Taken from "Honor" 'What Love Looks Like' by Fawn Parish
The High Cost of Dishonor
The priest thoughtfully poured soil back and forth between his cupped hands sifting a rhythm to his silent prayers. If soil could talk, this soil would weep. This was the tenth massacre site the team had visited in the past 48 hours... ten places where God Himself had cried. This site marked the battle where the Yamassee Nation ceased to be a people, their life extinguished through ethnic cleansing by settlers desiring more land. While no race has a franchise on sin, and history is complex, it was clear to the group present, something unspeakable had happened here.
This small band of intercessors were visiting this site to repent of the unjust obliteration of the Yamassee Nation. They were mid-way through an 800 mile prayer journey, retracing Shermanís Union Armyís trail of pillage, burning and rape through Georgia and the Carolinaís. While no major prayer expedition is easy, this day held intense sorrow for one person in particular.
As the priest continued to pour the soil back and forth into his hands, Fern Noble, a prayer-reconciliation leader, paced back and forth weeping, her Bible laying in her hands flat and open.. For Fern, the desecration of this site was not just a historical fact, for her, the tragedy was personal. The blood of her own Native American people had saturated this soil. In deep anguish of spirit Fern asked God a question she had asked for many years. Why, why do so few of my people believe You?
The numbers were pitifully small. Of all Native Americans less than 5% were Christians. Manyof them in fact, 90% had suffered from alcoholism. Suicide was five times higher than any other ethnic group. The average life-expectancy was only 40.1 years. Hope was rare and apart from God, unwarranted. "Why do so few of my people believe You?" She repeated it again, softer now for the tears.
As she paced back and forth, Fern noticed something peculiar. A stack of papers seemed to grow on top of her opened Bible. She continued to ask the agonizing question, "Why do so few of my people believe You?" As she wept the papers grew, until they were a thick pile obscuring the Bible laying flat in her hand. Fern was puzzled. "What does this mean God?" She asked with child-like expectancy. Understanding came quickly. The growing stack of papers represented treaties of the white man. One by one the treaties had said "This is our covenant to you, this is our promise. You can trust what we say for we have signed it. This is the word of the Great White Father in Washington. He cannot lie. You can trust he will keep his word to you."
One by one, some historians say as many as 8OO times, each piece of paper, each treaty, was broken. The treatyís were broken in many cases with unspeakable brutality. Often by bloodshed, as in the case of the Sand Creek massacre, where Co. Chivington, an ordained Methodist minister, slaughtered and mutilated Native American women and children...some of them futilely clutching a white flag. Tribe after tribe, land after land, treaty by treaty, each one of the Great White Fatherís words were not honored.
Then those who loved God came to the Indians showing them a Bible. "This is the covenant of God, this is His promise, you can trust what He says because He signed it in blood. This is the Word of the Great Father in the sky. He cannot lie. You can trust Him. He will keep His word to you."
Godís answer to Fern question was unmistakably clear. Few Native Americans believed God, because they couldnít see the Bible for all the broken treaties laying on top of it. The Word of God for them was just one more treaty, one more covenant, one more promise, one more word of the Great Father never intended to be kept. The Native Americans would not be fooled twice.
For lovers of God, Fernís story is deeply troubling. Can our actions so misrepresent God that future generations do not trust or consider Him? Can we destroy future receptivity to the gospel by our dishonor of people today? Unfortunately the answer is a well documented and agonizing yes. History is shot through with examples. Friar San Miguel wrote to the viceroy of Mexico in 1799, commenting on the churchís attitude toward Native Americans; " the treatment shown to the Indians is the most cruel I have ever read in history...they are kept whole days without a drink of water, sometimes with heavy flogging and shackles."
One eyewitness to Godís misrepresentation was a Kamia Indian from San Diego, Janitin, who recalled in 1878,
"I and two of my relatives went down...to the beach...to catch clams...we saw two men on horseback coming rapidly toward us...My relatives fled...I was too late...they overtook me and lassoed and dragged me for a long distance...they locked me in a room for a week; the Father told me that He would make me a Christian...one day they threw water on my head and gave me salt to eat, and with this the interpreter told me I was a Christian...every day they lashed me because I did not finish my work....I found a way to escape...but I was tracked and they caught me like a fox...they lashed me until I lost consciousness..."
Our dishonor of Native Americans is not just ancient history. As little as 30 years ago, Native American children were dragged away from their families and placed in "residential schools". They were forbidden to speak their own language, or observe their customs. In these schools children were beaten and shamed for being Indian, many times in the name of Christ. One childremembers being carted off in a garbage truck, crying as he was torn from weeping parents and taken to a school hundreds of miles away. My Canadian Cree friend, Carol has told me of one former United Church residential school near Edmonton, where there are little crosses of childrenwho died at the school. Some of graves Carol believes, contain children who died of a broken heart.
Our legacy of dishonor is not limited to Native Americans. The furrows of our error rake deep through the heart of many generations and cultures. Most Christians for instance, are unaware of the history of hate perpetrated by the church on the Jews. Yet almost every Jew can recall that horrible history in vivid detail. Church writings are full of vindictive hate-filled pronouncements In a vivid fantasy of the last judgement, Tertullian a respected church father, gloats over the spectacle of the anticipated punishment of the Jews, on which He will turn "an insatiable gaze" and taunt them with their rejection of Christ. The writing of many church fathers is filled with venomous hatred toward the Jews. This past is understandably, a huge obstacle to Jews considering the claims of Jesus Christ. For many Jews, the cross is akin to a swatiska.
When you compare canonical law and Nazi measures censoring Jews, the script appears as if written by the same hand. The difference sadly being that the churchís hatred of the Jews preceded the Naziís by hundreds of years. The road to Aushwietz was not necessarily paved by the church, but we provided some significant road signs.
Our history of dishonor is not just limited to Native Americanís and Jews but with many other races as well. The fault lines of dishonor run deep through our history. A friend of mine with a drywall business was repairing a wall, when he noticed a picture with Japanese writing on it. What is this picture? he asked the lady who hired him. "You donít want to know" she replied. "Yes I do, " my friend softly answered, realizing he was touching a painful memory. She poured out her story. She had been interred in a Japanese Relocation center, separated from her husband, and raped during World War II. Though now in her eighties the wounds were as fresh as if they had happened yesterday. The dishonor she had experienced over half a century ago, still scratched itís jagged nails across her soul.
The wounds of our dishonor still fester sore in the African-American community. I recently saw an interview with the son of the late Jackie Robinson. My heart was moved as this soft-spoken man recalled his father. He said the fact that his dad had been hit by more pitches than the rest of the team combined, was something he remembered more than his dadís batting average.While our history as a church has been at times glorious, and it is appropriate to honor Christians who have loved. It is sad but equally true that our history is full of dishonor and shame. The high cost of that shame is a terrible reality...entire cultures alienated from the welcoming grace and truth of Jesus Christ. I have touched human ashes in the ovens of Auschwitz. Iíve listen in Jerusalem to a portion of the names of over one million Jewish children killed in the Holocaust. As a Christian I am aware that my hands are not entirely free of blood. I can not selectively own history. Do I trust that 2,000 years ago on Golgotha, when the Son of God intentionally died for all humanity, that that past event has present day power? Absolutely. Do I believe that a long past of Godís people dishonoring God by dishonoring others also has present ramifications? I emphatically do.
Our dishonor has not been limited to race. We have equally excelled in our dishonor of gender. The Mishna is the most ancient and important part of the Jewish Talmud. Rabbi Yocahnan quotes from the Mishna that a man may do as he pleases with his wife: "It is like a piece of meat bought from the shambles, which one may eat, salt, roast, partially or wholly cooked." A woman once complained before Rav (a great Rabbi) of bad treatment from her husband. He replied: "What is the difference between thee and a fish, which one may eat either broiled or cooked?"Not long ago I was one of several facilitators of a gathering of prayer leaders in Southern California. The week-end was humming along, when all of a sudden I suggested the women leaders in the room join me in repenting for our attitudes toward male leadership. My suggestion was met with momentary silence.
When we all resumed breathing, God swept gently into the room. People cried and confessed their lack of trust, feeling used and never taken seriously. One major leader wept as he washed the feet of a woman leader, confessing on behalf of men, attitudes of male superiority. He identified with those pastors who viewed women in the church as only potential volunteers for menial tasks.
God has a controversy with His people. We have significantly dishonored those God loves and we may no longer sweep our hatred under the rug. We cannot hide behind the skirts of ignorance. God is serious about exposing and correcting our error. The list of our grievous sins toward one another, culture to culture, gender to gender, could fill a well documented library. As we said earlier, there is no race or gender with a franchise on sin. Nothing human is foreign to any of us. We could spend the rest of our lives, trying to pin fault on one another, nursing our own woundedness and capitalizing on our victimization. We could live mired in bitterness and accusation. But God has not left us to ourselves. He is giving us strong courage to face the error of our ways. Like a skilled surgeon He is revealing and removing our deep seated alignancies.He is grooming a new generation of men and women committed in humility to a two word command in scripture. Two words that could arguably alter the openness of future generations to the splendor and power of Jesus Christ.
Two Simple Words
Itís hard to imagine two simple words changing the way we live and think. But God never needs to be verbose. He can pack a universe into a sentence, and a world into a word. Two words from God, can change everything. I believe these two words are slated to become the modus operandi for the church in the third millennium. The words are found in 1 Peter 2:17 and they say simply in the original, "Honor all." I believe this command if obeyed could shatter hellís vise-like grip on individuals and cultures . These two words if practiced could drastically effect how future generations view Christ. Honor has unexplored spiritual potency. When honor is unleashed, it can reveal the heart of God to hardened cultures and individuals, opening them to their intended destiny of eternal intimacy with God.
Honor all. Like the command to pray without ceasing, at face value it sounds hopelessly impossible. A whole swarm of questions hover thick like mosquitoís at a family picnic. Does God expect me to honor people who are not honorable? Can honor reveal the grace and truth of Jesus? What does honor have to do with Native Americanís or Jews or Japanese or African-Americans, women, or any dishonored people? These are all good questions. Before we begin to answer them we should define precisely what honor is and what it is not. The word honor in the Greek means to highly value, to prize, not take lightly, esteem, give weight to, to ascribe worth. to consider significant. It is interesting that the word "glory" in the Old and New Testament often share the same definition as the word "honorí.The Bible addresses three levels of honor as applied to man. The first is honor that is intrinsic.It is honor intrinsic to God Himself, and He gives a portion of it to every human being.God freely bestows honor on all because we are made in His image. The second definition of honor is honor based on character. My husband is an honorable man. His character is entirely trustworthy. The third Biblical definition of honor is honor based on performance. Someone who can bat 70 home runs in one season, is worthy of honor. We will limit our definition in the following chapters to the first definition. Weíll explore the fountain of honor, God Himself. He is the source and He gives Himself freely to each of us.
Incomplete Definitions Of Honor
Sometimes we use words without really understanding what they mean. I once called a teacher in fifth grade "mercenary." Besides almost getting kicked out of class, I learned an important lesson. Donít toss words around you donít understand. When we think of the word "honor" we often think of Camelot. Many of ideas about words are influenced more by Hollywood than the Words of God. Hollywood has lulled us into many misconceptions. In America we think of honor primarily in terms of merit. Honor classes are for the bright and academically motivated. We worship attractive film and television stars. We heap honor on skilled athletes, exalting them to god-like status. We honor successful businessmen and envy their savvy. We borrowed frail little Ďgí gods from the Greco-Romans; gods of youth, beauty and success, and spend our money worshiping at their fickle altars. But honor runs much deeper thought the universe than handing someone an Oscar, or getting your face on the cover of Time.
For us to understand honor we must begin with this primary fact. The essence of honor is completely sourced in the personality and character of God. We can never understand honor apart from God. We must begin with Him. Honor like love, is an attribute of God. He is honor personified.
God defines honor. Satan personifies dishonor. In heaven, Godís friends are continually honored, by God and each other. In fact, heaven can be described as one continual round of honor. In Satanís dominion dishonor is perfected to an art. Satan presides over a kingdom of dishonor. Satan has much at stake in making sure our concepts of honor remain considerably skewed. In Pakistan "honor killings" take place daily where relatives of those whoíve converted from Islam to Christianity are murdered by their family in order to retain the "honor" of the family. Oriental societies live much of their lives ruled by the tyranny of "saving face", nervously measuring every action they take by the amount of honor or dishonor it will bring to the family. In Mediterranean society there is great concern with honor and shame rather than with individual guilt. The honor of the Middle Eastern extended family, itís ancestors and its descendants is the highest social value. If the loss of honor (particularly of a female member) is widely known, other members of the family may feel bound to cleanse the family name. This cleansing of the family honor can require the death of the offender.
Newspapers in Cairo and Saudi Arabia frequently carry stories of runaway sisters gone bad and revenge taken on them in the name of family honor by brothers or cousins. Is it possible that honor has been so ill-defined, because it is such an powerful overarching spiritual dynamic? Has Satan badly skewed the concept of honor, because he is jealous of the honor God alone deserves and has bestowed on men? I think the answer is an unqualified yes.
What Honor Is
Honor is an attribute of God. It is a characteristic of Him. Honor is a holy feature of the heart and mind of God. In looking at Him we recognize complete and utter worth. He has honor within Himself, and all heaven acknowledges it. Honor is a trait of God. He defines it. It is intrinsic to Him. Honor is something God uniquely possesses. Like love, it is an attribute of God that we can experience and respond to. Honor commands recognition and response.. Honor is the most appropriate response to a genuine encounter with God. Honor is not only something God personifies. It is a response from us that He alone deserves. He is worthy of high value. Those who know Him prize Him, they do not take Him lightly. He is to be esteemed. Those who know Him best take great delight in speaking highly of Him. His glory is weighty. With just one glance like the four and twenty elders we find ourselves face down. We cannot help but ascribe ultimate worth and glory to Him. It is the only natural response.
Honorís point of origin is always and only God. There is no one else in the universe worthy of honor but God. Only He merits it. The God who hosts of heaven worship, and demons grudgingly acknowledge as Lord, is without equal in glory. He is indescribably in greatness. He is unexcelled in goodness. In the presence of God, all superlatives blush with inadequacy.
"To whom then will you liken Me that I should be his equal?" says the Holy One.Lift up your eyes and see who has created these stars, the One who leads forth their host by number, He calls them all by name; Because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power. Not one of them is missing. Isaiah 40:25.26Any honor, any value, any worth we receive is simply derived from Him, and bestowed on us. Anything worthy of honor in an individual never originates in that individual. All beauty, all goodness, everything that we have learned to understand as desirable originates in the personality and character of God Himself.. Is someone particularly kind?. God is the author of kindness. Do we admire the generosity of someone? God is extravagant and lavish in His generosity. Does someone give of themselves continually? We would not understand the concept of selflessness apart from Jesus laying down His life for us. In honoring any admirable quality in someone, we are simply acknowledging an attribute of God in that person. God doesnít have gunny sacks of love, joy peace, patience and gentleness in heaps around the throne. He doesnít hear your prayer for truth and take a big scoop and dip it into the truth sack, and pour it down from heaven. He has only Himself to give us. Truth is not an objective set of suppositions. It is a Person. Love is not a giddy emotion, it is a Person. Do we honor the wisdom of an individual? Jesus doesnít have wisdom, He is the wisdom of God. There is no wisdom apart from Him. Itís important to realize that apart from Him, all notions of honor are nonsense. Make no mistake. Apart from God everything, including the way we think and act with each other is meaningless.
My son attends a public school where they emphasize a different character trait each month. Joelís teachers love kids, we have been blessed to have them be a part of his education. Yet it hasnít seemed to dawn on anyone that character traits apart from God are pure mumbo-jumbo. If there is no God, no good, whoís to say that being discourteous is worse than being kind? If there are no moral absolutes, whoís to say that Stalin, or Mao or Hitler was wrong? If there is no God, no transcendent authority, where do we get the idea that some actions are right and some are wrong?If nothing is absolute, than we are left with of course, absolutely nothing. You might as well do as you please.. Get all the pleasure you can for if this is all there is, you might as well live life to the hilt. If nothing is absolute, hedonists are the only practical realists. But, if there is God, and He is excellent and worthy of honor, all our ideas about what is good must originate from and be defined by Him.
"Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.
James 1:17 NAS
Everything we know to be good and perfect comes from God. He is good. He is perfect. We know nothing truly pleasant apart from Him. He is the absolute source of all we know to be pure, clean, lovely, and desirable. He is the only one in the universe worthy of complete significance. He is the ultimate desirable One.. Jesus is the glory of God. He is full of honor. All honor we experience is derived from and bestowed by Him.
In Jesus, we find honor most completely at home.. Heavenís sole pleasure is to give honor to God. The native tongue of heaven is the language of honor. As Steve Hawthorne observes, Heaven is one mighty preoccupation with honor. In Revelation we see the Bride heaping honor on the Son, the Son on the Father, the Father back to the Son, and the Son back to His bride. And then the whole process marvelously begins again and continues forever. Like mighty bagpipes droning marvelously, honor thrums through eternity, sweeping up audibly into a mighty crashing chorus;
"Worthy are you our Lord and our God to receive glory and honor and power...for you created all things and because of your will they existed and were created " Rev. 4, 10,11
In the kingdom of God, honor thunders unceasingly through eternity. The four and twenty elders canít help themselves. Every time they get a glimpse of Godís majesty, His worth, His value, His weightiness and dignity, they find themselves smack down, face first on the floor. Each glimpse is like an entirely new revelation.
Honor has itís full identity in God alone. He is the One all heaven and earth will declare to be the ultimate significant, valuable, worthy of glory One. When we pray let your kingdom come, your will be done in earth as it is in heaven, one of the things we are asking, is for God to be honored here just as He is there.God who merits honor does an astounding, heart stopping thing. He chooses to bestow that honor freely on us. God crowns us, tragic shattered earthenware that we are, with glory and honor. In a sweeping display of His generosity He gives us what He alone deserves.
And He invites us to give this marvelous gift to each other.