Glory to Glory by Honor
At Bethel we have been working to develop a culture of honor, a culture where we call out the greatness, the “gold,” in one another. We have embraced the Kingdom principle that the quality of life in our community is determined by how successful we are at recognizing the glory in others and issuing regular invitations for that glory to be expressed. Encouraging words have become common currency. You don’t have to stick around Bethel very long before someone is telling you about the glory they see in you. As a result, people all around us are coming to life in countless ways. It’s miraculous.
However, as we have sought to establish honor in our lives, we have learned something important. As I said in the last chapter, we see what we are prepared to see. Recognizing the glory in others is not something we do automatically. We must train ourselves to see it, and we do this by training our minds to agree with the truth of how Christ has defined the value of the human race. This process of training our minds is what the Bible calls repentance. The Greek word for repentance, metanoia, means to change the way you think. Only when our minds have embraced the revelation of our own glory and the glory of others will be able to behave honorably. But in order to embrace this revelation, our minds are going to have to give up the wrong beliefs we’ve had about one another. This is where the real battle of faith is, the battle of trusting an unseen, eternal reality and letting it transform the way we negotiate visible, temporal reality, where we still obviously see, in ourselves and in everyone around us, how little we look like our Elder Brother.
Changing the way we think about one another is not an easy task in our current cultural climate, which is distinctly dishonoring, particularly in the popular attitude toward authority. When I was a young man at school, I did whatever the park keeper or anyone in a uniform told me to do, because it was still normal to honor position and authority. Now it is normal to mock, criticize, and disobey those in authority, whether they are our parents or the President. Again, the root of dishonor is pride. We have arrogantly set ourselves up to judge and criticize everyone and anyone, regardless of their title or position. Jesus described us perfectly in when He taught us not to judge:
“Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.” (Matthew 7:1-5)
With great logs of pride in our eyes, we simply cannot see people around us as they truly are. And the more we judge one another, the more we invite judgment on ourselves, for that’s how judgment works. The result has been a downward spiral of greatness and an increase in lawlessness in our culture. Most everyone I took care of in prison was under the influence of this dishonoring, anti-authority attitude, and it had assiduously destroyed their lives.
But judgment also works in the positive direction. In fact, the core of honor is proper judgment—the just appraisal of the glory of others. When we, through repentance and humility, remove the logs from our eyes, then we can “see clearly” and help others to see clearly. When we treat others as more important than ourselves, when we measure their glory above our own, then we position ourselves to be measured by the same standard. The result is that, instead of draining the greatness from our culture, we increase it.
I believe this dynamic of honor in relationships was actually one of the main things Paul addressed in 2 Corinthians 3. He began by drawing this picture for the Corinthians:
You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men; being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of human hearts. (2 Corinthians 3:2)
He then compared this image with the image of Moses coming down the mountain with his face shining and the tables of stone in his hand. These two images represent two different covenants. And the shining face of Moses had no glory, Paul says, compared with the glory we possess as “living letters.” (I think this is why the Bible is a closed canon. The story can no longer be contained on tablets and paper, for it is now being written on the ever-increasing parchment of human lives through the centuries.) In some ways, the shining face of Moses seems more accessible and therefore more real than the glory we are supposed to be able to see in one another. I personally have never seen someone’s face shining so much that I couldn’t look at it, and I can tell you that I would remember if I had. But it has certainly happened, and I imagine this kind of manifestation will be seen more as the Church goes “from glory to glory.” But the point is that Moses never went “from glory to glory.” His glory faded, because that glory was only on the surface, only in the visible realm. The greater glory we have is internal and unseen, written on the heart.
This superior glory cannot be simply “seen;” it must be “read” by the one who has learned to read the language of glory. The process of learning to “read” the living letters of one another’s hearts is a challenge, but it is central to the process by which we go from glory to glory. Consider again the conclusion to this chapter:
But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away…But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:15-16, 18)
Under the Old Covenant, a “veil” covers the dimension of the heart, the realm of the Spirit. But when we turn to the Lord, this veil is removed, and we gain the capacity to perceive what is unseen, which includes both Christ and those who are seated in Christ. Thus, I propose that when we think of “beholding” the glory of the Lord in the face of Christ, we need to remember that this necessarily involves the discipline of beholding Christ in the faces of one another. Paul went on to say the same just a little later in his letter:
Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer. (2 Corinthians 5:16)
We must learn to say of the people we meet that which Mother Teresa said of the poor she served, “Each one of them is Jesus in disguise.” For as we learn to see Christ reflected in the faces of one another, we begin to use the measure He used in honoring us to honor one another. This creates a flow of life, a flow of grace, that brings what is unseen to the surface in our lives and closes the gap between earth and heaven.
At Bethel, we understand the basic mission of the Body of Christ to be “on earth as it is in heaven.” This is why honor has become one of our core values. We are not just looking to feel good about ourselves. We understand that heaven comes to earth when we see glory in one another, call it out, and make room for it to be expressed. We understand that treating people as God sees them is often the key to helping them see themselves as God sees them. This revelation enables them to live as the glorious sons and daughters they truly are in Christ. Ultimately, we believe that this culture of honor will create such a weight of glory, such a flow of life and greatness, that it turns the tide of destruction that dishonor has brought into our society.
So I challenge you to pursue an upgrade in your ability to see and “read” the language of glory written on the hearts of those around you. Pray, as the apostle Paul prayed, that “the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know…what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints” (Ephesians 1:18.Allow the Holy Spirit to show you any dishonor in your heart and mind, and be quick to repent. Look for low places where you can serve people and lift them up. And seek always to measure people according the measure of Christ, for it will come back to you, life for life, glory for glory, honor for honor.