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Questions and Answers

In my culture we have the concept of honor, and if someone insults me or my family, I will make them pay for it.

Outline of the Answer
• Love Has Priority Over Everything
• No Honor in the Cross
• Honor Disavows Forgiveness
• Christ’s Honor Guard

 
In His own time, many men and women wanted to follow Christ—and many persons, who had too much honor and prestige to lose if they followed Him, tried to challenge Him. In answer to one of their “tests,” He told us the greatest commandment: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:34–40). 

In this regard, Christ also told us two other important things.

First, He said that if anyone comes to Him without hating [1]  his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be His disciple (see Luke 14 : 26). This means that, for a Christian, no family loyalties can take precedence over loyalty to Christ’s commands. Only when a Christian is detached from the illusions of this world—including illusions about family honor—can the Christian be a true disciple.

Second, Christ said that whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Him cannot be His disciple (see Luke 14:27). When Christ died on the cross for our redemption, he opened up the possibility of salvation for everyone. Therefore, to “carry your own cross” is no esoteric abstraction. It means to tolerate insult as Christ did—to forgive others and pray for them even as they are persecuting you, because to pray for those who injure you is to hold out the hope that they will eventually repent their sins and accept the redemption God holds out to them, just as He holds it out to you.

St. Francis of AssisiAbove all the graces and all the gifts of the Holy Spirit which Christ grants to his friends, is the grace of overcoming oneself, and accepting willingly, out of love for Christ, all suffering, injury, discomfort and contempt; for in all other gifts of God we cannot glory, seeing they proceed not from ourselves but from God, according to the words of the Apostle, “What hast thou that thou hast not received from God? and if thou hast received it, why dost thou glory as if thou hadst not received it?” But in the cross of tribulation and affliction we may glory, because, as the Apostle says again, “I will not glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The Little Flowers of St. Francis of Assisi
Chapter VII

 
No Honor in the Cross

There is no honor in the cross. In fact, that’s what pride means: to run from the cross by taking up yourself, not the cross, and to follow your own will and your own idea of justice, not God’s.

For you to love God, therefore, your pride has to die. It’s that simple, and there is no way around it. If you say that pride is not an “issue” for you, and that some things require immediate revenge, that claim itself is a form of self-deception, and that makes it an act of pride.

Moreover, not only is it important that all pride and honor die in you, but also it is important to rejoice in that death as the only path to holiness.

Count it pure joy when you are involved in every sort of trial.

—James 1:2

 
Honor Disavows Forgiveness

Therefore, in regard to your desire to avenge cultural, family, or personal insult, keep in mind that when you pray the fifth petition of the Our Father (forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us) you are making a covenant with God. In so far as you forgive others, you will be forgiven; but in so far as you hate others and seek revenge, you disavow forgiveness, not only for others but also for yourself.

But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.

— Matthew 6:15

In effect, to tell someone to go to hell—no matter what language you say it in—is to send yourself there as well. Think about that. When you run from the cross, there is only one place you can go . . .

 
Christ’s Honor Guard

In speaking about the concept of honor in regard to a Christian lifestyle, it could be asked whether Christ ever needs an honor guard for anything. Does He really need swords and guns and fancy military uniforms to escort Him anywhere? No. When Peter drew his sword in the Garden of Gethsemane to protect Him, He told Peter to put the sword away (see John 18:10–11). All Christ really needs as an “honor guard” is to be surrounded by friends who live chaste and humble lives, detached from secular impiety, and who refuse to commit sin. We commit sin when we try to defend our honor by seeking revenge on our enemies, but when we seek to forgive our enemies, well, then Christ’s honor is defended.

 

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Notes

1. Innocent readers tend to feel confused about this passage. They wonder, “How could Christ tell us to do something so contrary to love?” Well, Christ did not use the word hate here according to its common, emotional meaning of “loathing” or “wishing harm upon someone or something.” Instead, Christ used the word with a theologically specific meaning: “to remove your emotional dependence on someone.”

 


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