“HONOR ONE ANOTHER”
Brides choose one for their wedding. They ask a close friend, “Will you be my Maid of Honor?”
Officiants demand it of brides and grooms. They ask them straight out during the marriage ceremony. To the groom they ask “Will you have this woman to be your wife and will you pledge yourself to her in all love and honor?” and to the bride they ask “Will you have this man to be your husband and pledge yourself to him in all love and honor?”
Students strive for it in school. They work hard to make the “honor roll.”
Boy Scouts swear by it. “I promise to do it - Scout’s Honor!”
Judges insist we address them by the term. “Do you promise to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?” “Yes, your Honor.”
And the Apostle Paul directs us to make it a part of our repertoire when dealing with others in the church. He writes, “Love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor.”
The word “honor” means “to value,” “to respect,” or “to give worth.” That is what a little church in England failed to do. One Sunday while on vacation, John Henry Jowett, the great English preacher, visited a quiet village chapel and took his seat almost unnoticed in the congregation. As time approached for the beginning of the service, the visiting preacher had not arrived. The deacons asked if anyone would be willing to give the morning message. Jowett, a stranger to the congregation, volunteered.
Jowett preached a sermon he had recently preached in his own church, Carr’s Lane, one of the great churches in England. The congregation did not respond well to it, but the deacons thanked him for helping them out in a pinch. During the week the local newspaper announced the Jowett was enjoying his holiday there. When the deacons realized who he was, they approached him again on a Wednesday night, and asked if he would preach again for them the next Sunday. Jowett was surprised by the invitation.
He said, “I preached for you last Sunday.”
“Yes,” the deacons replied, “but we did not know then that you were John Henry Jowett of Carr’s Lane!”
Jowett declined the invitation.
According to the Bible we owe honor to many different persons. First, the bible directs us to honor God. According to the bible God deserves our highest praise and honor. Listen to what we catch the heavenly angels singing in the Book of Revelation: Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing (Rev. 5:12)!
Second, the bible directs us to honor all those who are over us. Citizens are to honor their rulers (1 Pet 2:17), slaves their masters or in today’s language, employees their employers (1 Tim 6:1-2), children their parents (Ex 20:12), believers their elders and pastors (1 Thess 5:12-13). According to the biblical witness, we owe all these people respect and honor because of their God-given position over us.
Third, according to our text, we need to honor not only God and not only those who are over us but also we are to honor "one another" as well.
Here, we can actually learn from secular society. Our society is quick to honor people for special accomplishments. Colleges have honors convocations for students who have achieved a 3.5 grade point average. Outstanding school athletes are honored at awards banquets. Winning Olympic athletes receive gold, silver, or bronze medals. Governments present a medal of honor to soldiers who have displayed unusual bravery on the battle field. Department stores and fast food restaurants honor their "employee of the month." Businesses have learned to honor their bosses secretaries with special days. Our nation honors soldiers on "Veteran's Day." We honor our parents on "Father's Day" and "Mother's Day."
If the Apostle Paul were here today I’m sure he would say, “That's how it should be done in the church. We ought to be quick to honor one another. We should outdo one another is showing honor to each other.”
But how do we do that? What might it look like? Let me offer three snapshots of of outdoing one another in showing honor. First of all, we can honor one another by praising and complimenting a person in front of others.
Jesus did this with the Roman Centurion. The Roman Centurion, if you remember, came to Jesus and asked Him to heal his sick servant. The Centurion knew Jesus did not have to come to his home to do this. Instead, he told Jesus, "Just say the word, and my servant will be healed." Jesus turned to his followers and paid the Centurion one of the greatest compliments found in the pages of the New Testament: "I tell you the truth,” he said, “I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith" (Mt 8:5-10). Jesus honored the Centurion for his faith and he did that in front of others.
In 2009 two sharply different basketball players were inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame. One you probably know. Michael Jordan. The other one, unless you are a sports fan, you may not know. I mention this because of the sharp contrast between the acceptance speeches. As one person said, “Michael Jordan’s speech was all about him, and what people owed him, or didn't do for him.” Robinson’s speech, on the other had, revealed a Hall of Fame individual, not just a Hall of Fame basketball player. Robinson never really got to his induction speech, because even though he was being honored, he publicly acknowledged and thanked every person who had touched his life, beginning with his three sons. Two of his sons were teenagers at the time, and the youngest was in elementary school, and imagine how those boys felt to have their father say, first of all to his oldest, his namesake, David, Jr, “I’m very proud of you. You are so intelligent and so wonderful,” and then of his middle son, Corey, Robinson said, “You are so multi-talented, a person after God’s own heart,” and then to his youngest son, Justin, he said, “You are my heart, always on my lap, you are brilliant, exciting, and a natural born leader.” How do you suppose his son’s felt to have their father begin his Hall of Fame acceptance speech by acknowledging them before the hundreds of others who had gathered to honor him?
We honor one another by praising each other in front of others. We also honor others by associating with them, by spending time with them. That, of course, got Jesus into all sorts of trouble with the goody-two-shoes of the day. The “synagogue saints” accused Jesus of hanging out with the wrong crowd, the sinners, instead of upstanding people like them.
Think about it. With whom did he spend time while on this earth? Yes, he did eat fancy dinners at the home of the a Pharisee or two, but most often he associated with tax collectors and sinners. He wasn't ashamed to be seen talking with a Samaritan woman. He allowed a prostitute to anoint his feet with perfume and to dry them with her hair. He honored these people with his presence and company.
I volunteer in my grandson’s first grade class. A week ago Thursday, they had a family event in the morning from nine to ten, to show off the child’s math skills. Parents, or grand-parents or aunts and uncles came to class and played math games with their child. I played a number of games with Eddie, but the event broke my heart. You see, there were a couple of children in the class, two boys, who had no adult show up to play with them. One of those little boys said, “My daddy said he was going to be here.” And I can understand work schedules, and illness, and the like, but I also know of a family that went out of their way to have an adult there to be with their child. They didn’t want him to feel that he wasn’t important, significant, so they went through a number of family members until they could find someone to be there. That person had to cancel something else in order to be there, but that family knew the importance of being there, of honoring another by spending time with them.
Third, we honor others by taking joy in seeing them in the spotlight. A fellow named Gene Getz once shared about a friend of his who is a good musician. A very special musician because, well, as he put it:
He has perfect tonal memory. His creativity at the keyboard is amazing. But that's not what sets him apart. What I admire most is this man's desire to help other people "look and sound good" - especially when he accompanies them. He always makes sure his own volume is "just right" so as not to compete with the vocalist. His "frills and ripples" - which flow from his fingers beautifully and naturally - always enhance the other's presentation rather than detract from it. He is able to accentuate when necessary to assist the singer in hitting difficult notes - or even to cover up a person's mistakes. What's most important, his excitement and personal satisfaction is always obvious when a vocalist he has accompanied is honored by others for a job well done.
It’s been said that people are usually on one of four levels when it comes to sharing the spotlight. Level one, we want the spotlight for ourselves. When someone else receives credit for an action in which we are also involved we immediately think, "What have I done to deserve being overlooked and mistreated so?" Is that were one can most often find us, on level one of honoring one another?
Or maybe, we most often can be found on level two. Level two is our being willing to share the spotlight with someone. I think of the conductor of an orchestra. When the audience applauds, the conductor will acknowledge the applause with a bow but will also turn to the performers and credit their efforts with a sweeping gesture. I’m sure you’ve seen that happen. Is this where others can most often find us?
Or do they most often find us at the third level? That’s where we delight that others are in the spotlight...never mind ourselves. John the Baptist showed this attitude when Jesus drew his following away from him. People asked John about it and he said, "It's OK. That's how things are supposed to be. He must increase while I decrease."
Then, there is the fourth and final level. Level four is making it our desire and aim to have others enjoy the spotlight. Not only do we enjoy another person's success, but we also work hard to make it happen.
Let me quickly summarize the levels:
- First, we want the spotlight for ourself.
- Second, we are willing to share the spotlight with someone else.
- Third, we delight when others are in the spotlight instead of us.
- Fourth, our aim or goal is for others to be in the spotlight.
What level are we on? What level does the Apostle Paul want us on? Let me remind us. He said, “Let’s outdo one another in showing honor.” In other words he said, “Let’s work hard on getting others in the spotlight.”