The Meaning of Honorable
To many people, being an honorable man might simply mean to practice things that are good, helpful, and kind. A husband might believe he is honorable if he does not commit adultery and if he adequately provides for his family. A worker might believe he is honorable if he works hard for the company. A student might believe he is honorable if he studies hard and earns decent grades. However, being an honorable man is more than just having good habits such as these.
The idea of honor can be viewed in two ways. There is something called horizontal honor. This is the esteem and respect that we can give each other within a particular group. Groups are formed in various ways. Perhaps you are in a group of colleagues at work, or perhaps you are on a sports team. There are a variety of different kinds of groups in which we participate. By virtue of our participation, there is a certain level of honor and respect that is to be given to everyone within that group.
Think of it like a football team. Your favorite NFL team is comprised of men who are not a part of any other team in the NFL. Each player on that roster differs in skill sets, purpose, physique, function, talent, and playing time. Yet because they are all members of that same team, they give each other a certain level of respect, esteem, and honor. When one member of the team is attacked, the other members defend him. When one player makes a mistake, the others do not throw him under the bus, but seek to challenge him and encourage him to do better. This is all part of horizontal honor. It is the mutual respect that every member within a particular group deserves by virtue of his membership in that group.
There is also something called vertical honor. This is the honor or recognition for someone within the group who demonstrates something that goes above and beyond the others within that group. He is recognized in some way and given a special honor by the group as a whole. Using the football analogy, there are captains on NFL teams, players who have been recognized by the team as leaders and have exhibited qualities or abilities above those of others. They have been given vertical honor by the rest of their teammates because of their leadership, or their demonstrations of excellence within the group.
In the Super Bowl, the teams who compete against each other are part of an elite group. No other teams are Super Bowl teams for that year. Every player on those teams is part of that special group and therefore deserves horizontal honor and respect by each other. At the end of that game, though, only one player will be awarded the vertical honor of Most Valuable Player.
So there is horizontal honor given to every person within a group, and there is vertical honor given by the group to one within the group. The honor or respect that is given by one’s peers does not necessarily indicate superiority of any one person over another. Nor is this recognition based on the equality of jobs or positions. While every member of a football team is worthy of honor, not all those players get equal playing time, have equally prominent positions, or perform equally well. Honor is simply recognition and respect given to someone.
So let's give a working definition of honor. Honor is having a reputation that is worthy of the respect and recognition of others around you.
Your reputation within the group is important. There can be players on the football team who do not have the best of reputations. Perhaps they like to play “dirty” or they are known for their “trash talking.” While they are on the team, their horizontal honor can be diminished because of their poor reputation with others. However, the opposite can be true as well. A person can earn greater respect among his peers because of his proven, stellar reputation.
A good reputation often takes time to build while a bad reputation often is gained quickly. You can probably think of several men who have ruined their reputation quickly after a long time of having a good reputation. Even a good reputation can be tarnished and crumble through one stupid mistake.
As men, we ought to seek to live in such a way that builds and maintains a good reputation among our peers. This is not just having good habits externally, but also developing godly character internally. Proverbs 22:1 says, “A good name (one’s character or reputation) is rather to be chosen than great riches….”
Our desire to live honorably as a Christian man should stem from our desire to live like Jesus Christ. Christ's character was impeccable throughout his earthly ministry. He was honored in his life by his disciples, and he was honored through his death by the Father, who elevated him to his own right hand in the heavens.
Honorable Christianity is fueled by focusing our attention on Jesus Christ, and cultivates the same kind of character that reflects that of Jesus Christ.