Restoring Honor

There is an authority crisis in America today.  It’s been a long time in the making, and has exponentially grown to the place where—like so many other nations—we have rioting in the streets.  Anarchy is becoming a more and more common way of living.  Lawlessness has become a normal way of thinking, even in the church world, and is now increasingly being acted out. 

Violent crimes have increased more than ten times, and murder has doubled in the last three decades. Charlotte Police receive an average of ninety-eight domestic violence calls a day—nearly thirty-six thousand a year.

Diminishing respect for authority is at the root of this downward spiral.  The church is to reveal a higher way, another culture, to the world.

Jesus, the One to whom all authority has been given, spoke these strong words:

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.  Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord’ have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’

“And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me you who practice lawlessness!’”[1]

Behavioral patterns are normally formed early in life.  A significant key is found in the fifth commandment, the first commandment with a promise:

“Honor (esteem and value as precious) your father and your mother—that is the first commandment with a promise—that all may be well with you and that you may live a long life on the earth.”[2]

There are many synonyms for honor.  Respect is the one that speaks loudest to me.  I also am thankful for the insightful expressions for honor offered in the Amplified Bible:  esteem and value as precious.

Our Father has placed a value on all people.  Being all inclusive, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”[3]  God is longsuffering (patient) toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.[4]

To that end, we are exhorted to:

  • Warn those who are unruly,

  • Comfort the fainthearted,

  • Uphold the weak,

  • Be patient with all.[5] 

Even our most violent confrontations[6] are to be redemptive in motivation, “For God did not send His son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”[7]

“Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another.  “Be angry, and do not sin;” do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil.[8]

We are in measure the products of our environment—at least until we begin to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.[9]  Simply stated, we have good habits and we have bad habits.  Jesus comes to live in us and helps us sustain good habits and replace bad habits—a lifelong process.

He who is forgiven much loves much.[10]  The elder brother of the prodigal had no idea of his significant inheritance until his father threw a party for his sibling.[11]  Those who have lived uprightly must be careful to not rely upon their own righteousness, but to fully embrace the new creation[12] in Christ, surrendering all to Him in favor of newness of life in the power of the resurrection.

The Cultural Revolution began during World War II, when Dads went to war and Moms went to work.  Today, we are faced with the full-grown fruit:

  • The moral deterioration of this nation

  • The lack of respect for our leaders

  • The loss of God’s favor

Honoring or respecting authority is not primarily about the person(s) in authority.  It’s about us honoring God by honoring His authority—civil and spiritual—in faith and obedience.  Civility is furthered in any sphere of life where people honor one another.  Such knowledge begins with the fear of God.[13]  But fools despise wisdom and instruction. 

I was trained and still believe in honoring positional authority, not necessarily because I believe in the individuals, but because I believe in the One who administrates all authority![14]  I am not so naïve as to believe that my honoring another—deserving or not—improves his or her status.  We need the revelation that doing so in faith is for our good, and the good of others, regardless of the character or conduct of those whom we so honor.

Dishonoring governmental, community, or church leaders can be “vanilla” in texture and flavor, and still rob us of the promise that attends our faithfully honoring others. 

Honor is not always spoken.  We often communicate through our attitudes.  Dishonoring others in either attitude or action is akin to nailing one of our feet to the floor, and wondering why our lives are going in circles.

God cares for us!  He keeps His promises.  The command to honor is for our benefit!  That’s where so many miss it. 

If we read Romans 13, beginning with verse 1, we may miss the supernatural implications of God’s higher thoughts and ways concerning authority.  Let’s back up a chapter for context.

Romans 12 begins with an appeal for us to not be conformed to this world so that we might be transformed by the renewing of our minds.  What makes sense to the world should be at least suspect to us.  Kingdom administration is demonstrated as we:

  • Bless those who persecute us (verse 14)

  • Repay no one evil for evil (verse 17)

  • Do not avenge ourselves (verse 19)

  • Give place to wrath (verse 19)

  • Feed our enemy, and give him drink (verse 20)

  • Overcome evil with good (verse 21)

 Now, with this kind of renewed mind, perhaps we can embrace the Holy Spirit inspired instructions pertaining to our attitudes and actions regarding authority written in Chapter 13.

ThekingdomofGodis not of this world!  Consider these intellectually unreasonable propositions:

  • “Do not resist an evil person.”

  • “Whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.”

  • “If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also.”

  • “Whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two.”

  • “Love your enemies.”

  • “Bless those who curse you.”

  • “Do good to those who hate you.”

  • “Pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.”

All of the above are unreasonable to unrenewed minds, yet are insights into the higher way of God’s kingdom.  This higher way cannot be fulfilled by the man of flesh.  It is by faith in the Word of God and the enabling power of the Holy Spirit that we can walk in this way.

Jesus failed to honor His parents on at least one occasion, when He stayed behind at the temple inJerusalem.  It is possible that Joseph and Mary got to the “seat” of the problem with the “board of education,” providing Jesus the correction and training He needed.  Scripture testifies of Him:

Though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He             suffered.[15]

  • He went down with them toNazareth

  • He was subject to them

  • He increased in wisdom and stature

  • He increased in favor with God and man

This is not a call to blind obedience or passivity.  Jesus stood His ground, angrily condemning those who opposed God.  The ways of the kingdom are for the sons of the kingdom.  We cannot always speak unto men as spiritual.[16]

My generation was brought up honoring authority—parental authority, educational teacher authority, governmental authority.  “Yes, Ma’am, yes, Sir.”  “No, Ma’am, no, Sir.” It is still natural for me to use these expressions of honor.  I enjoy watching the reaction of teenagers who are bagging my groceries when I refer to them as “Sir” or “Ma’am.”  (I really mean it when I do it, because God has put a high value on their lives—much higher than they realize!)

Render therefore to all their due, taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.[17]

Joseph had learned how to submit to authority as a child in his home, beginning by honoring his mother and father.  The promise of God—that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth—remained intact throughout the life of Joseph.  The favor of God rested upon him while in the household of Potiphar, while in the prison, and while in thepalace ofPharaoh.

We need to connect the dots, and realize that respecting those who are in authority affects our lives in a variety of ways.  Life is not always fair.  Joseph was not always fairly treated, but he honored those in authority, and lived in the favor of God. 

Paul was not the only one to define Kingdom administration in terms of honor.  Peter wrote,

Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”[18]

  • Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake.

  • Honor all people. 

  • Love the brotherhood. 

  • Fear God. 

  • Honor the king.

Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh.[19]

Conditions do not alter the character and conduct of those who have been rightly discipled through their service to parents, guardians and stewards,[20] who know Father’s voice and walk in His Spirit.   

And now, friends, we ask you to honor those leaders who work so hard for you, who have been given the responsibility of urging and guiding you along in your obedience.  Overwhelm them with appreciation and love![21]

Material response is an appropriate way to honor those who serve us.

I will never forget my first trip to India.  Our team went to a rural village to participate in a children’s program.  Every one of those precious little children presented me with an egg (raw, and in the shell).  What a wonderful way to train those children to give honor to whom honor is due!  Paul wrote to Timothy,

Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine.  For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer is worthy of his wages.”[22]

Paul responsibly taught those within his allotment about honor, and the tangible demonstration of that honor.  While making certain that they understood that he was not exercising his rights, he spelled out the rights of those who preach the gospel:

  • Do we not have a right to eat and drink?

  • Do we have no right to take along a believing wife?

  • Who goes to war at his own expense?

  • Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its fruit?

  • Who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk?

  • “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads the grain.”

  • He who plows should plow in hope.

  • He who threshes in hope should be partaker of his hope.

  • If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things?

  • Those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple.

  • Those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar.

  • The Lord commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel.[23]

The church at Corinth was yet carnal, babes in Christ, and could not be addressed as spiritual.  For that reason, Paul added this:

But I have used none of these things, nor have I written these things that it should be done so to me; for it would be better for me to die than that anyone should make my boasting void.  For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!

For if I do this willingly, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have been entrusted with a stewardship.  What is my reward then? That when I preach the gospel, I may present the gospel of Christ without charge, that I may not abuse my authority in the gospel.  For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more.[24]

Faithful stewards and generous givers are not necessarily spiritually mature in every respect.  However, those who are not responsibly honoring the Lord with their possessions and with the firstfruits of all their increase cannot expect their barns to be filled with plenty, and their vats overflowing with new wine.[25]

Some are living well below the favor of God today because they have copped an ungodly attitude and/or believe a humanly logical apologetic that continually questions authority.  It is better to exercise a childlike faith in the simplicity of the command with promise, and render honor to all men—especially those who have been given responsibility with authority in our lives, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh.[26]

If you are among those who have suffered abuse at the hand of someone in a position of authority, find the help you need to be healed. If you have been wounded by leadership, God will likely deliver your healing through someone in leadership. Resisting authority is not helping you to be healed.  God wants to abundantly provide for your complete victory in wholeness.  Please take a risk in faith.  Ask God to direct you to the person(s) who can help you.

Whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.[27]

Rendering honor to whom honor is due, beginning with our fathers and mothers, is linked by principle to the favor of God.  Being enlightened and empowered by the Holy Spirit—Christ in us the hope of glory—brings this principle to new levels of faith. 

Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end . . . The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.[28]  Isaiah used a word that translates “government” in this passage, and links it to peace.  We will experience more peace as we find ourselves submitting[29] to more of His government that comes to us by His Spirit, through His body—the church, including His appointed leaders. 

This is not a call to perform.  This is a call to faith in the ability of Christ in us to do what needs to be done.

One moment of faith and repentance, with the forgiving of others, can cancel a lifetime of hurt and fear and frustration.  It’s not too late for a new beginning!

Are you hurting?  Pray.  Do you feel great?  Sing.  Are you sick?  Call the church leaders together to pray and anoint you with oil in the name of the Master.  Believing prayer will heal you, and Jesus will put you on your feet.  And if you’ve sinned, you’ll be forgiven—healed inside and out.

Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed.[30]

Don Atkin

[1] Matthew 7:21-23

[2] Ephesians 6:2-3; Exodus 20:12

[3] John 3:16

[4] 2 Peter 3:9

[5] 1 Thessalonians 5:14

 [6] Jesus’s encounter with the moneychangers in theTemple, His confrontations with Pharisees, etc.

 [7] John 3:17

 [8] Ephesians 4:25-27

 [9] Romans 12:2 – We begin to live and function in the environment of heaven.

[10] Luke 7:47

[11] Luke 15:11-32

[12] 2 Corinthians 5:17

[13] Proverbs 1:7

[14] Romans 13:1-7

[15] Hebrews 5:8

[16] 1 Corinthians 3:1

[17] Read Romans 13:1-10

[18] 1 Peter 1:13-16

[19] 1 Peter 2:13-18

[20] Galatians 4:1-2

[21] 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13a TM

[22] 1 Timothy 5:17-18 – Suggested reading: 1 Corinthians 9:1-14

[23] 1 Corinthians 9:4-14

[24] 1 Corinthians 9:15-19

[25] Proverbs 3:9-10

[26] 1 Peter 2:18

[27] Romans 13:2

[28] Isaiah 9:7

[29] Submission is an inward attitude; obedience is an outward action.  There will be times when we cannot in good conscience obey.  But, we can maintain a submissive attitude.  See Acts 4:5-20.

[30] James 5:13-16 TM

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