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How Do We Honor Those in Authority When We Disagree?

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There seems to be confusion on how to honor someone when you disagree. Some fear that to disagree would be to dishonor a person. Others are so concerned with truth that pointing out all faults is actually honoring because it allows the person to realign to the truth. Therefore it appears that you get one camp that has stopped thinking and another camp that has stopped loving. These two camps can no longer talk because they are speaking two separate languages.

Both camps have part of the truth, but as always the case we tend to focus on the one truth we like instead of seeking the needed balance. This post will take a look at honor, how people successfully disagreed with Jesus, and why this is an important skill in business.

What is Honor?

Honor is an expression of value and worth. Specifically, we are to honor our parents, government leaders, widows, elderly, and … well, everybody (Exodus 20:12, Romans 13:1-7, 1 Timothy 5:3-4, Leviticus 19:32, & Romans 12:10). Therefore our actions are to express the worth others have on our lives. Whether their worth is from age, position, or just being made in the image of God, our every interaction with others is to show the value the other person carries.

Nothing in this definition states we cannot disagree with those we are honoring. Unfortunately in our tolerant society, disagreement is viewed as confrontational. So, how do we honor others when we disagree?

How Did People Disagree with Jesus Honorably?

Some may wonder why I don’t look at how Jesus disagreed with others. That does sound more useful, but I felt that most people were not efficient at reading others’ minds or pulling coins from fishes. Also, I find it interesting that not only did some people disagree with Jesus, but they succeeded in getting Him to change His mind.

In Matthew 15:21-28, Jesus comes a Canaanite woman. She desperately wants Jesus to heal her daughter, and Jesus is uncharacteristically, shall I say, rude to her. Jesus is holding to His mission to the Jews and appears to leave her hanging. However, the woman questions Jesus’ answer to her, and He rewards her with what she sought. She questioned Jesus respectfully in the course of conversation while maintaining value for Him.

In John 2:1-11, Jesus’ mother comes to Him requesting help at a wedding. Jesus told her it wasn’t His time, but she instructs servants to wait for His instruction. This is the set up of Jesus’ first miracle. Mary makes it easy for Jesus to do what she asked, but she does not either force Him or create an argument. She honors His decision but prepares for Him to change His mind.

In Matthew 18:15-19, Jesus shares his teaching on how to deal with sin in the Church. While every disagreement is not about sin, this shows some additional ways to deal honorably with those with whom you disagree. Step one: go privately to the person in sin. If you can’t agree, then step two: take a then still small number of people to the person in sin. If they still won’t listen, then step three: take it to the church at large. Finally if they still will not listen, step four is asking them to leave your fellowship. Each step allows for repentance in the other person, but also as more people get involved, it allows for the possibility that the person bringing the charge may be shown in the wrong.

Steps to Disagree Honorably:

  1. Refrain from speaking about the disagreement from anyone except those that are a part of the problem or a part of the solution.
  2. Refrain from making your disagreement personal. Keep the discussion about thoughts or actions, not about the person’s identity.
  3. Complement incessantly. That person is valuable to God, so handle with care and bathe with love.
  4. Always leave room for reconciliation. In fact make this your primary goal.
  5. When it comes to people in position of authority over you:
    1. BEFORE TALKING: Follow what they have requested. There are blessings in honoring their decisions and trusting in God who has placed them in authority.
    2. AFTER TALKING: If they still disagree with you, follow what they have requested (see rationale above). If you still have trouble with their decisions, you have two more options:
      1. Talk with their supervisor. This is not a time of snitching or placing blame, but an opportunity to help you come into alignment and gain understanding. This step can possibly burn bridges for you, so it would be wise to discuss first with a trusted advisor.
      2. Look for a new job. People generally don’t like change and want to avoid this step, but if decisions are being made that you cannot get behind, it may be a sign God is moving you somewhere else.

In his book, The Purpose Driven Church, Rick Warren suggests that people who come to him with ideas that they think the church should be doing, are usually great people to lead those new ministries. For instance, someone who says that they are not doing enough for adoptive families would be given the green light to try to start that ministry. They have the passion for the issue so they would put the extra time needed to start the program.

If you are thinking possible new directions for your company maybe you can think of ways that you can work with your company to take this on. Google does a great job creating a culture where this mentality thrives. Leaving the company is often not the only solution, but it may be something you should be willing to consider. My wife and I stay two extra years with a company because we were not listening to God say it was time to leave.

Why is This an Important Skill for Business?

As a Christian in business, honor is extremely important. Honor in our society is a forgotten art, especially in business. The main idea of honor in business is often confused with trying to gain favors through flattery. It comes out of the idea of every man for themself. Honor is not self-gratifying. It works in the opposite spirit of selfishness. Honoring your boss and co-workers is honoring to God. It creates businesses that are positioned for God’s blessings. It is an act of trust in God who rewards those acts that are done in private (Matthew 6:4, 6, and 18).

  • What are some practical things you have done to build honor in your workplace?

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