Open Your Bible
Philippians 2:1-11, John 13:1-7, John 13:12-20, Romans 12:9-21, Isaiah 66:2
BY Jen Yokel
Honor is a word that holds many ideas, depending on your family or culture of origin. It’s not an idea I think about often, but it does carry some implications about how a person is seen by their community. Honor is about good standing and respect, for your own dignity and for your family. It can be defended, lost, and restored. In some circles, it means status, rank, and the respect a person deserves. For such an abstract idea, it can carry a ton of weight, especially when honor dances with shame, its shadowy counterpart.
Preserving honor for ourselves and the people we care about comes somewhat naturally for many of us. But let’s sit for a moment with one of Paul’s commands from our reading in Romans: “Take the lead in honoring one another” (Romans 12:10). The implications of this command are striking. As brothers and sisters in Christ, we are called to not only defend one another’s honor, but to also be the first to elevate others above ourselves. A race to the bottom, in a sense, and a race that Jesus Himself led in His relationship to His disciples.
John’s account of Jesus washing the feet of His disciples is a particularly insightful example to follow. John takes care to include every step. We get a sense of Jesus taking His time—removing His outer garments, tying a towel around His waist, filling a basin—before He kneels and does the grimy labor of a servant. The Messiah, the King, and their beloved teacher is taking on the role of the lowest laborer. In this alarming display, Jesus shows His disciples how He “love[s] them to the end” (John 13:1).
To follow Jesus means more than being nice to other people. It means sometimes doing the caring work that feels beneath our station. This is what it means to “adopt the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus…assuming the form of a servant” (Philippians 2:5,7).
This call is not to a demeaning, oppressive kind of servanthood. Jesus treats His friends like honored guests, even as He presides over their Passover supper. But He’s well aware of who He is, as we see in the telling details at this story’s end. John notes Jesus putting His outer garment back on and reclining at the table in a teaching posture before asking His followers a pointed question: “Do you understand what I was doing?…I have given you an example to follow” (John 13:12–15 NLT). When we know we are beloved and treasured by God, we are free to extend that same honor to our brothers and sisters in Christ.