I’ve lived my entire life through a time when you can trace a slow shift from showing honor to a certain group of individuals to showing it to a whole other group entirely. The earliest memories I have of truly showing honor to a group of people came after 9/11. At the time, everybody seemed willing, and indeed even wanting to show honor to people in a position of authority: police officers, school principals, doctors, firefighters, military men and women, etc. As we moved into 2003, 2004, the early era of reality TV, the beginnings of podcasts, the rise of Myspace and Facebook, we began to see a young culture willing to give honor to people who never would have received it in society before the invention of the world wide web. As Dylan has said, “Times they are (were) a changing,” and the predominant attitudes within the culture about who is worthy of honor were shifting heavily away from the older generations who had achieved status through some sort of achievement (athletic, scientific, political, financial, etc.) towards the personalities people enjoyed and got entertainment from (social media personalities, culture “influencers,” reality television stars, etc.)
Now, someone reading this might read this and downplay its significance sighting an attitude like, “Culture changes, and as it changes people have always had their heroes that fit the times. Brandon you just need to get with the times and celebrate them rather than look down your nose at who is being honored and why. If you don’t like it then don’t watch it or listen to it.” If I heard that attitude from a non-Christian I would respond by saying “touche.” As a Christian, I know “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,” and so this means each person within my culture (Including myself) is naturally bent inwards on themselves, so every person naturally has a tendency to honor who or what affirms their desires, or interests, or whatever it may be. What I cannot be OK with, and indeed what Christians should not be OK with is this sort of attitude coming from people who claim the name of Jesus! When we come to faith in Jesus we are “crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who lives, but Christ in me.” We are thus granted the gift of the Holy Spirit who sanctifies us towards our telos (our “end”), and that eschatological (end times) telos is actually Christ Himself. Therefore, when a person believes in Jesus and is being sanctified they should be inevitably and increasingly changing who they see as worthy of receiving honor as they loosen their grip on their own selfish fulfillment and strengthen their grip around glorifying Christ.
Here is the reason why we should pay close attention to who it is we honor in our societies and generations– because God has given clear commands and directives in Scripture about who is worthy of honor. Here are three verses commanding Christians to honor certain people or groups of people…
- “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you (Ex. 20:12).”
- “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching (1 Tim. 5:17).”
- Romans 13 requires some contextualizing. In 13:1, Christians are commanded, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” Paul goes on to explain that the rulers in authority over us are “God’s servant (s) for your good.” This leads Paul to say, “therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.” This is the reason why, “you also pay taxes for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.”
What I hope Christians will see when they read this particular blog post is that each group God has commanded us to give honor to is worthy of honor, because of the position that GOD HIMSELF PLACED THEM IN… Christians are not commanded to obey their parents, because they are such good and nice parents. In a very different way, Christians are told to obey their parents because God has placed them in a position of authority over them. Christians are not told to obey solely nice parents that we agree with, and we aren’t even told to only obey Christian parents, but when Paul re-states the 5th commandment in Ephesians 6 he writes, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother (this is the first commandment with a promise,’ ‘that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Yes, God does have commands for mothers and fathers as well, but the point we should take from this is that children are called to obey their parents regardless of whether or not their parents obey their own call from God. Parents are to receive honor from their children because God has placed them in a place of authority, for the sake of guiding children to their eschatological (end times) end- which is to be joined with Christ for eternity.
In a similar way, I hope Christians can see the call to honor elders in the church, and government authorities outside the church is commanded by God not necessarily because they are our favorite celebrity pastor, or the head of the political party we adhere to, but simply because God has put them in a place of authority over us for His own specific purpose. You will notice that the 1 Timothy 5:17 verse does NOT say to consider the elders over you who are really good at preaching, who have great blog posts, who are extremely relevant to my life, who are good looking, or cool, or funny be “worthy of double honor.” No, the passage points to order in the church, and in the context of that order Christians are commanded to consider elders of the church to be considered worthy of double honor. Furthermore, this passage teaches Christians to especially honor the ones who labor in preaching and teaching. Why? Because, through the preaching of the Gospel God has ordained the elect to believe for salvation. This is the reason why Paul says in his second letter to Timothy, “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season: reprove rebuke and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” To put it simply, we honor elders not because they entertain us but because they reprove, rebuke, and exhort us, so we don’t turn away from the truth and wander off into myths.
It seems to me that many Christians have an easier time giving credence to the idea of honoring mothers and fathers, and pastors and elders than they do to the clear biblical command to honor government authorities. I’ve seen people try to talk their way out of Romans 13 any which way, but I must point out Romans does not tell Christians to only give honor to the governing leaders we believe deserve honor. Peter wrote to this point, “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.”
I put the final phrase of Peter’s paragraph in bold print for a reason— because the emperor during the time he was writing was Nero. Nero literally held stadium games when he would feed Christians to the lions. Nero crucified followers of Christ because they would not disavow Christ’s claim of being the Messiah. Nero blamed the Christians for a great fire which took place in 64 AD, which led to widespread persecution of Christians; he was an evil emperor. Yet, Peter commands the Christians “Honor the emperor.” A friend of mine, Mike Willmer, once said of this passage in a sermon, “If there was ever an exception to the command to ‘Honor the emperor,’ it was when Peter was writing.” I’ve heard some Christians suggest a current ruling party or parties do not deserve to be honored, but according to God’s Word that is not the case. This was not the case 10 years ago, and it will not be the case 10 years from now. God has placed governing authorities in positions of authority over us for a reason. He has done this by His sovereign will, and so regardless of whether the leader over you is a Christian or not, regardless of whether you agree with this person or not, God has called you to be subject to the ruling and governing authorities over you. Furthermore, we are called to honor those in positions of authority. (The conversations about exceptions can be for another time for here is not the place)
So, what is as the title suggests “The millennial Christians’ honor problem?” The problem is our tendency to show honor to the same people in our society that our non-believing friends do, and to not show honor to the people God has clearly called us to. There is an alarming number of young people claiming to be Christians who criticize their own parents to their faces (it’s much worse behind their backs), and yet see no problem with glorifying musicians, movies, and Instagram stars who should not be granted a platform in the lives of believers. This is because there is an honor problem- a disconnect. There is a rising rate of bold Facebook personal attacks against people in authority, and this coming from professing Christians who are called to absolutely not engage in such activity. Why? Clearly there is a disconnect-there’s an honor problem. Many a pastor or elder has been undermined by congregants attempting to snag power in churches which appear otherwise gospel-centered and utterly Christian. Why? Because there is an honor problem.
So, is there a solution to the millennial Christians’ honor problem? Yes, there is only one solution, and it is a very straightforward and objective one- honor God. The only way you or I will even want to fix the honor problem is if we are actually giving honor, and dominion, and glory to God. God has commanded you to love Him and honor Him in the very 1st commandment, “You shall have no other gods before me.” This means that you fear Him, you revere Him, you give Him the position and reverence He deserves… “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom. Fools despise wisdom and instruction (Prov. 1:7).” If we honor God and love Him then we will want to honor the people and groups of people He commands us to honor, because we will trust Him and we will know in honoring them it is for our good. If we ignore God’s instruction on who He commands us to honor then in some way somehow we actually aren’t honoring Him, and this would be foolish because only “fools despise wisdom and instruction.” The only answer to an honor problem is to honor God as He has called Christians to do.