Honor is a word that many westerners have nearly forgotten, while many from the far east have a sense of honor and shame that extends well beyond the Scriptural boundaries of the word. The Bible calls us to honor numerous things. We are to honor our parents, the elders of the church, our masters, our wives, the widows, the institution of marriage and most importantly God. Honor is composed of four things:
(1) A respect in the relationship,
(2) Protection of the dignity of the other person,
(3) Performance of the required tasks in a relationship and most importantly,
(4) A placing of high value on the other party. High enough that you give them the best you have.
As you can see, honoring someone is a combination of heart attitudes and physical actions. When God commanded people to honor their parents, he was instructing them to have a proper relationship with one’s family in order to have a proper relationship with himself and in turn with others. Unfortunately, we have failed many times in one of these four areas when it comes to our parents. Every time we disobeyed them as a child, we failed. Whenever we talked back, or degraded our parents to others, we dishonored them. Whenever we didn’t do our very best work for our parents we fell short of the Biblical injunction to honor our parents.
But there is one who honored his parents and his heavenly Father always. Jesus had a great concern for his mother as we see at the end of his life. He ensures that Mary will be cared for and loved after his physical death by saying to John,
“Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.” (John 19:26-27)
This is honor, it is concern, there is high respect and consideration that Mary’s needs be met, beyond just the physical but in the emotional realm as well. She is given a place and a position in which to exist where relationships of love will sustain her through the impending loss and beyond it in his absence. But it gets even better for Jesus not only honors his earthly mother; he also honors his heavenly Father, just as the commandment proscribed.
John 8:49 tells us,
‘I am not possessed by a demon,’ said Jesus, ‘but I honor my Father and you dishonor me.’
This is spoken in the context of his healing ministry; his actions of love and mercy to others are a testament to his fidelity to the Father and his willingness to carry out the mission of the Father. And what is that mission, again Jesus instructs us saying,
For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. (John 6:38-39)
And this honoring the Father, this high respect of the relationship, this giving Christ’s best, this performing the required actions with a proper heart brought Jesus to some difficult choices during his life. He had to submit to a Father’s will that seemed disastrous and from a strictly personal vantage point, was painful and deadly. Honoring his Father must have seemed easy as he walked around Judea healing the sick and lame, teaching the sheep without a shepherd, and casting out demons.
But it most certainly was not easy and brought the full cost of honoring to the forefront of his life as he sat in Gethsemane sweating blood (Luke 22:44), internally in turmoil and struggling to determine if the cost was worth following through on the commandment to honor his Father. Luke tells us he was in anguish as He prayed,
Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done. (Luke 22:42)
Jesus exemplified the ultimate act of honoring by laying down his life in order to see another’s dignity preserved, to see the Father’s needs met and God’s desires fulfilled. Jesus understood the cost and willingly paid it. It cost him everything in order to honor his Father. Jesus, the Son, honored God the Father by giving all he had to the relationship, thus fulfilling the law and the prophets just as he claimed in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:17). May we always look to Christ as the fulfillment of the commandments and then ask him to direct our hearts to live into the truth of them as well.