How to Honor Someone Who Doesn’t Deserve It
As Christians, most of us have heard that we are called to honor our mothers and fathers. It’s one of the Ten Commandments after all. But that isn’t the only call to honor given to us in the Bible. We are commanded to honor all those placed in authority over us. There are no exceptions to this. In fact, the Bible tells us to honor even the unhonorable. Most of us know how to honor someone we respect or love, but the game changes when we have to honor someone we feel doesn’t deserve that honor.
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Who are we called to honor?
A quick search of the word “honor” in the Bible reveals that we are not only called to honor our parents, but we are also called to honor all those placed in authority over us. This includes pastors and teachers, as well as all governing authorities. And then 1 Peter 2:17 takes it a step further by telling us to honor ALL MEN. Yes, you read that right. We are called to honor EVERYONE in our lives.
Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king. – 1 Peter 2:17
Why is it important that we show honor as Believers?
Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), so that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth. – Ephesians 6:2-3 (emphasis added)
All who are under the yoke as slaves are to regard their own masters as worthy of all honor so that the name of God and our doctrine will not be spoken against. – 1 Timothy 6:1 (emphasis added)
Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. – 1 Peter 2:13-15 (emphasis added)
According to these verses, there are two main reasons to show honor…
- Because it’s for our own good. When we show honor to someone who deserves it, we learn from them and grow. For example, by obeying our parents as young children, we are protected from harm and are able to learn from their wisdom.
- Because it’s what’s best for the Kingdom of God. The truth is that we are called to honor even those who don’t deserve it. Why? Because our goal as Believers is to advance the Kingdom of God and to spread the Gospel far and wide. Demonstrating a lack of honor only hinders our message.
What about those who are undeserving of honor?
Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable. – 1 Peter 2:18
While the Bible never endorses slavery, slavery was prevalent during its writing. And as you can imagine, slaves were often treated very unfairly. Even then, the early Believers knew that disrespecting their harsh masters would do more harm for the Gospel than good. And it wasn’t just harsh slave owners they were told to honor, they were also told to honor the emperor and those in governing authority under him. At the time this was written, the emperor was Nero, one of the cruelest and evil men to ever rule.
The Gospel of Christ was this important to them… that they would choose to honor a man who heavily persecuted and killed Christians in order to make the name of Jesus known and to not hinder the message of the cross.
Social media has given us an outlet to speak our minds against everyone and everything, and we are definitely not shy about voicing our opinions. Should we really be speaking ill of our president? Our governing leaders? Our pastors and Christian leaders? It’s okay to disagree, but it is not okay to dishonor those in leadership.
And what about our day-to-day lives? Are we showing honor to our elders, our teachers, and our bosses?
I will be the first to say that this is sometimes easier said than done. We’ve all been hurt. We’ve all been mistreated. But when we choose to show dishonor, we give that person ammunition to use against us as well as the God we serve.
So how do we do it? How do we show honor?
First of all, we have to define the word “honor.”
Honor does not mean obedience, rather it means to value or respect. True honor requires us to take on the heart of a servant. We lift others up in humility and love, and we recognize that Jesus loves ALL men and died so that ALL men would have the opportunity to be saved. Even those we disagree with… even those who hurt us… We don’t have to agree with someone to show them love and respect.
The truth is that honor is more about you and your heart than it is about the person you are honoring. With the heart of a servant, you are able to honor every person that you cross paths with, and it shapes everything you say and do.
When we walk in love and humility and choose to honor even the unhonorable, we demonstrate the heart of God to those who need it most.
Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. – Romans 12:10 (ESV)
*Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.
**Photo by Ben White at ChristianPics.co