When we think about what we owe others, usually money, favors and other tangible support come to mind. But our Lord says it is that and more. “Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.” (Rom 13:7)
The latter may be more difficult to apply consistently, but we can respect and honor one another in various ways.
I Respect You
Before we make decisions that will affect the lives of others, we should ask for their opinions and seriously consider the input. I remember “informing” my wife once that we were called to another church and would be relocating. That was wrong and hurtful because as a matter of respect I should have asked for her opinion since the move affected her as well. The more important the decision is, the more necessary it is to solicit input. We may not always be obligated to abide by the opinions of others, but especially in marriage we should hesitate to continue unless we are in total agreement. In the context of church leadership, pastors need to seek input related to decisions that will affect many lives. Just announcing major initiatives is disrespectful to others involved.
We should also respect the things others feel strongly about. I am not known for neatness, but when I share space with others who are more fastidious, I make an effort not to annoy them with my clutter.
Finally, we should respect what belongs to others — their privacy, property and time. For instance, my being late robs others of a precious commodity – time. If I borrow something, I will take care of it and return it as promised.
I Recognize and Affirm Who You Are
Before we can truly honor someone, we must know him intimately in order to discover that person’s gifts. When we recognize, acknowledge and affirm people’s talents, we can help facilitate using these resources for their own self-fulfillment and for the glory of God. One of our most important jobs as parents is to help our children discover their gifts.
When we strive to understand the unique contribution each person can make and then help them reach their potential, we honor them. Jesus suffered the opposite effect in his hometown because the people of Nazareth did not recognize Jesus for who He was – the Son of God. (Matt.13:57) Consequently, Jesus was not able to do many miracles there. On the other hand, when Paul was shipwrecked on the island of Malta, the people honored him and many healings occurred. (Acts 28:9-10)
We need to take the initiative to recognize and facilitate the gifts of others. This key principle reinforces the idea that the “one anothers” are best given than taken. A friend of mine was frustrated because his gift of teaching was being neglected by the church. He could have exerted himself and demanded a position, but there is no honor in aggressively taking a position of honor. Rather, it was incumbent upon the leadership of the church to recognize and direct his talents.
I Submit to Your Authority
The topic of submission has become a hot button in our generation because of two misunderstandings. First, those in authority have misunderstood their roles when they fail to recognize that the Bible commands mutual submission. (Eph. 5:21) The misunderstanding results in overbearing, egotistical, narrow-minded, self-serving, domineering leaders.
Furthermore, those under authority often don’t realize that God has indeed established levels of authority and that He will often work His sovereign will through them. Followers in this category can be rebellious, insolent, oppositional, reluctant and challenging.
Despite the imbalance that often exists, the Bible makes it clear that we are to honor (respect) those who are in authority over us. (Romans 13:1-7)
I Value and Esteem You
When we honor someone, we should explore and express another dimension – an emotional one, an issue of the heart. We should honor people because of the great value they have as human beings, not out of duty and obligation. We don’t want to be like the young boy who was made to sit in the corner as punishment who grumbled, “I may be sitting down on the outside, but I’m standing up on the inside.” We should take pleasure as we honor others.
I Will Give You Special Consideration and Proper Recognition
Christ especially challenges us to give weaker members more honor than stronger ones. (1 Cor. 12:23) While serving as an interim worship leader, I remember how our choir members went out of their way to honor a mentally challenged young man who also sang in the choir. They graciously accepted him in every way, even when he sang too loudly or off key. The young man was not neglected.
Eventually, our habit becomes that of intentionally preferring others to ourselves, giving them the advantage. As we honor one another, we will not be neglected either.
Don McMinn, Ph.D. (with Kimberly Spring)
Executive Director of theiPlace.org
The 11th Commandment: More Insights into the One Anothers of Scripture