One of the most important and familiar events recorded in the Bible was the baptism of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ by John the Baptist in the Jordan River (See Matthew 3:13-17 NIV). When John protested, Jesus encouraged him to do it in order “to fulfill all righteousness.”
Detailed theological discussion about the event is beyond the scope of this article. This article suggests that what Jesus did and said brought honor to John to whom honor was due at that moment in time.
At the time he approached John the Baptist, Jesus was holy, had no sin to confess or repent from, or wash away. His holiness endures forever. However, he wanted to identify himself with sinful mankind for whom he came to die.
The baptism of Jesus reinforced and empowered John. It also supported and validated John’s mission. The Old Testament ends with a prophecy that God would send us “the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes.” (Malachi 4:5 NIV). Recall that Elijah had already been taken up to heaven in a whirlwind at the time of that prophecy (see 2 Kings 2:11), so the reference to Elijah was to someone else in the spirit of Elijah. Jesus would later say that “among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist;” and that “if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come.” (Matthew 11:11, 14 NIV). As important as John the Baptist was, he was nowhere near Jesus in greatness.
The baptism was a short moment in time; yet, it was very profound. It was done without prior planning by the two of them. Jesus went to John openly where other people were being baptized. On his own, Jesus willingly subjected himself to John’s authority at that moment. He did not seek any secrecy or preferential treatment. Jesus demonstrated that no matter how high or mighty we are, it is alright to honor someone lower or weaker than ourselves.
Giving honor is sometimes situational. It depends on the time, place, or occasion. A person worthy of honor in one setting may not necessarily be worthy of the same honor in a different time, place or occasion. Even a person who goes by the title “Honorable” may have to give honor to others depending on the time, place or occasion.
Sometimes, you have to give honor to people whom you may wrongly consider as beneath you. It could be a younger pastor, a younger chief, a younger manager, a younger teacher, a poor leader, or anyone else whose age, status or credentials may be below yours. If that person occupies a position of honor, then honor should be given to him or her accordingly.
Take, for example, the Bishop or senior pastor of a Church who visits the local Church to worship. If the local pastor asks the congregation to stand or kneel, and the Bishop or senior pastor refuses to stand or kneel solely because he or she is the Bishop or senior pastor, he or she may not be giving honor to whom honor is due, and may not be fulfilling all righteousness. The act of standing or kneeling is not for the benefit of the local pastor, but for God. Therefore, absent any Church rule to the contrary, the Bishop or senior pastor may undermine the local pastor’s authority, and fail to honor him, but more importantly, he or she may dishonor God.
A few weeks ago, the people of Ghana and the U.S. witnessed examples of giving honor to whom honor is due. Focusing on Ghana, the President-elect of Ghana and Vice-President-elect each swore oaths in Parliament administered by the Chief Justice prior to assuming their offices as President and Vice-President, respectively. Similarly, before becoming the Speaker of Parliament, the Speaker-elect swore oaths administered by the Chief Justice. Yet, the President appoints the Chief Justice, and the President, Vice-President, and Speaker of Parliament are all higher than, and take precedence over, the Chief Justice.
Honor is so important that one of the Ten Commandments is devoted to it: “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” (Exodus 20:12 NIV). It is the only one of the Ten Commandments with a promise. Therefore, one secret to living a long life is to honor your parents and, by extension, your elders and anyone else to whom honor is due. For example, those who dishonor or disrespect their parents, but honor or respect their pastors and other important personalities may need to re-evaluate their Christian values.
Giving honor to whom honor is due does not take anything away from you. Rather than diminish your stature, it enhances it. It shows that you respect people and that you are not carried away by your own self-importance or consumed by superiority complex. Besides, what goes around, comes around. If you give honor to whom honor is due, honor will come back to you in due course.
Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Son of Man, went to John the Baptist to be baptized by him. He who had no sin, went to a sinner for baptism in order to fulfill all righteousness. Jesus demonstrated humility and meekness, and wants us to do likewise by giving to whom honor is due.
Our first and greatest honor is to God. In all circumstances, we need to find a way to honor God, and honor people in a manner that honors God. The Apostle Paul provides some guidance. Paul says that we should honor one another above ourselves (Romans 12:10 NIV). He also tells us not to do anything out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than ourselves (Philippians 2:3 NIV). If we have the mindset of honoring all people above ourselves, we would not be caught in situations where we fail to honor those to whom honor is due; that is, each and every one, because all human beings deserve honor, dignity, and respect.
Prayer is the key. May God grant us the grace to seek Him daily through our prayers.
Dr. Daniel Gyebi, Attorney-at-Law, Texas, U.S.A., and Founder, PrayerHouse Ministry, Kumasi, Ghana.
PrayerHouse Ministry is dedicated to providing a quiet facility for Christians to pray individually by themselves without any intermediary priest, pastor or any other person. This is a free service. No money is demanded or accepted. One facility is located at Kyerekrom / Fumesua, near Building and Road Research Institute Offices, one mile off the Kumasi-Accra Road and next to a house called Grace Castle. If you are interested, please contact Agnes at 054-7498653. Another is located at Kantinkyiren, at the junction of Kantinkyiren and Konkori, off the Kumasi-Obuasi Road, branching left at Trede junction. Contact Kwadwo at 020-8768461 / 0246-989413.