Summary: In a healthy church, there’s extreme honor for one another brought about as a response to the revelation of extreme love and indebtedness to God it’s received. When people in a church are treated with honor, their behavior increasingly falls in line with their treatment and they will progressively act in line with who they are in Christ.
I’ve been writing a lot about how the Holy Spirit motivates us to deal with each other’s human side in our church life together lately. While He does that, he also motivates us to do something else. It’s to have a posture of love and respect for each other’s inherit value in Christ.
Made in God’s image, we were worth the life of the Son; and He revealed to us that it’s Him you honor when you honor another human. In healthy church life, people aren’t just putting up with each other, even though that does go on a lot. They are also expressing honor, love and respect for one another. They assign a tremendously high value to one another that reflects the value the Son placed on each of us. This value plays out in their everyday actions.
Why do they do this?
Overwhelmed By Love
In his book Everybody’s Normal Till You Get To Know Them, John Ortberg takes us back to the story of when Jesus was invited to dinner at the home of a religious leader. This story shows us how and why the Holy Spirit motivates us to honor each other.
In the story, Jesus arrives at the home of a religious leader named Simon. When he arrives, it would be customary for the host to greet the dinner guest with a kiss. They would also make sure their guests feet were washed before the meal. To neglect either was disrespectful to the guest. By this time, Jesus has developed quite a following and was considered a renowned teacher. Even though Jesus carried this reputation with him, Simon blatantly omitted these acts. It was a deliberate sign of disrespect.
But while He was there, a prostitute shows up in the courtyard. Not doubt she had encountered Jesus before this and was looking to engage with Him again. This could be the only explanation for why she did what she did. She breaks all cultural etiquette, which I imagine is because she’d been overwhelmed by His love for her in the recent past.
Giving Jesus a kiss of greeting would be inappropriate for her. But still, she decides she’s not just going to give him a kiss of greeting, but she’s going to bend down and kiss His feet. This was an act of utter humility. Then, to take it a step further, she lets down her hair to dry them as they were made wet by her tears. Another breach of etiquette since a woman letting her hair down was considered provocative.
Finally, she empties out her perfume onto his feet. As you might imagine given her line of work – the perfume is ultra-important to her. She’s gone all the way, giving up her livelihood to respond to Jesus with her ultimate honor for who He is.
An Extreme Response
No doubt these actions come off like an extreme response to Jesus to the other people at the party.
Of course, Simon values the woman about as low as you can value another human being. Compared to him, she was worth nothing.
But Jesus takes this situation as an opportunity to shed light on the condition of both of their hearts by telling the story of the moneylender. To summarize quickly – two men had a debt, but one had a larger debt. Both were forgiven their full debt. Then Jesus asks Simon “who will love the forgiver more?” Of course, Simon has to admit it’s the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.
Point made. Those who have been forgiven much love much. Those who have been forgiven little love little.
In the eyes of the world, she had the biggest debt. But her eyes had been opened to who she was to God.
The degree to which one has been simultaneously enlightened to their complete and utter indebtedness to the Lord and their complete and utter value as His child is the degree to which they will honor and love others.
This is why she had an extreme response back to the Lord.
What Causes People To Change
Throughout the gospels, Jesus shows us time and again that love and respect, not condemnation, causes people to change.
There’s a psychological principle called labeling that supports this. This principle states that people will behave how you treat them. For example, if parents express to their children that they are good kids and highly valued by them despite their mistakes and disobedience, those kids are much more likely to behave in a way that’s consistent with that label. If every time they make a mistake you tell them how they screwed up and how disappointed you are in them, they’ll likely become you’re self-fulfilling prophecy.
My wife is a teacher and has shown me clearly over the past 15 years this principle continuously in practice. Every year, the teacher who has the class below her will go on and on about how bad one or two of the kids that are coming to her the following year are. “Good luck with that one,” she always says. But because my wife has a special gift of loving and respecting every single kid that comes into her classroom, those kids “magically” have a 180-degree turnaround in their behavior. Every. Single. Year. This happens.
Jesus uses this principle brilliantly with this woman, and how much you wanna bet she left her encounter with him and never practiced prostitution again? She responds to His love in a way that’s proportional to the divide between her self-loathing and the new revelation that she’s a child of the Most High.
Extreme divide. Extreme response.
As a church allows the Holy Spirit to take over their lives, they gain deeper revelations of both extremes – their extreme indebtedness and their extreme value.
The Gospel of the Kingdom
The result? They honor one another to greater and greater degrees by seeing each other with the eyes of the Lord; and treating each other like the highly valued children of God that they are. This is what causes people to change.
As Frank Viola points out in his book Insurgence: Reclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom…
The gospel of libertinism says, “You are welcome in God’s kingdom, and you don’t have to change.”
The gospel of legalism says, “You are not welcome in the kingdom unless you change.”
The gospel of the kingdom and Jesus Christ the King say, “I welcome you into my kingdom, and as a result, you will change.”
It happens when the Kingdom’s members express the life of Christ through operating by this principle, just like He did with the prostitute.
The rest of the posts in the Nobody’s Normal series are here.