The Honor Challenge
I don’t do as many weddings as in days past. So when I officiated this weekend at the wedding of a wonderful young couple, it gave me a chance to reflect anew on the liturgy for the Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage, found in the Book of Common Prayer. It renewed my conviction that perhaps the most important word in this service, capturing the commitment to relationship conveyed in covenant, is the word “honor”. When I meet with couples in preparation for their wedding (a milestone in the longer and sometimes arduous journey of marriage), I often suggest that they hold that word “honor” at the heart of their life together. I encourage them to put that word “honor” in a place of prominence: on the visor in their car, beside the door so they see it when they leave the house, over the bathroom mirror. Make it a screen saver. It’s an old-fashioned word, and like many of the powerful words of our tradition, it has been hijacked by a culture which talks about honoring credit cards, coupons or frequent flyer miles. We need to reclaim the word. At its heart, it’s about quality of relationship. At its heart, it’s about showing and sharing love.
In the marriage liturgy, the word “honor” appears when rings are exchanged. The couple says to each other: “With all that I am and with all that I have, I honor you.” What does it mean to honor another person in this remarkable way, especially in the context of a marriage? My best guess is that it means seeking the best for that person, getting beyond ego-centric perspective which persistently asks: What’s in it for me? Have I been treated fairly? It’s a commitment not to a set of rules, guidelines, principles, dogmas, suggestions, commandments. It’s a commitment to a person. One wise priest in a wedding homily charged the couple to be Jesus for each other. That’s one way to talk about honor, as we think of Jesus as the one we follow, Jesus who came not to be served but to serve.
This call to honor is not only applied to married life. The 12th chapter of Romans is one of my favorite passages in the New Testament. It articulates the ways that we respond to God’s grace in relationship with others. I call it the so-what factor. In that chapter, Paul gets downright competitive about all this. As 1st century spiritual coach, he says, among other things: “Outdo one another in showing honor.” I call it the honor challenge.
What does that honor challenge look like for you this Monday morning? The promises we make in baptism help us start. We promise to seek Christ in all persons, not just those we like or agree with. Did you notice the word “all”? We promise to respect the dignity of every human being, not just those who we think have earned respect. Did you notice the word “every”? I don’t know about you, but I have spent way too much time in life focusing on how much I have been honored (or not). I have spent way too much time fretting about ways I have been dishonored, dissed, disregarded, treasuring resentments like trophies on a shelf. The disciple of Jesus is called to let that go, to think creatively about how in community, we can outdo one another in showing honor. The disciples of Jesus is called to think about how he or she can be of service.
Take the honor challenge today. Who is invisible in your day? Perhaps it’s people who offer service: the barista trying to keep up with a long line of cranky, Monday morning latte demanders. Perhaps it’s the person behind the ticket counter being blamed because the plane is late. Honor them. Perhaps it’s people you resent or people who resent you, someone withholding forgiveness, someone you can’t forgive. Honor them. Maybe it’s people whose religious or political ideas you think are idiotic. Maybe it’s people closest to you: a life partner, a parent, a child, a colleague, someone you take for granted. How long has it been since you used your imagination to consider ways to honor them, in word and deed? Seek the best for those you meet today. Honor them.
– Jay Sidebotham
From Romans 12:
I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgement…
Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with brotherly affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Never flag in zeal, be aglow with the Spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in your hope, be patient with tribulation, be constant in prayer.
Rev. Jay Sidebotham
RenewalWorks is a ministry of Forward Movement.