Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Honour: up, IN

the second in a three part blog series on Honour (Up, In, Out).


Honour yourself:


After honouring God comes honouring ourselves. The logic is basically that since we ought to honour the things that God honours and since God has honoured us, we also ought to honour ourselves.  To honour something, we said, is to treat it with the worth or value that it deserves. A significant way that we honour God is by valuing and giving worth to the things he values and considers worthy.

The creation account in Genesis reaches its poetic crescendo with the creation of Adam and Eve. Up until this point in the narrative God calls everything he's made 'good', but once he's finished with making man and woman it says: 'God saw everything that he had made and behold it was very good.'

The Bible says that God made man and woman in his 'image and likeness'. It's not that God looks like a man but that we somehow in some unique way represent him on the Earth more than anything else he's made. It is not that God has hair or two arms and legs but that God is creative, moral and concerned with justice; as we are.

Each of us, as a result of this, has intrinsic value and worth because of the mould we've been carved out of, because of the one whose image we bear. This is where we get out dignity from. It's not because we're the most evolved creatures on the planet, nor because we've invented impressive technologies or weapons or have learnt to govern ourselves. It's not because we have invented systems and 'isms' that we are praiseworthy but because God made us in his 'image and likeness'. We are image bearers.

Just as bank notes carry the image of the Queen so we, in some mysterious way, carry the image of God in us and whenever we act in praiseworthy, admirable ways we prove this. Indeed some of the most valuable characteristics and behaviours of people make headlines. Bold acts of self-sacrifice and compassion and some of the great moral stands people have made resonate with us and point to this reality. Think of famous individuals like Luther King, Ghandi, Mother Theresa, Mandella, Tutu & Bonhoeffer to name only a few. We value their daring and courage because of the way they, acting out of their God-imganess, mirrored their maker by their actions.

Our trouble is that it has become acceptable (almost virtuous?) for people to dishonour themselves. Self-deprecating humour is especially popular and we find ourselves being suspicious of anyone who seems pleased with their own abilities. We watch television programmes like The Apprentice in which self-made business men and women compete to win a lucrative business deal and we cringe at their arrogance and self-infatuation. 'I don't want to be like that!' we conclude and so we react against it.

The problem comes however when we, scared of being labelled 'pretentious' or 'arrogant', fail to recognise any of our gifts and abilities at all. The problem comes when we go further, when we beat up on ourselves, put ourselves in the dirt and abuse ourselves. We throw pity parties and invite people to join us. We hand out party poppers and streamers and we play 'pin the insult on the straw man potrait of ourselves'. We dishonour what God honours and therein lies a problem.

Honour yourself. Honour in.

In Psalm 8 the writer is describing the marvel of God's creation, the heavens, the moon and stars. He then shifts focus and asks the question 'and what of mankind? What are we that you should care for us?' The answer:

...you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings, and crowned him with glory and honour. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; and you have put all things under his feet.
We have been crowned with glory and honour (there's our word). The New Testament writer to the Hebrews picks this up and applies it to Jesus as humanities' ultimate representative, but it's also true generally of each one of us. God honours you.

Psalm 139 says:

You formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. 
Imagine if I came home from work one day and upon being handed a painting that one of my children had done I proceeded to rip it up and trample on it. It would be a deeply insensitive thing to do and no doubt my child would feel ever so slightly aggrieved, and with good reason. I could protest and say 'but I only dishonoured your painting, I didn't dishonour you.' But we all know that wouldn't make any difference. To dishonour the painting is to dishonour the painter.

Dishonouring yourself dishonours God.

We've said that something is as valuable (or honourable) as what someone is willing to pay for it. The Navajo blanket was always valuable but it only became treated as valuable when someone was willing to pay a huge sum of money for it. I imagine its owner went home from the Roadshow that day treating the blanket very differently from how he did when he arrived!

In 2012 Chelsea football club paid a huge sum of money for Fernando Torres. He became the Premier League's most honoured and valuable player, not because his performance on the pitch warranted it but because someone deemed him worthy enough to pay £50 million to have him in their squad. £50 million! Incredible. Imagine if someone was willing to pay that much money for you, you'd feel pretty honoured I expect.

In Romans 8 Paul asks the question 'If God is for us, who can be against us?' He then explains his logic:
He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also along with him graciously give us all things?
God paid a high price to redeem and restore each one of us. Jesus paid the ultimate price. He laid his life down for us. He allowed himself to be treated as a common criminal, strung up on cross outside the city for all to see and shake their heads at. He did it to bring us to God. He paid a high price and proved our great worth and value to God.

We get our sense of worth and dignity from all kinds of different places. We say to ourselves 'I'm valuable because...' and then we fill in our own blanks. 'Im valuable because... I'm paid £X thousand a year, or because she finds me attractive or he does or because I'm better than them at this or that.' We don't use the language of 'I'm valuable because' but by the way we behave when we're not paid that amount or loved by them or able to do those things reveals that we're looking to those things to gain a sense of worth.

Do you know that you're worth more than that? More than a Torres signing fee, more than a respectable salary. You're worth more than the things you give yourself to to make you feel valuable.

For many men the internet is a source of much temptation and distraction; addiction to pornography has never been so high. The trouble with pornography is that not only does it dishonour women (people of  value and worth, made in God's image and likeness), it dishonours men as well. It traps them in a cycle of sin and shame that robs them of the dignity and worth that is theirs in Christ.

Alarmingly the biggest killer of men in the UK aged 19-49 isn't cancer or alcohol or drugs, it's suicide. Every year thousands of young men are taking their own lives, lost in a sea of meaninglessness and despair. Convinced that life is too difficult and fruitless to go on with.

You're worth more.

Ladies you're worth more than some men would have you believe. Worth more than a cheap date and a cheap night of intimacy that leaves you feeling empty. You're valuable, now. You don't need to become a size whatever or buy the latest whoevers, you're valuable as you are.

God knows you, knows what you're really like. He knows the person you are when you're at your worst, when no one else is around. God is not fooled by your sin or caught off guard by your behaviour. He knows you and knew you before you were born. He knew what he was doing when he sent his son to die for you.

You're to be honoured and valued and not because you're a unique, pretty, never-before-seen human snow flake but worth more because you're made in the image of God and Jesus died for you. This isn't pop-psychology with a few Bible verses thrown in for good measure, this is truth from the Bible and truth that we don't often live in the good of.

When explaining how God the Father felt toward a lost and rebellious humanity Jesus told the story we know today as The Prodigal Son. In the story the younger of two sons approaches his Father and asks for his inheritance now. Instead of waiting for his dad to die he says, 'give me my share, now.' Shocking to the hearers at the time and shocking today. Perhaps what's more shocking however is what happens next. The Father consents, he gives his son what he asks for. The son leaves, goes to some far flung land and indulges himself in every vice available. He quickly spends his way through his dad's fortune and finds himself penniless. He gets a job working on a pig farm, longing to eat the food he's feeding them with; rock bottom.

Imagine the shame this boy must have felt. He was the son of a wealthy man, he had status and good standing in the community. Now he's covered in pig's muck, hungry and without a penny to his name. 

He has an idea, rehearses an apology speech and heads home to his Father. 'Perhaps,' he thinks 'my dad will let me be a servant in his house.' Frankly it's more than he deserves.

Jesus then describes the moment of his return like this:

While he was still a long way off his Father felt compassion and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said 'Father I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' But the father said to his servants. 'Bring quickly the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead and is alive again, he was lost and is found.' and they began to celebrate.

Incredible.

When you became a Christian your shame was taken away and your honour was restored. God put a proverbial robe on your back and a ring on your finger. For every part of you that feels broken or shameful, Christ died.

You need to stop. Stop cursing yourself, rubbishing yourself and harming yourself. Stop and agree with God, you're to be honoured. If you can't agree with God or believe God, who can you believe? You? Your friends? Seriously, you think you or your friends have a better read on reality than God? The clue's in the title.

Some of you reading this may be thinking 'yeah I want to honour God.' Well, that involves being thankful to God for who he's made you to be. It may be hard to do, especially at first if you've spent years dishonouring yourself. It may be hard, but you need to start doing it. Honour God by honouring yourself. Honour up and honour IN.

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