How Do We Honor Dishonorable People? (Q&A)

Lessons on Living as Exiles, Part 10

1. As you annotate your Bible, do the colors have any significance?

No, they don’t.

And how do you save your study notes for specific texts you are studying?

That’s an important question. And I grew up without computers, so it’s hard for me to shift gears. I began to form ring binders for books of the Bible. So I have a 1 Peter ring binder that’s about three inches thick. And as I had insights, I’m writing on a piece of paper, putting them in there under the order.

Today you got Logos, you got Accordance, you got BibleWorks, you got endless possibilities. Just figure out a way to keep your notes so that you don’t lose them. Figure out a way to color code them or save them in the computer or maybe create a journal on your computer. I journal on the computer now. I’ve always journaled, so I put insights in my journal. They tend to get lost there, but you can index journals now with the kind of computer stuff we have.

So find your way at this point in your life. If you’re 70 or if you’re 17, find a way to preserve what God shows you in your devotions. He will use it. He’ll use it in the hospital. He’ll use it at work. He’ll use it in conversations with friends. If you save a thought, it’s just wonderful to walk into relationships over lunch and just start talking about what you saw. No big formal, “Hey, let’s get biblical here. Let’s talk Bible.” Just do it.

Just say, “This morning I saw . . .” That’s what I did when I got in the car with John this morning. It never even occurred to me that, “Oh, I should model for John Knight,” we’re driving over in the hotel, “being in the Bible.” It isn’t even in my mind. I’m just seeing in 1 Corinthians 15 that there’s a glory for animals and a glory for birds, a glory for fish, and a glory for stars. And star differs from star in glory and so will be the resurrection of the just.

And John’s got a disabled son and I’m dreaming there’s going to be a resurrection. It doesn’t matter how the seed looked when it went in and we’re just talking! So all that, but save it. Save it, capture it, put it down, because if you’re 69, you’ve got it for five minutes and it’s gone unless you write it down. That’s question number one.

2. In light of increased secularization in American culture, do you see a time coming where the American church is forced underground?

I do not see that, and I do not not see that. I’m not a seer. So since I don’t see with prophetic eyes yet, God might give that gift or bent. Therefore, I don’t operate that way, and I pray toward revival. You pray toward revival. You don’t pray towards underground. You prepare for underground. You prepare for whatever it takes to be Christian in any culture, wherever on the planet you happen to be, but you’re always wanting, “Hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth, in America, as it is in heaven.” If you don’t pray that way, I don’t know how you’re praying the Lord’s prayer. So, we lean towards survival, awakening, and rescue.

God can save institutions and God can save cities and God can save governments from destruction, and we are on a path towards destruction and we are under judgment now and judgment will bring judgment. We’re not going to get to that, but in 1 Peter 4, it says judgment must begin with the household of God (1 Peter 4:17). And if it begins with the household of God, what will be the outcome of those who do not obey the gospel?

We are under judgment. All fiery trials, 1 Peter 1, are the judgment of God. Judgment for Christians is purifying. Judgment for non-Christians is punishment. So you’re going to experience the same diseases and floods and whatever God chooses to compound judgment with. We’re going to all die in it too, but we die for purification and they for punishment.

So, let 1 Peter guide us here. Keep your lives unspeakably joyful, pure in holiness, abundant in good deeds, in the prayer that many will see and glorify our God on the day of visitation. That’s the orientation.

3. How do you honor leaders while also standing up against policies, laws, or agendas that are unbiblical? That is, should we bake the cake for the homosexual couple, or even more, try to overthrow the government like Bonhoeffer?

The sequence of the thought in that question didn’t go where I thought it was going to go. So let me just talk for a minute and see if I even come close to what. The first part says “honor all men.” Okay, so this is the “how” question. How do you honor leaders who have laws and agendas that are unbiblical?

Expect rational human discourse and be willing to engage in it. Humans are not dogs. One of the questions I was going to ask you by way of application, when it says “honor all men,” how do you honor a criminal, a murderer? Because I don’t think the sentence means “honor all men except people that are in jail,” or “honor all men except people that kill and steal and rape.”

And I said there’s a way to honor people according to their role. Well, here’s a role. “I kill people, belong to ISIS,” or “I killed people once and I get out of jail in ten years.” How will you relate to me? The first thing I’d say in honoring a person who does or believes or teaches something is that we treat them as humans and not animals.

So an animal that gores another animal, you’re dead. I kill this dog with rabies. Kill them. Just kill them. No trial. That dog is dead. I don’t do that with humans. I do not do that with humans. You are a human. You will get a trial, you will get a lawyer, you will be heard. There will be no respecter of persons here. We have a process and that whole process is built on honoring human beings as human beings. And it carries with it a certain demeanor, a certain speaking.

You can go into your blog and say ugly, mean-spirited, blathering things about the politicians you don’t like. That would not qualify probably as honoring them. However, you might say, “It is an abomination to believe what they believe,” and that’s not dishonoring them. They’re responsible for their choices. They’re responsible for their beliefs. You are honoring that responsibility by saying that I disagree for these five reasons, and the Bible calls it an abomination, and therefore I will call it an abomination. And I am happy to talk to you and relate to you about that.

So you don’t honor people by fudging what you believe. That’s treating them as unable to cope with the truth — the truth of your convictions. That’s not honoring.

Baking a cake for somebody has to be decided on what’s the situation. Somebody comes to your house, your neighbors, the gay folks who live next door, you’re going to invite them over, right? Yes, you are. And when they come, you’re going to make a cake and a meal. That’s not what they have in mind here probably, but you got to make those distinctions. We love all people. Do good to all people.

To make a cake by way of celebration of what they believe and do is another matter. Paul made these distinctions. He said if you go to somebody’s house and they put meat before you, don’t ask any questions. Eat the meat. Not a problem. You’re a Christian, you’re free. If they say, “Oh, excuse me, by the way, we’re celebrating with this meat that was sacrificed the other day, we’re celebrating the god ISIS.” You’re not eating the meat. Same meat, same meal, no eat.

Same way with these kinds of situations. We’re going to do good to all people, those who disagree with us profoundly, engaging behaviors we think are sin, we’re going to do good. But if they somehow try to maneuver us into sharing the celebration banner, can’t celebrate. I don’t celebrate sin. I cannot celebrate sin. God has called me to identify sin, avoid sin, warn people about sin, have mercy on sinners, but not to celebrate, condone, exalt, participate in sin, which is what I think is happening in these kinds of professional situations.

Serving and celebrating are different. Serving and celebrating. You got a restaurant and a gay pair comes in, you won’t say, “Go away.” You serve. But if they say, “And we want you to hold a big celebration here. Make it for us. Raise the banner. Join us in saying how beautiful this is.” Say, “I don’t think it’s beautiful.”

Bonhoeffer — tough call. Really tough call. He didn’t exactly submit to Hitler when he tried to participate in the assassination of Hitler. So should he have? I don’t know. I love Bonhoeffer. I love him. I love Eric Metaxas’ biography of Bonhoeffer. Everyone should read it. I cut him all the slack in the world — not condemning Bonhoeffer. I expect to see him in heaven.

I hope I have the courage he did to stand on the gallows like he did and write the kind of letters he did from prison. And frankly, I don’t know. I don’t know when always it’s right to take up arms like our government did against England. Long list of reasons, probably legitimate. Maybe America shouldn’t exist. I don’t know.

You can see at this level, I live with a lot of ambiguity. There’s a lot of things I don’t live in ambiguity because I sound dogmatic to most people, but if they knew how many questions I don’t have answered. You’ll make the decision.

You will make the decision. So the next question is, should we pay taxes that fund abortions? Well, you make that decision every year. You don’t have any choice. You must make that decision. You do or you don’t. My answer to that is for now, probably. I say that for a couple of reasons.

Number one, because in Romans 13 it says, “Pay taxes to whom taxes are due, honor to whom honor is due, tribute to whom tribute is due” (Romans 13:7). And the king there is a total dictatorial pagan paying Pilot’s salary who killed Jesus because of his expediency. That’s corruption to the max. And we’re supposed to pay. Second reason, and here’s the principle behind that. How close does the causality of your behavior has to figure into the sin before you can’t do it anymore?

All right, here’s what I mean. Here’s a company that you hear has some really sleazy practices at the top. Say five thousand people work for this company and you’ve gotten wind that the upper-ups — say the top ten people — are really doing stuff they shouldn’t do internationally, like moving money around or avoiding certain kinds of taxes or just whatever. And you’re a janitor. Should you quit?

Probably not. I mean, if there were just as good a job at a company that wasn’t doing that. But the principle is, the causal chain between your sweeping the floors and keeping the bathrooms clean and everything and what’s happening up here, that’s not a causal chain that God says, “Guilty. Guilty janitor.” I don’t think so.

Now, how far you’d have to move up in decision-making before you get to a point where you say, “I’m out of here. I can’t support this anymore.” I don’t know. That’s the principle. The proximity of causality is a principle in government, in business, in structures of society that you see sin happening.

So taxes, I would say, at least now, is a pretty remote causality for the existence of abortion. Abortion doesn’t exist because I pay taxes. It exists for a lot of other reasons, and there are many things we could be doing and should be doing. And not paying our taxes would probably be of minor significance. It would get you in trouble and the statement you would make might be meaningful to a few, but probably not have very much effect. And the last question before we move on.

4. How do you show honor to people who you have had to distance yourself from because of their harmful choices, family members who were bad influences upon marriage or children?

That’s so, so important. How do you honor a husband who’s in jail because of abusing the kids? Got several situations like that I know about. Or how do you honor a person who cheated on you and that was ten years ago and they’ve desperately tried to win back your trust?

I think about a very important distinction here that I’m sure you know, but I’ll say it anyway, because I didn’t know it until 1993. And think about it. There is a difference between forgiveness and trust. Somebody offends you, cheats on you, wife cheats on you, or a member in your church abuses children in the nursery. They’re disciplined, they’re brought before the law. They do a year in jail or whatever the situation calls for, and now they’re out and they want to work in the nursery.

Well, it’s a no-brainer. “Wait a minute, I thought you forgive in this church?” We do, but trust is another thing. And that’s painful. That’s incredibly painful. And that applies in so many areas, because you don’t want to hold something against a person forever.

And yet, there are certain situations and kinds of sins that seem so constitutionally rooted in a perpetrator that even though you’re forgiving them, willing to relate to them, you’re not going to entrust babysitting to them or whatever the proclivity is that they have sought to overcome.

Very tough calls, really tough. So you honor them not by saying that forgiveness and trust are the same and you can have your job back a year later helping the kids, but rather the way you talk it through with them, the way you love them, the way you try to help them understand, the way you deal with their own brokenness. And if they’re mature, and they’re walking with Christ, they’ll understand that.

Boy, when I try to put marriages back together that have been broken through unfaithfulness or something horrific, I just say to the perpetrator, the offender, I say, “I hope you’re committed to this, but this will take years to restore any trust.” You can’t just say, “I’m sorry for playing around with three or four women” and walk in and say to her, “I forgive you. Fine. No problem.”

That trust has to be won by character proof and over time. So I’d say the evidence of your repentance is the patience of ten years. Are you willing to win her back with ten years of her being unsure about you? And then she’s sure about you again.

And if you’re not, you don’t get the grievousness of your own sin. It’s your issue, buddy. Your issue. You’ve got to win her back and not expect her to think that an “I’m sorry” is the same as “I’m a new person and trustworthy.” Okay, four questions — lots of ambiguity. That’s life as I live it.