A few years back our church began weekly 5-a side football nights; partly as a way of reaching others in the community, partly because a core of us in the church loved playing football. We were always keen that it didn’t become an exclusive church group, yet at the same time we wanted to keep what we considered to be core Christian values.
As a way of striving to keep such values, one practice we instilled was that each week we would simply begin with a prayer. Not a huge thing, but a short time set apart to commit to the game to the Lord.
I remember early on thinking, ‘what are we praying for?’ Not in a cynical way, but quite literally asking the question, what are we praying for? We’re not playing for a certain side to win, as I can’t really imagine Jesus getting overly worked up about a Thursday night 5-a side game.
The word that kept coming to mind, and still does every time we pray before playing even now, 9 or so years on, is simply ‘honour’.
That’s what we pray for. We pray that we conduct ourselves in a way that honours others. Stopping the game if someone goes down injured. Being honest when you foul someone. Not trying to claim possession when you know it came off you before going out of play. Not going in for silly tackles with the sole intention of hurting someone. Not badmouthing others. Keeping the bad language to a minimum.
Of course there are times when people slip up, and we’re certainly not a community to all of a sudden start judging people for messing up, but because the game is conducted in such a way, people quite quickly catch on to the idea that that’s not how we play. Just being intentional with the culture you promote can actually be incredibly powerful.
Those of you who know me will know I’m generally a pretty laid back kind of guy! And I am by no means the most competitive person you’ll ever meet, however I do admit that sometimes I can get a little caught up in the moment, and I do like to win! In those moments I find it incredibly helpful to remember this word honour as much as I possibly can.
My biggest weakness is often when I get peeved off about something minuscule like someone never passing the ball, and then i’ll enjoy a good moan about it to those around me. Definitely not something I’m proud of, and something I’m working on, by constantly trying to remind myself if what I’m saying is bringing honour to someone? If it’s not, then it’s probably best not being said.
This stretches much further than simply the football pitch, but how do you deal on the phone when a telephone marketing person calls you? How do you respond when someone cuts in front at the bakery queue? How do you cope when your flight is delayed? How do you treat the Barista at 6am when they get your coffee order wrong?
The reason all of this is so valuable is because by honouring others, we honour God. Simple as.
In Matthew, Jesus tells a parable which speaks about the need to love others:
‘When you cared for one of the least important of these my little ones, my true brothers and sisters, you demonstrated love for me.’
Matthew 25:40 (The Passion Translation)
The ministry of Jesus was so immensely biased towards feeding the hungry, clothing the needy, and healing the sick. His expectation for us to do the same is not out of duty, but out of honour.
Doing good to others isn’t a chore, or a ritual, but its something we do because that’s what God’s done for us.
Let’s take it upon ourselves to see Jesus in everyone, to respond in honour.
It was this exact thought process which came into mind as I wrote Purest Silver with Peter Nevland for the tree of Psalms project a few years back. You can take a listen to the song below, and follow this link to find lyrics and the Chordsheet to download.