Last fall we while staying with some friends in England we discovered an important principle about wiring. After taking a shower one morning Sherry plugged her hairdryer into the outlet. The hairdryer sounded like a 747 taking off as the motor hit about 50,000 rpm. I think she could have dried her hair in 37 seconds if smoke hadn’t started pouring out of every crack in the hairdryer. She quickly unplugged the appliance and we prayed the smoke detectors wouldn’t go off. Later at breakfast we hoped our hosts wouldn’t notice the pungent odor of burning rubber. We learned that just because you can plug something in to 220 volts doesn’t mean its wired for it.
My fear is I see this same principle at work in some church cultures where honor is one directional and focused on leaders in a hierarchical structure like the model below:
The expectation in this type of environment is that everyone show honor to the leaders above them. It is often stated that honor flows both ways, but most of the honor seems to be directed at leaders higher on the org chart, especially the leader at the top, in the form of deference, agreement and perks. The problem is that as leaders we are not wired for that type of focused attention and devotion. Like my wife’s hairdryer, its great for a little while but eventually something will burn up.
When we are surrounded by people who cater to our every need, remove all obstacles from our path and hang on our every word, it begins to do weird things to our mind. We begin to believe that we are, in fact, worthy of the kind of honor being showered on us. We begin to shield ourselves from the unpleasant fact that, while we have different gifts, we are all the same. The perks that go along with rising in an organization can cause us to lose touch with that reality, and losing touch with that reality will destroy our souls in the end.
That is why Paul gives very clear instructions about honor in Romans 12:
‘Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. ‘ Romans 12:10
Paul’s model of honor looks more like this:
In Paul’s model everyone honors everyone else so no one person is overloaded with attention, devotion or perks. He draws a clear distinction between authority (“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities…” Romans 13:1) and honor. Authority says recognizes the value of leadership and order while honor keeps everything in balance. It is like authority is the gas that gives the engine power while honor is the oil that keeps the engine running.
Honor that flows equally in every direction is essential to a healthy culture. Honor that only flows in one direction destroys the soul and creates a sick culture.
What does honor look like in your world?