One word that is too little thought of and is certainly too little observed is the word "honor". When one hears the word, muddled ideas as to its meaning arise in our minds. At best, it makes its rare appearances in verb form as we employ it in the same sentences as we do the words "promise" or "agreement".
We also hear it (usually) in the uttering of wedding vows as the bride and groom pledge to "honor" the other. Practical application of these vows, undervalued by popular culture and subsequently in daily living, deserves a place of supremacy in the values and priorities of each and every marriage.
But I suspect that until a better sense of what honor is and its priceless worth have been restored to us, the point of "honoring" one another will be mostly lost on most couples, children in regard to their parents, and Christians in general of one another.
God's Word, in delineating the priorities we should maintain in life, spells out that we are to love God above all other things and others at least as much as we love ourselves. Intricately wound up in this love, is the fact that honoring another is a means by which we demonstrate love.
We are therefore admonished to honor God above all other things. In other words, we are to revere and esteem Him more than anything else (1 Corinthians 6:20, Numbers 25:13). Then, as beings who carry His image and recognize that others have also been created in His image, we honor others, too. More to the point, as Christians, we are to "honor others above ourselves" (Romans 12:10).
A specific way for honoring God is in children honoring their parents (Exodus 20:12, Matthew 15:4, Ephesians 6:2). We also honor God when we honor those institutions that He has created for His divine and holy purposes. Marriage, the joining of a man and woman in a holy covenantal relationship, is specifically to be honored (Hebrews 13:18), for it recognizes what Jesus has done in the giving of His life for His Church and the joining of His Spirit with her. According to Malachi 2:14-15 marriage is to be honored also because it is the primary vehicle for aligning our culture with God's plans. Aided and strengthened by God's church, it perpetuates Godliness in our darkened world (inasmuch as the husband and wife place their home under the loving control of God).
But what does it mean to "have honor" or to "defend one's honor"? And what does it mean today to be a "man of honor"? I have known soldiers who have had a better idea than most of what honor is when having discussions on the subject of honor. But I have to admit that I am grieved as the realization that talking about honor with most people is like talking in another language.
Honor, as a noun, means simply an "esteemed reputation" or a "reverenced name". To "have" honor simply means that we live up to the name that we now carry as Christians. If a Christian lies, then he "dishonors" the name of Jesus. If a Christian cheats, or steals, or is unfaithful, then he is not living up to the name that he has been given and he "dishonors" the name of Christ.
One might look today across the landscape of broken promises, selfish acts, and cowardly decisions by people and conclude that there are few indeed who truly have a sense of honor. Honor means little to most because we mostly do not understand its worth nor care to discover it.
But think for a moment of the price that Christ paid for you! Jesus, the ultimate Man of Honor, courageously forsook selfish motives and endured a life of hardship so that He could honor His Father's holiness. He boldly spoke the truth to all, even when He was hated for it, so that He could honor His Father's Word. He bravely cared for those that others deemed unworthy of attention and affection, and then willingly died on a cross that we deserved, so that He could honor His Father's love.
Shortly before His crucifixion, Jesus said, "Now My heart is troubled, and what shall I say? 'Father, save Me from this hour'? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name!" Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified it, and will glorify it again" (John 12:27-28 NIV).
Honor is at the heart of Who Jesus is and always seeks to glorify that which is deserving of honor. Ultimately, nothing is deserving of more honor than the name of God. This is why we need to seek to restore honor to our homes, to our businesses, as well as to our reputations. In the end, whether or not we earn a name of honor rides on whether or not we keep our promises, deal with others justly, and demonstrate lives of mercy and compassion. And the manner in which we are known becomes the platform from which we proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ and become the means by which the name of God is glorified.