Honor's Highest Purpose

By Francis Frangipane

Last week we discussed how Ham's sin of exposing the shame of his father, Noah, led to Noah's curse upon Ham's son, Canaan. Noah saw in Ham a character flaw that would be passed on to Ham's children. The specifics of this curse would be that, from generation to generation, Ham's descendants would become the "servants of servants." Why would they abide in this economic slavery? Simply because one who habitually disrespects, shames or exposes the weaknesses of those in authority over them simultaneously disables their ability to advance in life.

You say, "Well, I am not going to be anyone's 'yes man.' If I see something wrong in a person, I'm going to warn others about it." Fine. But beware that what you are calling "courage to speak out" is not more truly a deception masking a rebellious, dishonoring attitude. In other words, we each ought to take heed that our boldness to talk to others about problems with the boss or pastor or spouse is not just a pretense for self-righteousness, pride and dishonor.

Our capacity to genuinely show honor to people is something God wants us to learn. Consider: From the beginning of our lives, the Lord instructs us to honor those over us. Indeed, the commandment, "honor your father and your mother," Paul tells us, is the first commandment with a promise, "that it may go well with you and that you will live a long life." In other words, if we habitually dishonor our parents or those in authority over us, it will not go well with us.

To show honor does not lower us, it simply raises others. It is not an act of fear, but humility. Thus Paul writes, "Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore he who resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God" (Rom 13:1-2a). The entire realm of authority and social structure is God's answer for chaos and anarchy. Earthly governments and institutions, of course, are not the Lord's highest or final authority, but this is a profound thought: "there is no authority except from God."

We all know there are occasions when men misuse their positional authority and stand against the will of God. In which cases, we must obey the Lord's higher authority above institutional authority. But that is only when we have been commanded by a ruler or employer to directly disobey the Word of God or renounce truth. Yet, even in this context, we are not called to dishonor those in authority as we seek to obey a higher authority. In other words, we do not have to have a rebellious attitude toward men in order to have an obedient attitude toward God.

To honor someone is to ascribe to them worth and value. In a world where life is systematically cheapened, our ability to genuinely show honor declares that every soul is important, both to God and to ourselves. Indeed, the Scriptures affirm time and again that we are to honor people for their humanity, even if we disagree with their actions.

You say, "What if there is sin in that leader, do we still submit and honor them?" I ask, "When would there NOT be sin in a leader?" No one is perfect. But even in regard to what appears as flagrant sin, the Scriptures call us to go to the person in private, in the spirit of gentleness and humility (Matt 18; Gal 6:1). We still are to honor them and not quickly expose them. Indeed, even when there is failure, if there is repentance, love covers a multitude of sins. Talk about the issue privately and then cover it; do not immediately seek to expose a person, but restore. This is the dignity and nobility of heaven.

The Glory
But, I want to talk of a deeper reason, the most awesome reason, why we should show honor to others. You see, God has an objective much greater than simply attaining a more refined culture, as healthy as that itself would be.

Let me explain. During a recent prayer meeting, the Lord showed me something spectacular about the nature of man. One of the local pastors prayed for Reuven, our Jewish brother. He prayed, "Lord, his life touches so many people." As he prayed, suddenly I saw Reuven with the eyes of the Holy Spirit. God's emphasis was not at all on what Reuven was physically, but spiritually. I saw Reuven with the glory of God emanating, expanding out from him, and the Lord using him to touch many, many people.

Forgive me if this sounds too far out, too "spiritual," but I saw that the Holy Spirit extended from Reuven like great, living wings that reached far beyond the physical touch of his hand. At first, I saw this only with Reuven, but quickly others came to mind: a doctor I know, a single mom, several pastors, a secretary, a policeman, students, and on and on people came to mind, all who had become living dwelling places through which the Spirit of God could reach to mankind.

Like a ship passing through water whose waves ripple far beyond its actual path, so a godly life passes through the sea of humanity and multitudes are touched for God. On either side of the righteous man, the living wings flowed, invisible, yet substantial. Souls were constantly being turned toward heaven: A quick prayer with a waitress, an encouragement to a friend, a reminder that God is good to the doubting, a soft touch to the hurting. Through the virtuous life of the godly, the Holy Spirit brushed away the dust of human failure and sin, cleansed the grime of fear and discouragement, and relieved the burden of shame and heartache.

Do you see this as well? Within the church dwells the glory of the Living God! And as we conquer battles and overcome sins, God's glory becomes more influential and powerful until it literally can be sensed by others as we pass by, even in the common tasks we perform. They may not identify our influence as anything other than encouragement or love or hope, but it is the glory of God touching them through us.

The Old Temple Versus The New Creation
God has honored mankind by choosing to dwell within us. He is ever looking for a way to expand the home of His living Presence. He sees in mankind, not the filth of our sinfulness, but the potential of His transformation. This is why we must honor one another: each of us is a holy temple of God.

You may ask, "How holy?" We who have received Christ are more holy than the holiest place in the Old Testament: the "holy of holies" in the Jewish temple. The temple was so sacred that, in the annual entrance of the high priest into the holy place, bells were sewn into the hem of his garment and a rope tied around his ankle. So sacred was this place that only this priest could enter and only after offering many sacrifices in precise fulfillment of ritual law. However, should the jingling bells turn silent, his fellow priests would take the rope in hand and, without entering the holy place themselves, drag him back outside. Yet, a Christian is more holy than the holy of holies.

How sacred is the life within you? You are more important than the ark of the covenant, in which were found the Ten Commandments and Aaron's rod. Indeed, when this small, gold-lined box was being returned to Jerusalem, Uzzah, a soldier and not a priest, tried to steady the Ark as the cart which carried it wobbled. As his hand touched the Ark, instantly, he was struck dead. Yet, the holy presence in you is more sacred than the Ark of the Covenant. You are the dwelling place of God on earth; the Hebraic temple was but a type and shadow of what Christ in you was to fulfill.

You are the temple of God. The Word says that if anyone would destroy the temple, God would destroy him (I Cor 3:17). We have not discerned the body of Christ as it is. This is not poetry; it is reality: Christ dwells within us. When you criticize and dishonor, from heaven's view, your actions are similar to one who would have gone into the temple in Jerusalem and defiled it, spat upon its walls. Today, we are the temple of the Living God.

"Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? May it never be! ... Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you" (1 Cor 6:15, 19a).

Our bodies are literally the members of Christ. Our form is the temple of the Holy Spirit. We honor one another because Christ dwells within us; and we extend that honor to the unsaved, for Christ desires to dwell within them.

Even if, at this time, you feel you are just "a dimly burning wick," there is still a light within you that Jesus will not extinguish. If you have received Christ, His glory is in you right now. It is His presence in you that I seek to defend. Thus, we hear the Lord saying, "judge not" and "condemn not," but now we are learning that we must go beyond that stage of being punished and disciplined for our wrong attitudes. We are learning to honor each other because Christ is in us.

Honor precedes power. As we honor the Lord in one another, we release His power through them as well. Remember, Jesus said, 'A prophet is not without honor except in his home town, and in his own household.' And He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief" (Matt 13:57-58). A prophet is not without honor. However, where there was no honor, Jesus "did not do many miracles." Their critical, dishonoring perception of Jesus disabled their ability to receive the gifts God had for them.

"Therefore from now on we recognize no man according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come" (2 Cor 5:16-17)

We are new creations in Christ. Yet, this actually defines our problem: We only recognize each other after the flesh. Someone has to die before we recognize them after the spirit; we are far too familiar with each other on the wrong level. We must break the limitations carnality and jealousy have placed upon our perceptions: Christ dwells in the person next to you.

But, you say, "I have failed." Yes. We all have. Past failures are no limitation to God. Remember John Mark's failure? He deserted Paul and Barnabas. Barnabas, however, saw Christ's potential in Mark and, despite Paul's contention, desired to restore Mark to ministry. Barnabas, who was also called the "son of encouragement," took Mark, the failure. You see, Barnabas honored Mark not for what he had done, but for what he could be - for his destiny. And what a destiny he ultimately attained! Most scholars agree that this same Mark who had failed Paul became the author of the Gospel According to Mark! Later in life Paul himself found great blessing in Mark as well, writing, "Pick up Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for service."

We must learn not to bury people in their failures. Christ remains ever present, ever willing to restore and release power, even in His fallen, wounded vessels. Indeed, perhaps He will emerge in your spouse or in the person sitting next to you this Sunday in church. Thus, it's imperative that we honor everyone! We must refuse to judge people after the flesh. Those who are trapped by failures need love the most. True spiritual love does not manifest without us paying a price; it is costly. It goes to where people have been haunted by condemnation and the rejection of others and seeks to restore them, honoring again the promise and potential of Christ within them.

Until we see the hope and dignity of Christ within each person, we will never break the curse that dishonor has exacted upon our souls. We simply must cease judging people after the flesh, for no one knows what God has for that soul who seems today a dimly burning wick. We can only work to see Christ magnified in His temple. In the truest sense, it is the Spirit of Christ who deserves to be recognized and honored in His temple; and the potential of Christ which should be honored in the unsaved.

"And the glory which Thou hast given Me I have given to them; that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them, and Thou in Me. . ." (Jn 17:22-23a).