Love Does Not Dishonor Others, It Is Not Self-seeking or: Freedom Fighters
(1. Corinthians 13:5; NLT)
The Merriam Webster dictionary defines ‘dishonour’ as ‘a lack or loss of honour or reputation’ or ‘the state of one who has lost honour or prestige‘ and as a consequence, ‘dishonour’ is closely associated with shame.
Love does not shame people; it does not point a finger at someone’s mistake. Love strives to keep and restore people’s honour and reputation independent of whether they are deserving of it or not. As it says in 1 Peter 4:8: Love covers a multitude of sins.
I am wondering how much more of a loving community we would be if every time we want to start a sentence saying, “You would not believe what so and so did!” (or something along those lines) we would be stopped dead in our tracks or have someone else stop us. I am wondering how many more people would step out in faith, share a word they received from God, sing out loud in the service, or dared pursue a dream they have had for a long time if they knew that nobody would talk about them badly, no one would giggle or roll their eyes behind their backs or discuss their failure at the dinner table if it didn’t work out. I am wondering how much freedom and courage could be the result of this. I’m just wondering.
Isn’t this exactly what Jesus did with his disciples? Wasn’t his unrelenting love the reason why they became world changers, knowing that nothing they did would ever separate them from his love? That doesn’t mean that Jesus didn’t address issues and correct wrong attitudes and behaviour; quite the opposite was the case. But he did not shame people. On the contrary, he restored people’s honour, often publicly. He demonstrated to the crowd gathered to stone the woman found guilty of adultery that they were not any better than her, thus saving her life and alleviating her shame. He reinstated Peter publicly having him declare three times that he loved the Lord, thus counter-acting his terrible betrayal of renouncing Jesus three times.
I am wondering how much more honest a community we would be if we knew that we could confess our shortcomings, talk about weaknesses that haunt us, and sins that entangle us if we knew that we would still be accepted, still be loved, still be honoured. I am wondering: How much more freedom would that bring and to how many of us?
The NLT version of the bible translates ‘love is not rude’ instead of ‘it doesn’t dishonour’, which is an interesting choice, I find but ultimately true. If you think of a situation in which you were treated rudely, or have witnessed someone else being treated that way, it makes a lot of sense. If we are rude to someone what we are saying is that they don’t deserve being treated with respect, which, you might already guess it, is defined as ‘the condition of being esteemed or honoured’. It’s just so easy sometimes to be swept away by our emotions isn’t it. If someone presses our buttons, is rude first, just doesn’t get it right, you name it. But if I want to grow in love I need to outgrow rudeness; the outright aggression as well as its more subtle cousins ridicule and sarcasm.
In fact, if I know who I am and am aware that I have value I do not need to employ any form of negative control, which is what rudeness is in the end. If I know about my worth I can communicate my boundaries and value the boundaries of others. If I know God loves me I can love in turn and not demand my own way. God gave us the choice to accept Him and love Him back or to reject Him. Without this option, there is no real love. If I truly love someone I do not need to have my way, I don’t force myself on others or only go after what is best for me. Real love gives a choice and the choice might be a no. But only then is a real relationship possible.
Respect and honour connect people. There might be a generational gap, one created by different opinions, social class or denomination, but when we have respect for one another, it makes dialogue possible. I might not understand where you are coming from, outright disagree with you, or even utterly dislike you, but I can still make the decision in any given situation to treat you with respect. “In humility count others more significant than yourselves,” it says in Philippians 2:3 (ESV). If I honour someone I take them as they are, no matter how flawed they may be and make sure to instil a sense of worth and value in them. The bible is very clear that we are to look out for and honour the vulnerable. I have to ask myself, how do I show respect to someone I do not naturally connect with, would rather avoid or would love to give a piece of my mind to? We are called to honour others not because of what they have done but because of who we are – citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:29). How we treat others ultimately says more about who we are than it does about who they are. We honour and respect others because that is just the way it’s done in our real home country. Regardless of the general practice of the land we live in, showing honour and respect is the kingdom culture the rules of which we are called to live by.
By honouring someone I am saying, “You are someone. You are a person of worth and value and I see that and I respect that.” Sometimes that takes a lot of humility, going low, holding ourselves back and putting someone else’s need above our own. I don’t know about you, but I find this especially hard when I am right, and I don’t mean when I just think I am right, but when I am clearly, objectively, undeniably right. Oh the pain of the other person not seeing that! The question then is if I can make my point and still treat the other with respect. Some wise person once said, “People are least lovable when they need love the most.” Now, there is a challenge.
I guess, it all can be summarized with the words of Jesus recorded in Matthew 5:48: In a word, what I’m saying is, “Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.” (MSG)
Thank you God that your steadfast love and amazing grace have no end. Thank you that your mercy is new every morning ready for me to receive for my failings. As you are generous and gracious towards me so I want to be gracious and generous towards others. Show me where I am trying to control the behaviour of other people and help me to truly love them by honouring and respecting them. I don’t want the song of my life to be ‘I did it my way’ but I want to bow down to you and in humility count others more significant than myself. Teach me how to love like you love me.