Putting Honor Into Action

Christian mission mediates God’s honor into the world. The church is the very means by which people experience and understand the glory of God. We are God’s instrument for overcoming shame.

Communicating God’s honor happens relationally, not just verbally.

How can we as the church operationalize the reality of God’s honor? We must codify our theology about God’s shame-reversing salvation into practical ministry. What ministry forms and principles faithfully embody the reality of God’s honor? In other words, how do we put honor into practice? Remember honor is not a theological idea, but the fruit of relational connection.

Most evangelicals initially approach the topic of honor-shame for the sake of evangelism—how can I more effectively share the gospel with people? Learning to contextualize our verbal proclamation of the good news is a natural and obvious starting point. But the centrality of honor in God’s mission throughout the Bible warrants a fuller impact on our missiology. Along with evangelism, personal relationships and discipleship are two more areas reframed by a biblical understanding of honor-shame. Honor-shame is not just some magic key for increasing conversion rates, but a fundamental component of God’s entire mission. Honor and glory are the end of God’s mission, so honor and glory inform the means of Christian mission. The means must cohere with the ends, “because the means represent the ideal in the making, and the end in process, and ultimately you can’t reach good ends through evil means, because the means represent the seed and the end represents the tree” (MLK sermon).

The very structures of ministry we develop must communicate God’s honor to people, for three reasons.

  1. People will hardly understand the message of God’s honor we proclaim if they don’t see it embodied in our life. Our public ministry must cohere with spiritual proclamation, especially in unreached contexts.
  2. Communicating a healthy sense of honor leads to general social flourishing and allows people to experience God’s common grace. Redeeming honor is essential for social change.
  3. Honoring people is a commandment in the Bible. (Rom 12:10; Rom 13:7)

While in Central Asia we approached ministry as “honorification”—connecting honor-seeking people with the honor-granting God, in both word and deed. This meant the various “bridges” or “platforms” we established to get visas and to connect with people were designed to be inherently honoring and dignifying. In light of this, we did not view our “platform” and “evangelism” as two separate compartments, but integrated by the common vision of mediating God’s honor in all aspects of our lives. This made it easier to answer the question “What do you do?” with integrity. That question wasn’t as much of a landmine.

Do the channels and structures through which you engage people naturally honor their dignity? In your context, what would be a good way to symbolically communicate God’s honor and dignity to people?

Embodying God’s honor can take on thousands of concrete forms. The possibilities are as numerous as the cultures of the world and passions of God’s people.

What are relational ways you bear witness to God’s shame-shattering love? How can we put God’s honor into action? What ministry forms operationalize and embody the truth of God’s saving glory?

Here are concrete ideas and videos to fuel the imagination.

 

resources for Majority World ministry

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Posted in Communication, Evangelism, Honor, Ministry, Missiology, Theology
5 comments on “Putting Honor Into Action
  1. Dorothea says:

    I’ve been reading this blog for a while now and it helped me to understand some parts of culture and ministry better. But I’ve got a quite central question: If we see God mainly as honor-granting and people as honor-seeking, isn’t that a wrong perspective or at least a less important one? God is the one seeking honor (and only he has the right to get all honor), man is made to honor him and not to be honored. Man is not in the center, but God. Don’t we give our friends a misleading idea about God by putting it the other way round?

    • HonorShame says:

      Dorothea,

      You have pointed out a key issue here, thanks! However, verses like John 5:44; 12:43; 17:22 (to name to just a few) seem to emphasize the role of human honor. However, two significant qualifications must be made.
      1-The nature of honor that God gives to people is often quite different than the honor sought by sinful hearts…the last shall be first, you must die to live, etc.
      2-In group-oriented cultures, honor is interdependant–Human honor brings glory to the Father who grants such honor. So my honor is not over and above God’s glory, but is an expression of God’s glory. God is seen as the ultimate source and abitrer of honor/glory.

      • Nicholas Bensted says:

        In context these verses do not emphasise the role of human honour….is this discussion separating God’s honour and human honour? One would be right to do that in a certain way as God’s honour is supreme, whereas man’s honour is only possible because of God’s bestowal of honour upon him. However, the granting of honour by God to human beings can never be completely separate from the honour due to God as far as we human beings worship and relate to him. In fact in order to give God honour, we implictly recognise the honour he has given us. This is not the only perspective on the worship we give him with our lives, but it could challenge some areas of our thinking in which we see God as seeking honour but not giving honour. He has never done this! We could be inclined to see God as primarily vengeful for example, or seeking to shame us because of our lack of personal success in the world. That may be an area of western thinking that could grate to an asian, because it would be the same problem expressed in a different form, thus producing a clash of cultures excarcebating a pre-existing divide, rather than bringing the holistic mission God gives us, which enables us to make God known, whilst not making him entirely separate from the culture. He reveals himself as holy in the culture, and only sharply distinguishes himself once he has done this, and the culture has become entirely hostile following his habitation of the culture. The principle of creation and incarnation comes first. Jesus is only referred to as a double edged sword following his death and resurrection and ascension. So God cannot be given honour without first granting us honour, but now that has been granted it is integral to my whole worship of God. He first had to grant us supreme honour by giving us his Son to ensure that honour would dwell with us eternally as his Son has always eternally dwelt with him. The difference with us is that we can never separate the honour he gives us and giving him honour. We are not individual gods competing with him. For him only is honour as God reserved.

        • HonorShame says:

          Nicholas, great comments. Thanks for taking the time to expand on those ideas. I appreciate how you show that God’s honor and human honor are deeply intertwined, and not inversely correlated. Thanks!

  2. What a great thread. I really appreciate the questions and answers here although I would not have been able to articulate them so well.

    I particularly liked the idea that “honor is not a theological idea, but the fruit of relational connection.” This applies in so many other places. Thanks!

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