On Honor

The term “honor” seems to belong with “valiance” and “chivalry,” in the linguistic land of “thee”s and “thy”s and “thou”s, collecting dust alongside ancient armor and rusting swords. Maybe, however, it’s time to put the armor back on.

The concept of honor carries with it the impression of audacious integrity, dauntless virtue, and courageous character. Honor is not overawed by ostentatious opinion or societal sanction. Honor plants its feet on solid rock, and its anchor will not be moved by the waves. However, while firm in its foundation, it carries with it the connotation of deference to others. A person of honor is one who chooses to think less of herself and more of others.

But how can we get there? The thing is, honor is not an innate trait, but a practiced discipline. Aristotle famously said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.” As with forming any habit, practicing honor requires hard work at first, but with time and repeated effort, gradually becomes a natural part of one’s character. It’s part of the “training in righteousness” Paul talks about in 2 Timothy 3:16. Much as an athlete trains for a sport by repeating her exercises over and over and over again until they are ingrained in her muscle memory as automatic actions, so honor is ingrained in our hearts by continued, deliberate decisions.

Because of this, pursuing honor is something that has to be intentional–and we cannot do it alone. In Proverbs 27:17, Solomon writes, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” God helps us grow through his Word and through the Holy Spirit, but also through the people he places around us. I want to be surrounded by others who are pursuing honor intentionally by building each other up and sharpening our iron against one another day by day–maybe enough to ignite a spark that could fan into a flame.

Paul’s challenge to the Romans was to “outdo one another in showing honor.” As Christians, we are to not only exhibit honor, but to fall over ourselves in trying to each show more honor than the next. What would it look like if our churches took this challenge seriously?

Would it mean we stopped pointing out the specks in each other’s eyes and started working on the logs in our own? Would it mean we stopped worrying about the political divide and being the hypocrites they say we are and started loving without asking questions? Would it mean we actually went out of our way to do something nice for somebody, just every once in a while? Would it mean we saw service as something noble, rather than something “for somebody else”? Would it mean we stooped to Jesus’s level and started washing the feet of our betrayers?