The word ‘honour’ can have a number of meanings, noun or verb, transitive or intransitive.  We are instructed to honour our parents, implying we should look after them when they grow old (and respect their opinions, even if they are outdated!).  We honour a debt or a bet by repaying it. Honour often implies showing respect, especially to those older and wiser, or of greater reputation.  Honour can imply high public esteem, or fame or attribution of glory.  It can mean recognition of worthiness, merit or distinction. It can refer to a woman’s chastity or a sense of privilege (I am ‘honoured’ to be permitted to …).  But this essay deals with honour as an intransitive noun, meaning high-minded character, living by virtuous principles and having a fine sense of your obligations.

I like to think of honour as being the quality that makes us do the ‘right thing’, even if no one else would ever know what you decided to do.

But in a world where our minds are bombarded by communication media and information which is often incomplete or biased, firstly, it is impossible to process it all and, secondly, the chances of reaching sound conclusions are fairly low. Our decisions on what is ‘right’ are usually derived from propaganda we have been ‘fed’ by parties intent on manipulating us towards their end.  How many of us believed planes would fall from the sky on the turn of the millennium, and computer-controlled elevators were going to halt or crash on the turn of midnight? How many millions of books were sold, including Christian ones, cashing in on these Y2K scare tactics? How many of us believed that we were going to war to rid Iraq of weapons of mass destruction?  How many of us believed there would never be a Goods and Services Tax if we voted Liberal?  How many believe the preacher when he tells us money is good and we should have more? And how many of us believe that praying to Mary or a Saint is the ‘right’ thing to do?  


The 'Catalyst' program on ABC Television, broadcast 3/3/05, showed how easy it is to implant a false memory. To an audience especially selected for the experiment, they showed a video of a catered party scene, flashing frequently on a particular waiter serving drinks. Then there was a glimpse of a thief bumping into this waiter, spilling glassware all over the floor, distracting the party goers.  The thief used the diversion to make off with a handbag. The experiment audience watching this video was then asked to identify the thief from a police line-up.  80% picked the waiter.

The TV audience was asked to do the same.  I recall thinking it could be the waiter, but in the end decided I was not sure enough to pick anyone. My devious mind suspected foul play, and that probably the culprit was not among the people in the line-up.  It turned out he was. Again, 80% of the TV audience picked the waiter!  The assertion was made that a huge number of criminal convictions are secured through eyewitness identifications, and that this recent research proves how unreliable it is.  

Eyewitnesses often mistakenly confuse the sense of familiarity with truth. In the case of the party theft, the waiter's image was more firmly implanted in our brain than any glimpse of the real thief.  The result was a false memory, leading to a false identification.

The same can happen in church. You hear the respected preacher telling you every Sunday for a year that God wants you to be wealthy and that loving money is OK. And that the way to achieve this wealth is to give him (the preacher) more of yours.  In the end it doesn't matter anymore what the Bible has to say, or how Jesus felt about these things. What has been implanted is not a false memory, but a false doctrine. Subsequently, your brain automatically tends to jump over anything that you read in the Bible that does not fit with the new parameters. You have become as brainwashed as any Muslim extremist.  

What bothers me most about this entire scenario is that many of the preachers doing the brainwashing are fully aware of what they are doing. Their technique is well understood and known to be as effective as the 'subliminal messages' that used to be flashed on the movie screen so fast the audience didn't know about it.  At the end of the movie all the audience would rush out to buy popcorn, even those who didn't like popcorn, because the flashed messages had implanted the idea.  When a preacher knowingly and deliberately distorts the Gospel message, Honour has left the building.  And he is feeding the fallen human nature with handfuls of manure. 


When cyclone Katrina hit New Orleans, I was horrified to see how quickly human beings abandon their taught standards of behaviour.  Within four days, people turned on each other, bashing, raping, looting and even murdering each other.  Four days was all it took to remove our ‘veneer of civilisation’ and for self-preservation to become paramount. Such display of depravity is not one that derives from implanted belief; this is the true fallen condition of man coming to the fore, instinct and nature taking over from nurture and a taught sense of morality.


So our behaviour is largely determined by a complex formula containing elements of genetic make-up, up-bringing and spiritual status. We are capable of atrocious acts, unimaginable crimes against humanity, if the motivating circumstances present themselves.  How long did it take for the most ‘civilised’ country in the world, Germany, to turn feral in World War II, murdering the innocent in cold blood after a concerted ‘nurture’ campaign?  How would we behave under the same circumstances? Are we also so easily swayed by the winds of doctrine, things that appeal to our selfish nature, things that look good but are really perverted to the core?

And where does this elusive quality called “honour” fit into the scheme of things? “TIME” magazine of November 8, 2004, contained an article claiming God is programmed into our genes; that the tendency towards spirituality is an evolved character trait only some of us have.  So is honour merely something programmed into our genes?  Is bad behaviour merely the product of faulty genes?  Or is it the ones who behave righteously that have the damaged DNA, making them desert the instinct to look after number one because the proteins coding for survival of the fittest have been mutated somewhere along the way? Is ‘doing the right thing’ only something that works while there is something to be gained from it? And then it gets thrown out when circumstances change?  If you don’t believe in the immaterial aspect of man, if you don’t subscribe to the concept of a soul that survives the body, then this is all you can do to explain our conduct. Then our patterns of behaviour can be totally attributed to chemicals rushing around in our blood stream and corrective medication should eventually totally control all undesirable acts (undesirable by a constantly changing standard).

It is what scientists would have us believe.  Every time we switch on the TV or open a newspaper, we are inundated with these messages, best summarised as: Man is just a sophisticated animal; his existence can be fully described in chemical terms. Eventually, as our understanding increases, he can be totally controlled in terms of acceptable behaviour, physical fitness, mental acuity, life span and genetic make-up. If this is true, we are no more than a chemical experiment that arose out of a primordial soup by sheer chance. If this is true, then the grounds do not exist for moral behaviour, for caring for the sick or protecting the innocent, no reason for doing the ‘right thing’, or for believing in a higher being. If this is true, then life here on earth is merely the product of a series of chemical flukes and ‘doing good’ is a concept dreamt up by Mother Nature as a last-ditch survival mechanism for the weakest among us. It would be a world where ‘honour’ has no place. And in such a world, you could never be confident that even the way we process thought is in any way reliable – ‘logical reasoning’ could just as easily be another one of Mother Nature’s experiments gone wrong.

I cannot believe the beauty and complexity of the Creation around me is as empty of meaning as that. 

I’ll ask this question now.  Which of the following two options is more believable:


a) Lifeless and relatively simple chemical compounds can somehow organise themselves into the incredibly
   complex phenomenon called ‘life’. (just add water).     


b) Life on earth is the product of intelligent design?


If you believe in a), all you have to look forward to are the years you have left. If you believe in b) and you have not yet found your Creator, please, don’t put off your search for Him. His name is Jesus.


The New Covenant is made with the house of Israel and the house of Judah.  Gentiles are included only because Israel was unfaithful (Romans 11) and to make the Jews jealous!  Yet this New Covenant is the only claim we have to be included in God’s promises. So every Christian should know what it says and where it may be found (Hebrews 8)!   Basically, it makes three promises:


1)His laws will be written on our hearts
2)We will no longer need to be taught to know Him, because we will all be in a personal,
   one-on-one, relationship with Him.
3)He will forgive our sins.


I think everyone reading this will agree that 2) and 3) apply only to Christians.  Believers in a higher being via alternative religions would hardly claim a personal relationship with the God of the Bible.  And they would hardly acknowledge the need for forgiveness through Jesus Christ. But what about 1)? Most scholars believe this statement refers to our conscience. And it would be ridiculous to claim only Christians have a conscience. I have personally seen atheists show more compassion towards the underprivileged, the weak, the sick and the hurting, than many Christians.  History has some awful legacies of selfish, uncaring, cruel, intolerant and bigoted behaviour by Christians throughout the centuries. Some of these episodes are so bad, they make me cringe.  Certainly Christians don’t have a monopoly on honourable behaviour and attitude.

So, to be perfectly honest with you: I don’t know. Maybe God has written His laws only on the hearts of Christians, and conscience is something separate. Or else He has written them on everyone’s hearts, to give them all a head-start in getting to know Him. In the end, it is probably immaterial. Most would agree that the great majority of emotionally well-adjusted people have a reasonable sense of right and wrong. Whether that sense comes from education or God’s pen, I can’t answer.  

However, what we do when that sense tells us something is wrong determines whether honour is part of our make-up.


The point of all this is a wake-up call. As Christians, we have an obligation to bemore caring, loving, tolerant, unselfish, sacrificial, helpful, humble and honourable than non-Christians!   We are called to be a light to the world and the salt of the earth! We are called to be peacemakers and keepers of a New Commandment to love our brothers and sisters more than ourselves. Instead of our preaching or protest, our love for each other is to be the catalyst in bringing others into the Kingdom. (Of course that is no excuse to ignore His instruction to go out into all the world, preaching the true Gospel!) For goodness sakes, we are supposed to be in direct contact with the One who created the universe!  Where is the evidence of it?  Where is our faith? Where is the example we are supposed to be setting, that we are not here for ourselves, but for Jesus?!

When was that moment when we forgot what Christianity was all about. When did someone throw a switch, unbeknownst to us, making Christianity an introverted enterprise, where we are all encouraged to concentrate on improving our own lot, and pad the pastor’s pockets in the process. When did high-achievement become the central purpose of being a Christian.  When did preachers turn into motivational speakers? Did awareness of our reason for existence slip away ever so stealthily, or did it happen in an instant? I’m talking about that moment when the God who could feed thousands with just a few loaves and fishes, suddenly became dependent on high finances to achieve anything at all.  When did honour leave the building?


So, in all the confusion, is it possible to know the ‘right’ thing to do in all circumstances? Seeing it was His promise to write His laws upon our hearts, I believe Christians must have an edge over non-Christians. Seeing He promised His sheep would hear His voice, I think it is no longer a ‘maybe’. Having God on our side has to be a catalyst for victory. Having the Holy Spirit living inside us as a Comforter, source of power, means of being in constant communication with our Saviour, Jesus, someone always there to convict us of our wrongdoing, has to be the overcoming provision to know right from wrong. I am becoming more and more convinced that when we choose the wrong path, take the wrong turn, do the selfish act, or  make decisions that wreak destruction all around us, it is not because we didn’t know what was ‘right’, but because we didn’t like the implications.


“Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” (2 Peter 1:2-3)


No doubt we know what is the ‘right thing to do’.  It is high time we did it.