Culture is part of life whether we know it or not. Its is an atmosphere, a way of being and doing, created by a common understanding, either intentionally or unintentionally. Every home has a culture, every society, every church. The question is what kind of culture, there’s good, mediocre and the downright toxic, and every shade in-between.
A culture is also a growth environment/medium – as in horticulture, i.e. gravel culture is a hydroponic method that maximizes root aeration as well as nutrient delivery. Others are, rockwool, clay pebbles, coconut fibre, sand and water. All are about what is the best medium for the best results.
Correspondingly a bad culture, a poor growing medium, will produce poor to bad results.
Culture then is important.
Culture is also a biblical subject, there was a culture in the Garden of Eden, a healthy, energising culture, between God, humanity and the world, a culture that was lost through the Fall. Later we have the ten commandments which were all about the kind of culture Israel was to have as the people of God living among the Gentile nations. Then as you move into the New Testament Jesus came and challenged the religious cultural norms of his day with a different way of being and doing to the world around him both Jewish and Roman. A culture that was to be reflected in the church.
A culture of honour. Paul in writing to the churches and seeking to help them express this new culture says, “love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. (take delight in honouring each other. NLT)” Romans 12:10 (ESV), and Peter, “Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that when they slander you as evildoers, they will observe your good works and will glorify God on the day he visits. Submit to every human authority because of the Lord, whether to the emperor as the supreme authority or to governors as those sent out by him to punish those who do what is evil and to praise those who do what is good. For it is God’s will that you silence the ignorance of foolish people by doing good. Submit as free people, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but as God’s slaves. Honour everyone. Love the brothers and sisters. Fear God. Honour the emperor.” (1 Peter 2:11-17).
What is honour? These days honour sounds more like a military word, after all, we honour those who have served well, we honour those who have given their lives.
Honour means, to show or hold in high esteem, to regard with great respect, to revere. To recognise value.
In the world we see two kinds of honour…
1. That which is ascribed – by birth family – genealogies in Bible are about honour ranking. Honour ranking affects who you talk to, where you sit at banquets, etc.
2. That which is acquired – based on behaviour, honour as virtue, success, achievement.
In the kingdom it works a different way – we don’t deserve it, and we don’t earn it – honour is a pure gift of God’s grace, something God bestows on those he has created in his image. Such honour should impact the way we view, think of, greet and speak to others.
Sometimes looking at the opposite helps, so to understand a culture of honour its helpful to look at its opposite, shame. Shame divides people and drives them away as people who are outcasts, unloved, unvalued. Shame leads a person to say “if you really knew me you wouldn’t want anything to do with me.”
A culture of dishonour is also revealed in criticism, cynicism, discouraging, unhelpful, negative speech, badly written emails, mocking, disrespecting children, negative attitudes to employers… the list goes on.
A culture of honour on the other hand is loving, peaceable, righteous, joyous, healthy, energising. A culture where we put the other first. One of mutual submission. One where we are more willing to listen than to speak. To consider another’s opinion. It’s a culture that prefers to give rather than receive. It’s a culture that works out its differences in love.
Scripture speaks about honour in marriage (without it, it will quickly go sour), family – children of parents, society – King/Queen, those in authority, employers, leaders in the church, the aged (Ephesians 6:1, 2, 5-9; Leviticus 19:32; Romans 13:1).
We are called to honour manhood, womanhood, marriage, singleness. In the Trinity we find a mutual honouring going on between Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Where honour goes out the window, fear and mistrust creep in, and where fear exists, control becomes the governing motive.
Three things to note about an honour culture:
• Honour is relational not private and independent, contrary to our modern western culture. Draws people into community.
• Life flows through honour – those who are dishonouring invariably do not receive. It creates life giving and life promoting relationships. “He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophets reward.”
• Honour is essential for a free environment, that is the space to be, to disagree, to grow and to flourish.
How can we build a culture of honour?
1. By honouring God. He is God, not my mate. Taking God seriously, not casually. This involves our attitude in and to worship, his Word. It involves, thankfulness, obedience and our giving.
2. Recognising the value that God places on all our lives. We are all made in the image of God; Jesus died for all. We are a habitation of God, temples of the Spirit. We celebrate who people are without tripping over what they are not. Honour leaves no room for partiality. All are welcome.
3. Living into the honour and freedom that the Father places upon us as his unique sons and daughters. This is something we need to learn to do. It means that we will not allow the presence – character, attitude, behaviour, language of another – to control us or remove our freedom to be who we are when we are with another. It means that we will never allow the way someone else conducts themselves to control us or affect our conduct towards them. We will live out of the honour God has bestowed on us as his unique sons and daughters.
4. Seeing each person as a gift from God and honouring their uniqueness by affirming and drawing out the value (importance) and beauty of each person, recognising their giftings as God’s design, and not something accidental.
Some practical things we can do to honour others:
- Celebrate what is happening in someone’s life without becoming envious or jealous
- Stand with others in difficult times
- Happily promote others above ourselves
- Serve one another in love
- Watching the way we communicate. Listening. Not interupting. Seeking to understand, before being understood. Speaking well of.. Sending a note… saying thank you… in doing so we are speaking creative enabling words – scripture says death and life are in the power of the tongue… Not engaging in something else while talking. Keeping your word. Welcome feedback, even that given in the wrong way!
- Honour other churches, streams etc.
If this culture of honour is to work, it must work right across our lives:
- What about Facebook? How honouring are your posts?
- The emails you write? Do you think about how they can be read?
- The texts? Do they pull down rather than build up, discourage rather than encourage, attack rather than come alongside?
- If you play sport, do you honour the team you play? Do you honour the ref?
- What about your boss, your colleagues, your husband/wife, your parents – what’s your attitude to them, how do you treat them, what does it say about how you value them? What steps can you take to value/honour them?
- At the checkout?