Honor. It’s a word we often hear when celebrating holidays such as Veterans and Memorial Day. As Americans, we have a patriotic sense of pride in the brave soldiers who face grave dangers for the sake of America’s freedom. They are willing to pay the ultimate price by sacrificing their lives for the benefit of the greater population. They are willing to leave the comfort of their own home in exchange for war zones and basic necessities. These valiant men and women fight selflessly for a purpose worthy of the honor it’s given. John 15:13 states, “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Whether you know a veteran personally or not, they undoubtedly deserve gratitude and respect for their courageous acts of service made on your behalf.
This Veterans Day weekend, I heard my pastors remind the church congregation, as they often do, to “Honor up, Honor down, Honor all Around.” It’s a quick and catchy saying, but holds a lot of weight nonetheless! If you can truly grasp all that it implies, it will change the way you live on an everyday basis.
There are many parallels between the life of a soldier and the life of Jesus Christ. Jesus paid the ultimate price when He died on the cross for the greater good of humanity as a whole. He was willing to lay down His life for the life of friends and strangers alike, because of His great love for people and desire to set them FREE. He had YOU in mind when He prayed not to have His will, but God’s will be done (Luke 22:24) right before His crucifixion. And as such, He is worthy of the highest honor! Jesus knew what His purpose was, and that it was all part of God’s bigger plan. God has given us the gift of life and gave His son as a sacrifice so that we can live life abundantly. Honoring up, therefore, always includes honoring God. We honor Him with our praise, our grateful hearts, with our obedience, and with our worship.
To “honor up” also means to honor those in authority. God is the ultimate authority in our lives, but honor should be given to people who have authority over us, as well. Of course, the first authority figures in our lives are our parents. Do you make time for your parents and make a conscious effort to honor them? All throughout the bible are reminders to “honor your father and your mother;” it’s even one of the Ten Commandments! As children growing up, honor is often expressed through kind acts and obedience. As adults, it can look a little different. Setting time apart for them or cooking something special could be a way of honoring your parents. It could be treating them to a meal or just expressing your love and appreciation to them. If they live out of town, you can make the effort to call them or send them surprises through mail and email. And of course, always be respectful! You may not always agree with your parents, their beliefs, or ways of doing things, but that doesn’t negate the need to give them honor. It is not only for them, but for YOUR benefit as well. God’s Word says you will live a long, full life when you do so (Exodus 20:12)!
Other people in authority such as your boss (if you have one), or anyone over you at work/school, church, government officials, law enforcement officers, etc. are also to be honored. We are told in Romans 13:1 to, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.” If we can understand the fact that God is the one who has placed or allowed people into positions of authority, then we can understand that by honoring them through respectful submission, we are also honoring God.
Not only are we to honor those in positions of authority over us, but we are to show the same honor and respect for those with little or no authority too! There are so many people who feel invisible because of the lack of recognition or respect they attain for their roles. But God doesn’t see them as or love them any less! There will always be someone of greater and lesser authority than you, so the mandate is to honor everyone equally. Don’t ever look down upon someone lacking a particular title attached to their name because lacking credentials does not mean lacking potential! You never know what God is going to do in their life or what they might become. And you never know how God may use those very same people to help you out down the road. The way you acknowledge and treat the company's custodian should be no different than the way you acknowledge and treat the executive director.
The same is true with the “prodigals” in your world. You know, the people who are living for themselves without any regard for God’s Word? Rather than judge them, pray for and love on them! The Pharisees in biblical times could not understand why Jesus would associate with such “sinners” and disapproved of His decision to do so. They stayed far away from anyone who wasn’t as “pure” and “holy” as they perceived themselves to be. Yet Jesus went out of his way to be the light in the darkness and to demonstrate His love to people who didn’t live Godly lives. He gave them the same opportunity to have an abundant and eternal life that He gave to everyone else. Jesus didn’t discriminate… and neither should we.
Honor All Around
We have numerous opportunities to honor people we encounter everyday. I’ve witnessed many times how just simply asking the cashier at a grocery store about their day can change their mood entirely! Instantly, a smile is formed across their face as they begin to share the highs (or sometimes lows) of their day's happenings . Opening the doors for strangers and random acts of kindness can also make a huge difference. I’ll never forget the time I felt lead to pay for a woman’s fuel a few years ago. When she realized that the gas pump machine wasn’t taking her credit card, she approached the cashier at the window who then pointed at me as she explained the reason for it. Immediately the lady started jumping up and down and shouting with joy. It was only $20 to fill up her gas tank, but she reacted as if she had just won the lottery! She just couldn’t believe how a random stranger would want to do that for her. As it turned out, she had been going through a rough season financially, and this timely blessing allowed me the opportunity to remind her of God’s love and provision over her life. On top of that, the cashier was so moved from witnessing the whole scenario that she hugged me, thanked me, and told me that she was inspired to pay it forward to someone as well! I understood in that moment what God meant by having a full life when we honor others, because my heart was overflowing!
You can never go wrong when you choose to honor the people in your life, whether they seem deserving of it or not. Doing so is just another way of honoring God because it pleases Him and is simply part of His character. And even when it comes to strangers, you just might be the glimpse into God’s character they need!