word. He bravely cared for those that others deemed unworthy of attention and affection and then willingly died the death we deserved, so that He could uphold His Father’s love. Shortly before His crucifixion, Jesus said, “Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!” (John 12:27).
Honor is at the heart of Who Jesus is and always seeks to glorify that which is deserving of it. Ultimately, nothing is more deserving of veneration than the name of God. This is why we need to seek to restore honor to our homes, to our businesses and to our reputations. Whether or not we ultimately achieve a name of honor depends on keeping our promises, dealing with others justly, and demonstrating lives of compassion. The manner in which we are known becomes the platform from which we proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ and becomes the means by which the name of God is glorified.
(Thom Mollohan and his family have ministered in southern Ohio the past 16 ½ years. He is the pastor of Pathway Community Church and the author of The Fairy Tale Parables. He may be reached for comments or questions by email at firstname.lastname@example.org).