“Outdo one another in showing honor.” Romans 12:10
“Show no partiality…for if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, ‘You sit here in a good place,’ while you say to the poor man, ‘You stand over there,’ or, ‘Sit down at my feet,’ have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?” James 2:1-4
It is said by some that we live in a society without honor. We’re irreverent, we disrespect those in authority, we “do our own thing.” But in many instances, it’s not that we don’t know how to honor, but that we don’t know how to honor with integrity. And many who preach on the subject of honor miss the crucial element of integrity.
Integrity comes from a word which speaks of structural wholeness. A building that has integrity is strong on all sides, standing firm on its foundation, able to withstand forces applied to it, all its joints properly fitted. The quality is consistent.
Moral integrity speaks of a certain wholeness of character. A person of integrity is a person who has but one system of behavior. It does not change on a whim. It does not waver under fire. It does not break down when under stress. Integrity demands consistency. There isn’t one set of rules for one situation, and yet another set of rules for a different scenario. If good behavior becomes inconvenient or out of the way, integrity ensures one’s ethics are not compromised.
Integrity is practicing what you preach and being true to your deepest convictions. Living with integrity means you can’t hide behind a facade. What you see is what you get. Because in the end, your actions will find you out, whether for good or for ill.
Honor without integrity is poisonous. Because honor is only truly meaningful when it is given without distinction. To show honor to a person who is worthy of honor while withholding honor from those who may not seem worthy of honor is to show partiality. It is honor without consistency.
Our culture is awash with inconsistent honor. Hero worship, cult-like behavior, celebrity hype, abusive leadership in the Church, fragmented families – all are conditions which arise from being foolish, irresponsible, or procrastinatory with honor.
You may be quite able to give honor to a great man when he enters the room, but what do you do when someone who rubs you the wrong way approaches at the same time? If my nemesis at the office came up to talk to me at the same time as, say, Oprah Winfrey, or Robert Downey Jr., what would integrity call for? The world makes it obvious to befriend the fun & famous crowd, but Jesus came with a different message, an upside-down message. The world says Love Your Heroes. Jesus says Love Your Enemies. Jesus lived and demonstrated a life of radical integrity.
The opposite of integrity is hypocrisy. It’s being double-minded and talking out of both sides of your mouth. It’s doing something for the sake of appearances, out of fear of being found out. Integrity speaks up when something is wrong. Hypocrisy wears the mask.
How can you tell the difference between false honor and true honor?
True and righteous honor seeks out the valuable things in every person and celebrates them. It finds even the smallest of traits to encourage and uplift.
True honor does not recognize superficial status but respects ability and truth.
True honor consists not of mere words but of genuine deeds. To be honorable is to be true to one’s self and to seek to honor everyone without distinction or partiality.
To be honorable is to not play games of guilt, fear, manipulation, or coercion, but to communicate with grace, wisdom, and a warm-hearted spirit.
To honor means to listen and understand to the best of one’s ability, and to speak with both honesty and love.
In the letter Paul the Apostle wrote to the church in Ephesus, he gave this clear instruction: “Be subject to one another” (sometimes translated submit to one another–Ephesians 5:21). Paul doesn’t say to be subject only to bigwigs. Paul doesn’t say to submit only to certain head-honchos. We are to be submitting to one another, in love, fairness, and equality. Be subject to the person who doesn’t look like you. Be subject to the person who thinks differently than you. Be subject to the person who votes differently than you. Be subject to the person that others might look down on with distaste.
Honor coupled with integrity is a powerful combination, and it’s a substantial reason why the movement that Jesus directly initiated rewrote the rules of Roman society. It’s a concept our lopsided culture is still in desperate need of today.