“Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.”
1 Peter 2:17 ESV‬‬
Honor is a concept that has often been misapplied, mistaught, and misunderstood. Often we think of honor as a boy scout mentality of “doing the right thing.” In some other cases, it’s been used as a tool to coerce obedience and respect to authority. As human beings, we often tend to twist the things of God from a basis of freedom and relationship, to one of control and obligation. But honor is actually deeply connected to how we orient ourselves to God and the people around us, and to how deeply we can receive the rewards of those relationships.
Honor is our heart attitude and the value we assign to an individual, along with the degree that we are willing to give to and receive from that person. Honor is incredibly difficult when we carry an offense toward someone, or when we have an inaccurate perception of who they are or the nature of our relationship. Honor requires us to pursue God’s eyes and to learn to see others in the fullness of how He made them, not as they appear in the natural. Honor respects the spiritual reality of an individual above their current state, struggles, or appearance.
Honor also does carry with it a sense of elevating the other person, counting them as greatly valuable and important. However, it’s important to note that honoring someone above myself doesn’t diminish my own worth or value. Honor isn’t groveling or becoming subservient to someone, it’s simply recognizing the value, giftings or authority that person has and treating them from that perspective. Honor cannot be demanded or coerced. Like grace, it’s a relational dynamic that must be freely given to truly be called honor.
Here are four reasons for giving honor to another person:

Honor based on Respect

1) “Honor everyone…”

There is a general honor that is due to everyone who is made in God’s image (that’s all of us). This type of honor just recognizes that all of us are valuable, worth protecting, worth allowing the opportunity for connection and growth, and worth refraining from slander, gossip, offense and exclusion. It’s the most basic level of honor, and yet still one we often struggle with, because by nature it includes people we disagree with, don’t understand, or even those we consider enemies. I may not receive input or wisdom on a deep level from someone in this sphere, but I still choose to value them and bring life where I have the capacity.

Honor based on Relationship

2) “…Love the Brotherhood…”

I honor relationships differently, based on their nature. The way I honor my wife is different than how I honor any other woman. The way I honor my father is different than other men in my life. It’s the same for those I ask to be mentors in my life. When I ask someone to be a mentor in my life, I honor that relationship differently than others. I allow their words and insight to carry greater weight, and I invest more time and energy in relationships that are closer to me. Honoring the relationship also means maintaining trust and connection by protecting the confidentiality of those relationships. I’m not going to go expose the deep secrets my wife and I discuss, or take the failures of my friends and make them public. I’ll encourage and bring life into those relationships, and challenge them toward health and vulnerability, but I won’t make our private conversations a casual point of discussion with other people.

Honor based on Anointing

3) “…Fear God…”

In Matthew 10:41, Jesus says, “The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and the one who receives a righteous person because he is a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward.” This sets the stage for some core principles of honor. First, it’s right to honor those that God is honoring. When someone is walking in the favor and power of God, it doesn’t mean they’re always right, and it doesn’t remove their flaws. But it does mean that God is honoring them with influence and impact, and a right response is to respect that and honor that person. I usually approach people in this category with the question, “what can I learn from them? How can I incorporate the lessons of their intimacy with Jesus, or the boldness that they walk in?” Basically, I ask “how can I get what they have?” Not out of jealousy or envy, or a desire to be better than them, but out of a passion to personally walk as close to God as possible and to have everything He wants to make available in my life. When I’m exposed to someone who is walking in a different or greater anointing of power or authority, it encourages me to find what I can learn and grow in through honoring them. Let me be clear, this isn’t about putting someone on a pedestal, but it’s also important that we don’t cut people down or discount them just because they have human flaws and imperfect personalities. When God moves through someone in a powerful way, I’m going to chase down the gems in them that He sees so I can cultivate them in my own life. Another powerful principle we can glean from this verse is that when we receive someone’s gifting with honor, we have a chance to enter into the reward and favor that that person is walking in! Honor actually unlocks our access to a greater level of intimacy and authority, if we’re willing to walk in humility and use it wisely.

Honor based on Position

4) “…Honor the Emperor.”

The bible teaches that we are to honor those in authority. Whether it’s a boss, parent or president, we’re called to respect the positions of authority around us. This is an area where honor has been severely lacking in our culture, but it’s also an area where the idea of honor has been significantly abused. Remember, honor doesn’t mean unquestioning obedience, but it does mean that we give weight and respect to the authorities we’re under, whether we were able to choose them or not. I can vote for who becomes president, but if my candidate doesn’t win, that’s not a free pass to show disrespect to that leader. I can disagree with the person, and still have an obligation to honor the position. Treating ungodly leaders with honor actually enabled Daniel, Esther and many others in the bible to gain favor, and ultimately to change the course of affairs in the whole country. Instead of speaking out against the evil of those leaders, they looked for the bright spots and they brought  the wisdom of heaven into the circumstances around them. There are also some leaders that we do get to choose more directly. We get to choose where we work, go to church, who our mentors or teachers are going to be. When those people let us down, we have options, but to be wise we have to seek the counsel of the Holy Spirit. We can stay the course and continue under those leaders, or we can choose to find new leadership if the influence we’re under is too difficult or unhealthy. If a leader is acting in a way that is directly ungodly or illegal, then we need to report it. Honoring one person should never require us to dishonor someone else. But we need to make sure it doesn’t become our mission to “take them down.” That said however, most of our struggles with leaders are less in regard to immoral or illegal acts, but instead often focused on personality or character-based disagreements. The worst thing we can do, is to choose to stay under leaders that we struggle with, and yet gripe and complain, and let honor die. If you can’t stay under a leader, then don’t. But walk away with honor, and don’t make it your mission to destroy or spread negativity toward a leader who has wronged you. But if you choose to stay, honor the position. Learn and grow where you can and be thankful and mindful of the strengths of your leader rather than focusing on their weaknesses.

Honor is one of the most foundational lessons in receiving promotion, increased understanding, and favor in life.  I get the joy of choosing to honor imperfect people for the value of relationship, growth, and the mutual encouragement it brings. You can love people and not love God, but it’s impossible to truly love God and not love people. Honor is love put into action. It crystallizes the mentality of being a servant of all, and it recognizes that all people are valuable. It also recognizes that where God has focused authority, anointing and wisdom on certain people, we have an opportunity, through honor, to partake of their blessing. When you honor those God has honored, you can receive part of the reward that they are walking in.
How have you seen honor modeled in your life or in people around you? Have you seen scenarios that show the truth of these principles?