What we Feed, Grows; What we Starve, Dies
At our church, we celebrate Mother’s Day and Father’s Day enthusiastically. Today in our Father’s Day service we encouraged our Dad’s and gave them gifts and thanked them for all they do for our families.
Sometimes you hear people resent such times because they have had a bad experience with Dad’s or know people who have. I can understand that. You can’t really celebrate a person who may have left you or mistreated you.
But there’s more to it than that and sometimes we need reminding that we’re designed for community. That means that we don’t just belong to a nuclear family (2 parents and 2.4 children). We belong to a community of people where there are many sons, daughters, mums, dads, and grandparents. We need community and community needs us. Together, diverse but united, we support each other, work together, and spur one another on. The old adage: ‘It takes a village to raise a child’, seems cliché, but it’s true. Teachers, coaches, employers, foster parents, tutors, neighbours, Pastors, youth leaders and extended family – we’re shaped by the influence of many people and we need that, and people need us.
I share this because when it comes to the choice of honouring our mother or father, regardless of our personal experience, there’s a far greater influence at work. When we choose to honour our parents, even if they have caused us pain, we choose to impart an attitude into the layers of community we are woven into. To honour someone is a choice, not an emotion. It’s a value we choose to give action to. And that action is like a sweet fragrance that masks bad odours; or pure water that washes away the dirt. Our honour of others has power to affect people directly and indirectly. We begin to sweeten the atmosphere of life and empower people to change.
Conversely, if we seek to only correct, critique, avoid and resent people who are far less than perfect, no one gets empowered or inspired to change. There’s nothing sweet or pure in that. We only become focussed on the negative and lose sight of the positive. We can even become an odour of negativity or resentment…and that benefits no one.
What we feed grows; what we starve dies. Honour feeds the soul of the recipient with grace and inspiration. The one who is honoured wants to live up to the honour bestowed upon them. They’re ‘fed’ with honour and so want to live honourably. But if we don’t like someone, or how they do things and so choose to starve them of honour because they are unworthy, we starve them of the grace and inspiration to change. And then we will continue to judge them or resent them because they’re not getting any better.
If the Queen knighted you tomorrow, you would feel incredibly honoured. But how would that change you? I guarantee if people called you by the official title of Sir/Lady, you would strive to live up to the new honour bestowed upon you!
Honour feeds us people with the aspiration to live better.
There’s another significant effect when we honour people even when they don’t measure up to our expectations: we grow. It’s easy to react to people by treating them according to what we think they deserve. But that’s a very low standard of living that leaves us more shallow or poor in heart. Jesus said we should treat others the way we want to be treated. And:
“…love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:35-36)
It seems counter-intuitive. Surely if we’re fair, we should treat people how they deserve. But if God did that, all of us would be buried under shame and condemnation. He is perfect and just, so there will come a time when all deeds will be judged. But for now, He breathes life and kindness and mercy into our lives, in the hope that we will respond with kindness and mercy to others. God feeds us with good things, so we might aspire to be good. He treats us the way He wants us to treat others.
The truth is, when we choose to honour others, we become honourable. We become better when we apply the value of honour. And we become more influential, attractive, and powerful.
When we feed others with honour, we grow.
I believe when God commanded His people to ‘honour your father and mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you’ (Exodus 20:12), He was putting in place a value and wisdom that would be a force for good. Those who receive honour from us, are inspired – fueled – to live honourably. And when we honour people, we become better people who look for and find the good in others. The result is, a community of people who feed each other with kindness, mercy and grace. And what you feed, grows. Imagine being surrounded by a community overflowing with kindness, mercy and grace! It starts with something as simple as choosing to honour those around us, starting with the mothers and fathers who are in our community, whether they’re ours, or not. That’s what grows great communities that grow great people.
Watch what happens when honour flows…
To all the Dads who try to get things right more often than not, regardless of how you rate yourself, God is proud of you and we appreciate you! Having you around makes us more secure, confident, and hope-filled. Keep it up!
Happy Father’s Day!