I'm an Aussie millennial, and as such, there are certain things that don't come naturally to me. Using facebook to keep in touch with old school friends for example. Or using my ipad to take photos at a wedding. Or on the other end of things, TikTok. One thing that is slightly more important and valuable however, is the concept of honour. I haven't grown up in an honour/shame culture, and although there is plenty of shaming that goes on in society, I don't instinctively have a category for honour. But if we can get the idea of honour cranking with our kids, it's gonna go a long way.
What is Honour?
Honour pops up lots in the Bible.
"Now honor the LORD, the God of your ancestors, and do his will."
"you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies."
1 Corinthians 6:20
“Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise—
(referring to Epaphroditus)
"So then, welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor people like him, because he almost died for the work of Christ. He risked his life to make up for the help you yourselves could not give me.
"The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching."
Sometimes the Bible talks about honouring the LORD. Sometimes it's about honouring people. But what on earth is honour? How do we do it and how do we explain it to our kids? Well, basically, it's just respecting people the way they deserve. We honour God by respecting him as God. That means we obey him unconditionally. We worship him reverently. We trust him deeply. We honour people by treating them with the respect due to creatures who are made in God's image. In other words, every single person we meet deserves the highest honour we could give someone or something that isn't God. And bonus - honouring people honours God as well!
Now, there's something awesome about honour that actually makes it really easy to teach to our kids, and it can be something that we can use in so many different situations (see some examples below). Honour is harder to define than it is to express. Any engagement with another person can be done with either honour or dishonour, and so it becomes an example we can share with our kids. Punching your brother dishonours him as he is a special person made in God's image. Disobeying your teacher dishonours them, because God has put them in charge of your classroom. Gossiping about a friend (or enemy) dishonours them because it puts you ahead of them without them even knowing it.
The more we use the word honour (or dishonour) when we talk to our kids, the more they will pick it up and be able to use it as a framework for how to think about relationships. Here are some key examples:
1) Honour God
The Bible is full of calls to honour the LORD, for he is thoroughly worthy of all honour (see Rev 4:11 for example). He is the Creator, we are creatures. He is the King, we are his servants. As we discipline our kids we can talk about honouring God, and this helps them feel the relational aspect of sin. We can talk to them about how our feelings directed towards God honours him just as much as obedience (Deut 11:13-14). This will be huge in helping your kids to see their relationship with God is exactly that, a relationship.
2) Honour Other People
As mentioned earlier, people are made in God's image, and so they have built-in dignity. They are worth a lot. No matter how broken, sinful and harmful someone becomes, they are still due the honour of someone who bears the image of the immortal God. When kids do something kind, don't stop at calling it kindness. Say something like, "when you treat that person kindly, it honours them". When they do something mean, you can say something like, "when we use our words to hurt someone, it actually dishonours them, and that's not ok". It helps our kids realise that they are part of a big world, that has a real moral fabric, and their actions are a genuine part of it.
3) Honour Women
This one is particularly for boys. The Bible is clear that if mankind is the high point of creation, then women are the high point of mankind (1 Cor 11:7). And yet there are so many of us sinful blokes who dishonour women in big and little ways, that it needs to be strongly and consistently addressed. Teaching our boys to give girls and women the special honour due to them is the place to start. Being more firm on their misbehaviour towards their mother than their father. Being very strong if they treat their sister or other girls poorly. Modelling to them that God has given women particular dignity, and so we give them particular honour is actually quite counter-cultural and yet, I'm convinced, is incredibly healthy for both our boys and girls.
4) Honour the Vulnerable
The book of James (and so many other places in the Bible!!) is clear that we have a duty to care for the vulnerable. How weak and defenceless were we when God took care of us?! Speaking with our kids about honouring the poor or the sick or the lonely or the marginalised not only helps them clearly see that they are equal with us, but also helps them to be generous. They won't simply give time, money or energy out of guilt or obligation. They may actually see that there is something bigger going on and they get to bring honour to a fellow human being - an act that will enlarge their own heart.
Using the language of honour is something that is incredibly flexible, but also helps to lock in the relational dynamic to so many situations. It is a godly way to view the world, but Western millennials need to work hard to embrace it. And if we do, our kids' hearts will be filled with a greater relational and emotional understanding of God and the world they live in, and hopefully they'll be better prepared to operate in it than we are.