My youngest daughter Meghan finished up her soccer season this week, and like most years, we had the obligatory team celebration. Usually every kid gets a trophy and a few words about how great they played, followed by a round of applause. Its cute, a nice photo op, and the kids seem to appreciate it.
This year coach Scott led through the ceremony. And although the activities were similar to most years, the spirit of it was different. He had taken the time to actually write 4 or 5 sentences for each kid on an index card with kind words that uniquely applied to them. And he shared them with emotion and heart….as if he actually believed all of it.
As a father I was touched. There is nothing like listening to someone genuinely show honor and love for your child. I would imagine that I am like most parents on the planet. If you want to win me over…if you want to immediately get on my good side….honor my kids. Show them grace. Love on them. Be generous to them. Speak words of life to them.
(Likewise, if you REALLY want to fire me up then disrespect my kids. Criticize them & see what happens)
It made me think of my posts about honor. Now obviously, the Lord is a better Father than us, and He certainly is not as petty as me. But the fact of the matter is….loving His kids is a big deal to Him.
There are so many verses pertaining to this topic, but here’s one of the more convicting ones…
We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
– I John 4:19-21
HONORING GOD’S CHILDREN….PLEASES & HONORS THEIR FATHER
But it doesn’t happen by accident. We have to SWIM AGAINST THE TIDE in order to live this out.
We live in SUCH a negative and critical culture. So many of us have been trained to see life as a giant competition and this seeps into every relationship we have. The church is no different. We visit churches, we talk to other Christians or other leaders, we read a book or blog and our gut reaction is to critique.
Why? (we have a heart problem….see parts III & IV for more details)
Coach Scott certainly could have had a field day critiquing my daughter. She scored exactly zero goals. She occasionally wandered off the field. She once ran onto the field to play…WHILE STILL CARRYING AN UMBRELLA. When Scott asked her what she was doing she said…”well, we’re not supposed to use our hands anyway!”
Coming up with an index card of praise for Meghan was a challenge. But he did it. He called her up front, placed a medal around her neck and shared words of life with her. A bit about her effort, and her teamwork and then he finished by saying, “And Meghan, your smile brings me joy every time I see you at practice!”
Coach Scott didn’t just TOLERATE my daughter. He FOUND great qualities & affirmed her in them.
HONOR IS NOT PASSIVE….SEARCH FOR SOMETHING TO HONOR
In our world it seems that ‘TOLERANCE’ & ‘ACCEPTANCE’ have been elevated as the highest goal.
But that is not our call within the church. It is not good enough.
Honor takes things to another level. We SHOW honor. It isn’t passive, it is active. It requires something of us.
Regarding Romans 12:10 ESV, one theologian describes the verse this way, “Being readier than the other to recognize and honor God’s gifts in a brother [or sister}”
Men & women who take this verse seriously make it their business to FIND and POINT OUT how their brothers and sisters are bringing honor to God.
Try something. With that guy or gal in your church who annoys you, or that arrogant church leader, or that person with a different theological bent, or that church you just visited, or that “tribe” you don’t belong to………BEFORE you start to critique or judge. Ask a different question first….
How can I RECOGNIZE and HONOR God’s work in this person?
Then SPEAK IT. To them. To others.
Spread rumors about them….rumors that they are being used by God, and you think highly of certain things about them. Rumors that you appreciate them.
HONOR IS NOT QUIET….BE HONEST & GENEROUS WITH PRAISE
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
– Ephesians 4:29
I know you have read that verse 41,000 times before. But really think about what it is saying….
When you speak: make it good for building up…..fit the occasion…and give grace to those who hear.
This is a high call.
Back to our story….the best part of what Coach Scott did was that he wasn’t lying to the kids. In our world of “everybody’s a winner” youth sports, he didn’t just give them platitudes. There was no false flattery. Dishonesty is not honor. He didn’t repeat the same phrases to each kid. He actually knew them, and thought about them individually.
The same is true in the church. We’re not talking about trite meaningless phrases…or Christian pleasantries. We are talking about prayerfully, humbly, recognizing God’s work in a brother’s or sister’s life AND THEN AFFIRMING IT TO THEM.
You may be thinking that this is no big deal. This is normal stuff. But it isn’t.
After the celebration, Meghan went on to play her last soccer game in the rain (no umbrella)…and later we rode home. She spent most of the ride deep in thought, but as we approached the house, she turned to me and said, “Did you hear what coach said to me today?”
“What was that?”
“He said that my smile brought him joy at every practice!”
Then she flashed me a huge smile and bounded into the house, energized and beaming.