In the middle of this election year, the amount of vicious attack and trash talking has reached a new high (or low). No matter what your political persuasion, I think you would agree that the political environment has become increasingly toxic.
We now live in a culture where verbal attack seems the order of the day. We have lost our sense of civility… and no person and no position is off limits. The media ruthlessly exploits people all in the name of “selling a story”.
And the advent of technology has made it easier for people to be vicious toward one another. Because now you can hide behind a screen. People will say things in an e-mail they would never dream of saying in person. Pastors know this reality all too well.
So, when you hold up the topic this article against the backdrop of culture, it is radically counter-cultural. And sadly, too often it is even counter to Christian culture.
I think it is time that we as pastors take the lead in helping our congregations and communities know how to treat one another.
One of the ways that we shine the bright light of the gospel is to CRAFT a culture of honor within our churches.
I choose the word “craft” very intentionally. When you “craft” something it takes skill and expertise and focus. You will never drift into a culture of honor.
A church is a great laboratory and testing ground for “honor”.
The signature verse for this topic has to be Romans 12:10 (NIV) where Paul says
Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.
Honor one another above yourselves.
We are not only called to be devoted to our mission. We are mandated to be devoted to one another. That means that the people I preach to are not just volunteers for the church’s mission, but they are family. And just like we don’t get to choose our earthly family, we don’t get to choose who God puts in our spiritual family called the church. Being devoted to the people in our congregation is messy and often frustrating. But they are the sheep God has entrusted to us and they are worthy of our devotion.
In a culture of honor, we are to be more PERSONAL than TRANSACTIONAL. In other words, I value the people in my church as unique individuals who are created in the image of God and who matter greatly to God. People have a very fine tuned antenna… they can tell whether or not we have genuine interest in them (personal) or whether we simple want something from them (transacational)
A culture of honor is always marked by “brotherly love”. It seems to me that these days we are obsessed with leadership and growth. The danger is that we can make an idol out of leadership and vision. But in John 13, Jesus did not say “by this will all men know that you are my disciples…if you are really good leaders” or “all men will know you are my disciples… if you have a great ministry plan or awesome vision statement”. The one thing Jesus gave the world the right to judge us by was how well we love one another (John 13:35).
It is helpful for me to regularly be reminded that the bible has far more to say about love than it does leadership.
Paul ends Romans 12:10 with the challenge to honor one another above yourselves. I love that word “honor”. But what does it look like to “honor” one another above ourselves?
One translation of this phrase in Romans 12:10 is “lead the way in honoring others above yourself”. One scholar translated this phrase “try to outdo one another in showing honor”.
That is just the opposite of our normal competitive spirit. Our human nature competes to show we are the best. When we compete, it’s usually about us. but Paul says, “if you you want to compete, be competitive in showing honor to others”
In the last few months there is a verse that I just can’t get off of my mind. It is in the book of Titus and Paul talks about us “making the gospel attractive”. When we treat people with dignity we make the gospel attractive. When we truly love people we make the gospel attractive. And when we use words of honor, we make the gospel attractive.
In the midst of a toxic political environment where verbal assassination is the order of the day, we have the incredible privilege of making the gospel attractive by honoring one another.