The Big IF: Honor

The Big IF: Honor

The Big IF: Honor.

Sometimes our eyes just skip over small words in Scripture when we are reading in a hurry. In other words, if we’re not careful, if we find ourselves skimming the Bible, we will miss what might be the most important word in our relationship with God. We might be blind to a little word that quite possibly is central to our discipleship of Jesus. The word is “IF.” If is not a word to skip over, because it is often followed by a “Then.” Jesus makes many promises in the Gospels, and many of them have an “If” attached. If you do this, then I will do that, says Jesus. He seems to offer many conditional promises, what seem to be promises with strings attached. Conditional promises highlight the fact that we need to do our part in our relationship with Christ. We need to accept our responsibility as we cooperate with Him. We are active participants in our walk with the Lord. God offers us unconditional love, but we do have obligations if we expect to receive what He has promised. When we do our part, we are not earning salvation. We instead are putting forth effort as we live into our life of deliverance. We are doing our part in order to receive God’s promises. Obedience to Christ often translates into actively fulfilling on the “IF” so that God can fulfill the “Then.” This is another way we are working out our own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in us both to will and do for His good pleasure. (Phil. 2:12-13).

“If anyone serves me, let him follow me, and where I am, there shall my servant also be. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.” (John 12:26).

To Honor Someone: to decide that someone has high value; to prize; to hold up high; to treat with admiration; to give special recognition to; to recognize someone as very important; to show esteem for one deserving of respect; to put someone on a pedestal.

Follow and Serve. To “follow” in Greek comes from a root word for “road.” To follow Jesus is to hit the road with Jesus, to go wherever He goes, to accompany him in his travels. To follow is to cleave steadfastly to Christ, to remain close to Him, to base our activities on the actions of Christ. Serving Christ just comes naturally out of following Him. To serve Christ means we wait upon Him, we minister to Him and provide for Him. How do we do that when He’s not even here? We serve Christ by obeying His teachings, His instructions, His commands. We serve Christ by serving others, by being merciful, by meeting the needs of those hungry for help. We serve Him in our hearts by finding our motivation in life to please Him, conforming ourselves to His life. The end result of following Christ, of serving Christ, is to receive honor from the Father! This is a heavenly Father who has a servant’s heart and doesn’t think twice about stooping to us and placing the crown of honor on our heads.

Prize Package. The completely honorable Father honors us? Shouldn’t this be the other way around? It’s astounding to consider that the Creator of the universe places a high value on servants. What greater reward could we receive than to be honored by the Creator God, the Great I AM. This is not a light matter, this is a heavy matter, that the glorious Lord would place us on a pedestal for honor. This means that the Almighty God admires us, respects us and esteems us, prizes us! The great and eternal God has placed a crown of honor on each of us. The likes of us who become self-centered at a moment’s notice? God apparently sees us worthy of honor because of His Son. We follow Jesus, we serve him, and we are honored by the Father. What a wonderful reward.

Imitation: We are to love others the way God has loved us. We are called to treat others the way God has treated us. In this case, it is wise and virtuous to honor others the way God honors us. In biblical terms this is imitation of God, in which we take on God’s character and reflect it, duplicate it with other people. As St Paul says in Ephesians 5:1, “As God’s dear children, take Him as your pattern. Be imitators of God. Copy Him and follow His example. Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Be imitators of God in everything you do, for then you will represent your Father as His beloved sons and daughters.”

One Another. The Father honors all those who serve His Son. In imitation of Him, we likewise honor one another. We place a crown of honor upon everyone we meet, all of whom are made in God’s image. That crown of honor was first placed there by God at creation. We are to make sure that that crown remains in place. “Take delight in honoring each other,” says St. Paul in Romans 12:10. We make a habit of placing a high value on each person, like God does for us. We treat each other with esteem and respect, recognizing their importance in God’s eyes, in our eyes. Because of the honor God gives to each of us, we recognize that every person is an image-bearer, every servant of Christ is a follower, and thus worthy of honor. Every person is intrinsically honorable, even if we don’t act it at times. St. Peter put it simply, “Honor everyone.” (1 Peter 2:17)

Shame. For those who struggle with shame, those who feel inadequate or abandoned or unworthy or exposed, which includes just about everybody, the Father’s honor is healing. After being dishonored, what better way to get that honor back but by the very hand of God? After being disgraced, what could be more healing than to taste God’s honor? When the Father honors us, He recognizes our importance, He acknowledges our high value, He considers us worthy of love and respect and attention. Since the Father’s honor for us is fleshed out in God’s family, we feel the Father’s honor when we receive the honor of other people close to us. When we honor one another, we are participating in the healing of shame’s wounds in each other. When we value each other and underline each other’s importance and worthiness, we help remove the stains of shame and inadequacy. The shamed person, meaning all of us at some point, needs the body of Christ to validate each other’s worth, to reflect God’s honor for each of us. When Lazarus was raised from the dead and then stumbled into daylight from the darkness of his tomb, Jesus made an interesting remark. It was more or less a command… “Unbind him and let him go.” (John 11:44). Jesus asked Mary and Martha and all those witnesses to loosen the grave clothes from Lazarus. Take off those bandages of death so he can be in freedom. Unwrap those vestiges of his old defeat so he can walk in newness of life. Remove whatever is binding him tight. Lazarus was helpless to help himself because he was so bound up. He needed a community to unwrap him. This unbinding process of Lazarus is a clear picture of how someone wrapped in shame can be healed. The person who is bound in any way by shame has limited freedom and needs other people to be unbound. Shame is much like grave clothes that need to be unwrapped. And loving people close to the shamed can take part in the unbinding process, taking off the death rags and thrown away, replacing them with a healthy set of new clothes.