When I was at school, I really, really wanted to be a prefect.
For me, it felt like a badge of honour, a way to be just a bit more special than everyone else, with the added perk of being able to stay indoors during break times, on cold and wintery days.
When selection time came around, I was sure I would be picked. In my head, I’d already rehearsed my faux look of surprise and the words of gratitude I’d share with the teacher who imparted the good news.
But instead, all my immediate friends were selected and I was told, due to my inability to conquer maths, I would not be.
I was crushed, embarrassed and worst of all, now left to hang about on my own during break time unless I could persuade one of my ‘perfect prefect’ friends to break the rules and let me inside.
If I’m honest, I was bitter. I couldn’t understand why. I was ashamed and deeply disappointed, but determined somehow to change the system, to change their minds.
So, I got stuck into maths, made sure my uniform was spotless, obeyed every rule, and somehow or other, they relented. A few months later, I was awarded the coveted prize; the prefect’s tie and pin.
But this is more than just a corny tale about my bizarre childhood desire to be perceived as important, it’s a lesson that’s stuck with me since. If I want something, if I want to see change, the only thing that has worked to date, is the uncomfortable system of honour; honouring decision makers, people in authority and yes, even elected officials.
I’m going to say something deeply unpopular here. Honour is not just a nice thing we should try to do, rather for Christians, I believe it’s a must.
Right now, about half of the Western world appears to be trapped in a tornado of fury and recrimination. Reading through my twitter feed this morning, was like looking into an oozing, weeping wound of humanity, as tweeters poured scorn and violent grief on to every single news headline they read.
If anyone dared to disagree, the fury was turned on the dissenting opinion and name-calling ensued. And that was just the Christians.
Over the years, both in my own country and overseas, I’ve seen laws passed which felt like a kick in the guts to all that was right. Often times, I’ve just had to cram down a sense of unease and trust that sooner or later, God would show his hand. Because, in very simple terms, whatever happens to the world, whoever is elected, whatever laws are passed, none of it is a surprise to God.
So as a believer, if I truly trust in a God (as I say I do) who is above everything, who created the world, who rolls back oceans and flings stars into space, then I have to assume that he oversees our political systems too. If I see policies which I think are harmful, then yes, of course, speaking out is good. But overall, whether I like it or not, the Bible still tells me to honour the ruling authorities.
The Apostles had to do it and they even told all the new converts they should do it too.
Does that mean they agreed with everything the emporer said and did? Nah. But many Biblical legends from Joseph to Moses used the power of honour in order to ultimately see God’s plan and power unfold.
Name calling, screaming on Facebook, venting on Twitter achieves pretty much nothing. Well, unless you count division, anger and more recrimination. But showing honour, to leaders and to each other, even in the face of stark disagreement, has the power to change everything.
This means honouring the person in power, whether they are a Democrat, Republican, Conservative or Labour and choosing instead to see past what is being said, to the beating heart of a human being who is created and loved by God.
When we choose to honour each other, when we pray for people we disagree with, we become a force to be reckoned with.
That is how we change the world.