Displaying honour can be difficult, especially to those older than us, because it requires us to resist the urge to debunk the rules instead of readily giving in to the command or authority of our elders. Honouring becomes harder still when the recipients of such honour are undeserving of it or demanding it in an audacious manner. Despite the difficulty, the scriptures are clear. God commands that we show honour to those who it is due (Romans 13:7).
But what does honour mean and how can we best display it?
What is honour?
To honour someone is to hold them in high esteem or grant them great respect. The Bible is replete with commands to show honour to others, especially our elders (Leviticus 19:32; Romans 13:1; Ephesians 6:2). The term elders do not simply refer to the people that are older than you, but to those who are in positions of authority. According to Peter-Contesse, the term ‘elders’ in many cultures around the world age is still associated with authority and wisdom. The Hebrew term actually means ‘the beards’ or ‘the bearded ones’, signifying the wealth of wisdom and knowledge that accompanies decades of life experience.
We give those who are considered elders (whether by age or position) honour since all honour and authority belongs to God and He delegates this authority to whom He wishes. (Rom 13:1)
Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.
Consequently, displaying honour to our elders reflects the honour we give to God. The scriptures never exhort us to demand honour, only to give it. Therefore, how do we overcome the struggle of remaining honourable to authorities, parents and elders alike, who not only demand honour, but whose actions prove that they are unworthy of honour?
Overcoming this tension requires us to understand the purpose of our actions when deciding to honour and submit to authority even when they are undeserving of it. We give honour, especially when it is difficult because we want to declare to those around us that we honour God first and the honour the people He places in particular positions for His purposes. Even when placed in a difficult position by a person of authority, honour is still due.
What about me?
Honour isn’t unidirectional. What this means is honour isn’t just due to those who are above but also to those who are below. Romans 13:7 says
Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honour to whom honour is owedRomans 13:7
And who is owed honour? Everybody (1 Peter 2:7). Human beings are the crowning point of God’s creation, made in God’s very image (Genesis 1:26). This means that man reflects the very image and glory of God. Therefore, every human being is worthy of dignity, respect and honour (Psalm 8:5). When we ascribe value to humans we are merely mirroring what God did first in creation, which is to crown each human being who will ever be made, with glory and honour. When we acknowledge this we make much of God’s handiwork.
Honour one another
In Ephesians 5-6:10, we see Paul outline the practical applications of holy living in relationships. Paul demonstrates how submission is vital to walking in love in our various relationships. In these verses, we can see how submission and honour are inextricably linked. If we are to rightly honour those in our lives, submission is required (Ephesians 5:22 – 6:9). Submission here is not forceful subordination to a person, but a joyful laying down of the will to serve another. When we see submission this way it will allow us to give honour more freely. For example, when parents give commands to children, they won’t see obedience as their parents trying to reduce their joy but increase it. Furthermore, parents that are committed to honouring won’t act in such a way that frustrates their children but treat them as fellow image-bearers and if in Christ, co-heirs.
Give and receive honour
So how can we promote a culture of honour in our various relationships?
Romans 12:10 speaks clearly to this;
Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honour.Romans 12:10
If we want to be people who both give and receive honour well, we must first receive and give love well. Honour and love are both derived in God. We look to Jesus and see that He is worthy of all honour, and also, that He is love. From this revelation, we can see how He endows honour and love on His people. He has clothed us in honour because we were created to reflect the honour that God alone deserves. So honour is not an option, but our duty. We must show honour to others and receive honour from others. Once we do this we will reflect the glory of God all the more.