With a rash of celebrity deaths in 2015-2016 the question continually arises as to whether a Christian can honor a non-Christian who has excelled in some particular field.
Christians know that our spiritual nature is the most important aspect of our being because it’s how we connect to God (John 4:24; Romans 12:1-2). While our spiritual lives must be primary, God knows we’ll do physical things as well.
Being dual citizens of the kingdom of Christ (Matthew 16:18-19) and of men, we know that we can’t avoid being around sinful people. Paul, in speaking of spiritual fellowship, said…
“But I wasn’t talking about unbelievers who indulge in sexual sin, or are greedy, or cheat people, or worship idols. You would have to leave this world to avoid people like that” (1 Corinthians 5:10, NLT).
The world is what it is and we seek to reach them spiritually (Matthew 28:18-20) but we live and work among them. As part of the human race, we have commonalities that we share such as a love of sports, crafts, the arts, etc.
As humans we’re made to admire excellence in its many forms. Architecture, art, acting, musical performance, quality writing and athletic accomplishments are types of things that bring us great joy and there’s nothing wrong with doing so with our physical selves.
The admiration of excellence and beauty is inescapable. Even if we deny it mentally, our minds will fight against it. Physical accomplishments are separate from spiritual ones.
We can admire the astounding level of skill and knowledge that took men to the moon or the painting of the Sistine Chapel or some monumental musical, athletic or film performance without knowing the spiritual condition of the participants.
Can we stare in awe at Mount Rushmore and allow our spirit to be moved? Or should we ignore and condemn it because it wasn’t constructed by faithful members of the Lord’s Church.
Must the soaring symphonies of Beethoven or the art of Leonardo DaVinci be castigated because their creators don’t measure up spiritually?
Must we approve of the spiritual condition of everyone at a retail company before we shop there? If so, we would be homeless, naked and starving and unable to do God’s will.
Sinners do sinful things and will continue to do so and we certainly don’t approve of them (Romans 1:32). We must honor Christ above all (Colossians 3:17; Ephesians 3:20-21) and walk in the light (1 John 1:7).
Nevertheless, humans do great things and can justifiably receive praise and honor for them. We have to decide for ourselves what we feel comfortable doing and allow others to do the same.