Every culture or group have traditions that grow over time; some of them good, some of them eventually a bit pointless. One tradition that we have in the Christian community house I live in, revolves around peoples’ birthdays. Everyone gets a cake (or pavlova, or cheesecake, or fruit salad, depending on their tastes) and we all sit around, eating and taking it in turns to tell that person what we appreciate about them. We also pray and ask God if there’s anything He wants to say to them. (Disclaimer: it is my birthday soon, so this might be why I’ve been thinking about it!)
A while back, we published some posts on this blog by Jon Jon, all about culture. He explains it a lot better than I can. But one thing that seems clear is that culture doesn’t happen accidentally. I’ve been thinking about the importance of sustaining a culture of honour.
Not everyone (i.e. introverts) enjoys the process of sitting there, while people praise you and pick out your best qualities. It can definitely be awkward. Some people prefer to highlight other people rather than be in the spotlight themselves, and that’s fine. But there is something beautiful about a culture of deliberately building people up, rather than dragging them down.
The early church doesn’t seem too shy when it comes to honouring (and challenging) each other, especially if the Apostle Paul is anything to go by. At the end of Romans, in chapter 16, he reels off a whole list of people he wants to send greetings to, for example:
“Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks but all the churches of the Gentiles give thanks as well. Greet also the church in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in Asia. Greet Mary, who has worked hard for you. Greet Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners. They are well known to the apostles, and they were in Christ before me. Greet Ampliatus, my beloved in the Lord.” (Romans 16:3-8, emphasis added)
I love how Paul takes great care to comment about every person he greets – personal things that he loves about them. As a leader, he set the example for others to follow, a church where everyone knows they are loved and appreciated.
“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)
This is one of the most challenging verses in the Bible. Jesus said that the way we would be recognisable to people that don’t know Him, is because of the way we love each other. This isn’t some shallow, wishy-washy love, but a sacrificial love that lays itself down for others – a tiny glimpse into the character of Jesus.
We live in a world where access to social media makes it so quick and easy to pronounce judgement and criticise: from dresses on a catwalk to status updates we disapprove of. The kingdom of God is revealed when we look different to this. Let’s be deliberate in honouring one another; not just once a year on birthdays, but regularly looking for ways we can show those around us how much we value them.