Bestowing honor: A hard-wired itch that will be scratched
Whether we like it or not, and whether our culture acknowledges it or not, God has hard-wired every person with an honor-bestowing itch that is seeking to be scratched.
But as all of us know from experience and observation, the reality of sin in our own lives and in this world has twisted this component of God’s original design.
In fact, we’ve contorted His original intention to the degree that we sometimes scratch this itch by honoring people that have made satisfying their own selfish interests and image their highest goal–in ways completely opposite of the self-denial and self-sacrifice that God declares is worthy of being honored.
Yet even in the midst of the sinfully twisted honor-system that we navigate life in, there are examples of honor being earned and bestowed in accordance with the principles of God’s original intent.
Prior to the pandemic, the clearest example of this is the honor and respect bestowed on current or former members of the military.
Their willingness to deny themselves and voluntarily join an entity that exists for a cause greater than its own member’s interests, and that may require those members to surrender their lives for the good of others, is in line with what God says is truly honorable.
And now, the medical workers that are on the frontline of battle in the pandemic are rightfully being honored for their willingness to continue to use their knowledge and experience in serving those impacted by the Covid-19 virus.
Although these folks had the respect of most people prior to the pandemic, the increased level of self-denial, self-sacrifice, and acceptance of risk they are displaying fits within the honor-construct God has hard-wired in to all of us.
So when we acknowledge, respect, and express our appreciation to them, the God-generated honor-bestowing itch everyone is born with–whether follower of Jesus or not, is scratched in a way that encourages the receiver and satisfies the giver.
But for Christians that understand God’s end-game plans and long to see the fulfillment of the Great Commission that He gave to His church, missionaries have always provided an opportunity to scratch the honor-bestowing itch He implanted in us.
Because the level of sacrifice, humility, and risk that their lives display as a result of their obedience to His calling is worthy of honor.
This is what their obedience to His call on their lives requires in those three areas:
1—An uncommon willingness to SACRIFICE their:
Missionaries freely choose to disconnect from face to face relationships with family, fellow believers, and friends that they love and that love them.
This is especially difficult if they are married and have children—separating kids from grandparents and vice versa is incredibly painful.
Language and culture
Missionaries say good-bye to the ability to understand the language and culture of almost every person outside the front door of their residence.
This includes giving up for a very long period of time, the privilege of verbal communication that is effortless and that requires minimal engagement of the mind.
Familiarity and comfort
Missionaries intentionally leave behind every aspect of day to day life that is familiar and comfortable.
The mundane, no-brainer aspects of life that they took for granted, like travel around town; buying groceries; preparing meals; and doing laundry, are all things of the past.
2—An uncommon depth of HUMILITY about their:
Missionaries know that God didn’t call them because they were more spiritual or better than any other follower of Jesus, and they never cease being amazed that God would call them rather than others that they are convinced are much better qualified.
The fact that missionaries themselves try to jump down from the pedestals other believers place them on is the result of a number of factors, not the least of which is their humility– one of their key traits that makes them so useful to God.
Missionaries humbly embrace a level of dependence on God and other believers that is completely opposite of everything their own pride and their culture have taught them.
The ability to communicate that the financial participation of others is essential to accomplish what God has called them to do, and the actual acceptance month to month of the funds that were given demands an ongoing level of humility that is out of the ordinary.
Missionaries willingly accept the humbling posture of being a listener and learner of the life, culture, and language of the people they now live among.
By entrusting so much of their lives to others in their local community to teach them how to say and do the things that even children in that community already know, they humbly discover afresh that their primary identity is found in Jesus, not in their ability to contribute to the people or the community they now call home–or in being a missionary.
3—An uncommon willingness to accept a certain amount of RISK with their:
Before they leave for the field, missionaries know and accept the risk that they probably won’t have access to medical care that is as abundant and/or equivalent to the quality that is available in America.
They also know and accept the fact that if they do need medical care, obtaining a proper diagnosis and treatment could very well hinge on their ability to speak the local language–and they’re willing to accept that risk too.
Missionaries understand and accept the reality that being disconnected from the person or group of people that helped them to stay on-track emotionally, could negatively impact their emotional well-being.
Yet because their trust in God’s ability to meet their emotional needs through people they will meet for the first time in the future is greater than their fear that He won’t, they accept the risk.
Missionaries are keenly aware that when they depart for the field, they will be detaching themselves from a number of the people and resources that contribute to their day in and day out spiritual health.
Factoring in both the loss of those people and resources and the increased level of spiritual warfare that they know will be coming against them, their faith and trust in God’s ability to keep them close to Him in their own devotional life and through the blessing of others that He will provide to help them walk with Him, outweighs the potential risk of drifting away from Him.
When we bestow honor on brothers and sisters that have accepted His calling and embraced this level of sacrifice, humility, and risk, we are doing what He designed us to do and following His own example that He intentionally recorded for us in His written word.