I stand in a room of leaders from across our continent, diverse in age, race, nationality, giftings and personality. Women and men that are all “leaning in” to one another with loving respect and a commitment to unity. A room where honour rules. So moving, so meaningful, so much like God intends for His people to experience.
In the kingdom of God, honour is not reserved for those who are perceived as “great”—the powerful, or those who hold position and wealth. Honour is not simply for ceremonial purposes or to be shown to only exceptional people. Honour is the expected expression shown to those who lead, serve or simply live out their day-to-day lives with faithfulness and integrity. Those who demonstrate humility and servanthood as they live for the “Servant King” are those identified as being great in the kingdom.
Giving honour is an expected practice of those who follow Jesus, both within the life of the church and in broader cultural contexts. God’s Word includes instructions such as these:
“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.”1
And “Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.”2
As the PAOC’s position paper “A Biblical and Theological Study of Authority” states regarding honouring governing authorities,
“Jesus was careful to show respect for the authority of the government and to avoid any suspicion that He was seeking power for Himself. When His Jewish critics attempted to trip Him up with a taxation question, He answered, ‘Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s’ (Mt. 22:21) …Both Paul and Peter would later affirm this stance calling upon believers to submit themselves to the governing authorities because these have been established by God (Ro. 13:1-4; 1 Pet. 2:13, 14). The only exception to this principle is when those in authority require believers to disobey God (Acts 4:18-20).”3
In both the broader society and in the church, the practice of showing honour is under duress. Currently, there is a justifiable concern regarding abuses of power, dishonourable behaviours, and divisive actions, and therefore the need for accountable relationships and processes. There are valid concerns regarding the attitudes and actions of those who hold political, legal or ecclesiastical positions of authority. Within various church communions, the multiple incidents of abuse of power and disreputable behaviour have resulted in an atmosphere where showing honour has become an endangered practice. Denial will not address the root issues. The PAOC has recognized “abuse of power” as a cause for disciplinary action for credentialed leaders and is developing more enhanced processes to address such cases.
Yet that does not negate the call to “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” Or to “Give to everyone what you owe them: … if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.” My life experience has convinced me that in my world of relationships and authorities, there have been so many more to honour than to be fearful and suspicious of. Of the multiple friends, colleagues, mentors and authorities in my life, none have been perfect. Some have bordered on being abusive. But so many others have modelled and taught core attributes of what a life of love for God and love for others looks like that I have chosen to honour them and let their influence and example rub off on me. People do not have to be perfect to be respected and emulated. You do not have to be naive to be teachable.
My recent experience in a room of honour was only made possible because a diverse group of leaders overcame the historic practices of posturing, placing position first, and, instead, honoured and preferred one another as called to in the Scriptures. Honour arises when we see others as ones shaped in God’s image, revealing to us His character and nature. That is why, along with the noble and gifted, the very “least of these” are also to be honoured for how they reveal the realities of the kingdom to us. Honour is not about what others can do for us out of their strength or perfection; it is recognizing that Jesus is with us in the relationship and discerning how He can reveal Himself through each of us to one another.
We have choices to make in the current environment we are in. We must endeavour to ensure that our behaviours toward others reflect the value Jesus places on them. We must protect the vulnerable and intercede for those trampled underfoot by others. And we must honour the honourable as we seek to recapture a culture of integrity and honour in our churches and the wider community.
Lord, we pray what your Word calls us to. Let our love be sincere as we hate evil and hold on to what is good. Increase our devotion to one another in love. Enable us by your Spirit to honour one another above ourselves as we serve you in zeal and spiritual fervour. For Your glory and the blessing of those around us we pray, Amen.
This article appeared in the April/May/June 2023 issue of testimony/Enrich, a quarterly publication of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. © 2023 The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada.