Don’t look for honour from the world; be prepared for shame

Don’t look for honour from the world; be prepared for shame

There were times in the past when you would get some kind of respect for being a Christian. Perhaps people would think that you must be ethical and reliable. People identifying as Christian might have once been preferred for public office in some countries. Those days are behind us. Christians now live in a culture where our faith is seen as wrong and oppressive; there is no social benefit to being a believer in Jesus in 2021 in most parts of the world.

Yet, in a significant part of the Christian church, people are taught that they will get honour and money and prosperity if they are faithful to Jesus. Well-meaning believers look forward with eagerness and anticipation to the blessing God will bring them in this life. They picture a future where they achieve their earthly dreams and those around them honour and respect them.

When we look at believers in the Bible, so often they don’t live lives that are honoured and respected by those around them. Let’s take John the Baptist as an example. Sure, John was wildly popular during his ministry. Crowds came from all Judea to listen to him and to be baptised. His ministry was so popular that Herod was worried (Matt 14:5). He spoke the truth faithfully to all who would listen. He did what he was called to do. And what was John’s reward? He was killed without trial and his disembodied head was paraded around a drunken party on a platter (Matt 14:11). This was the ultimate sign of disrespect to a great prophet. It seems faithfulness didn’t lead to health and wealth for John.

It’s not only John. Think of any apostle or prophet you like. Sure, Christians honour these people, but in their time and culture they were not honoured. As the writer to the Hebrews says about believers from the past:

Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated– 38 of whom the world was not worthy– wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. (Heb. 11:35-38 ESV)

Do you want to live a life faithful to your God? I’m glad! But know you are unlikely to be honoured for this by those around you. They will think you are odd at best. You will be labelled as crazy and dangerous by others. Perhaps those in power, like Herod and Herodias, will use that power to treat you badly. We follow a man dishonoured by the world; it is right expect that we too will face dishonour.

There is an election coming soon in the state that I live. A Christian candidate for a major party was attacked by the media because her pastor husband had written of his opposition to the homosexual lifestyle. She was guilty by association and from them on could not be taken seriously by the wider culture. Christians are being pushed out of the public square. If we look at the Biblical precedents, that should not surprise us at all.

I know all of this sounds dark, and yes, perhaps darker days are coming. Let’s be clear: there is real blessing and joy to be found in following Jesus! A life spent honouring Jesus is a life lived to the full (John 10:10); it contains a deep-seated joy and hope and contentment that cannot be found anywhere else. There is much to commend the Christian life, but we must not promise people respect from the world; God never promised us that.

Like those who trusted in the true God before us, we don’t ultimately seek honour from the world. We want to hear those great words from the Father: “well done, good and faithful servant”. God honours those who are faithful. A faithful life is worth it even when others think it odd and dangerous.