Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. | 1 Peter 2:13–17
A somewhat common occurrence in our culture is what is referred to as: random acts of kindness. This usually means going out of your way for another person: paying for the coffee of the person behind you in line, carrying someone’s groceries, or handing out free tokens at the Laundromat. These are wonderful things and the world can do with more random acts of kindness (I certainly appreciate being the recipient of them).
On Sunday, I suggested that what the world needs even more is for us to practice random acts of honor. To honor someone is to give them value and respect. This is a bit different than kindness, because kindness can be contained in the act. When we act kindly toward someone, it does not reflect on that other person (it reflects on us). It is something done and moved on from. It is something where your action costs you very little.
Honor, on the other hand, requires you to give much more than a gift card or time; it requires you to give value to another person. With this value, you submit yourself to them. To submit means: make the most of others by making yourself less. The reason that this is so difficult is: we don’t trust others with this kind of power. We know that some people don’t deserve honor, we know that some people are actually dishonorable – and then we come to this verse and Peter calls us to: HONOR EVERYONE. What gives?
What Peter is calling us into here is what Paul was getting to when he said:
Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. | Philippians 2:4
and what Jesus meant when He said:
For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ | Matthew 25:35–36
The Bible continually calls us into the posture of honor for the sake of the common good and God’s glory. When we give people honor, we are not just lifting someone else up (which is good in itself), but we are allowing the humility of the gospel act through us. More than submitting ourselves to another person, we are submitting this life to God. We are saying: I trust you to work through your means. I trust you to give me what I need. I trust that your good is good enough. When we honor ALL people, those who deserve it and those who do not, we are declaring that our ultimate value and hope is not rooted in this world, but in the one who created it. To practice random acts of honor is to live congruent with the gospel we preach.
What does it look like to honor someone? It means that we treat them with human dignity and concern, not as a means to our end. The people who check our groceries are people with lives, fears, and passions, not just a person who is not going as fast as we want. The people in traffic around us are not just blocking us from where we are going, they have their own concerns (that you are blocking them from). Our ideological opponents are not foes to overcome, but people who have a different view of the world based on millions of different factors you know nothing about. To honor these people is to treat them as the complex creations that they are.
Some would say that this is compassion (and they surely overlap), but compassion is usually defined by acts of acceptance and support. I don’t believe that honor requires encouragement. To honor someone requires you to view them and their opinions as valuable enough to disagree with and push back on. Honoring means taking seriously what they say; some things need to be called out. Ultimately, if we value those around us, we will give them a fair hearing, give credence to their perspective, and then disagree boldly, and honorably.
This is extremely important in an honor-less culture. We live in a place where we have lost our connection with others. Where our actions: kindness, compassion, and love are all practiced without honor. It is exactly in this broken system that people living out a gospel understanding of honor can reveal something other; something holy; something divine. This is our moment, lets not waste it chasing our own glory. Instead, let’s live for His.