"on the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts we think are less honorable we treat with special honor."
It is not difficult to figure out how we might treat someone with special honor. We have all probably done that at one time or another. Let me provide some examples from my own experience.
- Once over the Christmas holidays, my wife and I had made many plans of things we were going to do. But, God bless them, my daughter and her husband, as a surprise to us, showed up at a family gathering on Christmas day. Our response was that everything we had planned for the holidays was now tentative till we figured out what their plans were. We treated them with special honor.
- My father-in-law towards the end of his life had advanced Alzheimer's disease. He would do things and say things that were very strange due to his disease. But because of our love for him, just about anything he might do, we overlooked. We understood that he had great confusion about what was going on around him, but we redirected him, helped him. We treated him with special honor.
- When my son was a little boy, he loved Sesame Street. I am not a big fan. However, when the Sesame Street live show came to town, we put his desires above our own and we went to see the show. One of the most fun memories of my life is my 3 year old turning to me after it was through and saying, "Thanks for the show, Dad!" We treated him with special honor.
- Once in Africa, a friend of mine was giving a presentation at a conference about theology/disability issues. In the middle of his presentation, he was interrupted because a country dignitary, the only woman/disabled person in the nation's congress appeared. Graciously, my friend stopped his presentation and relinquished the microphone to the dignitary. We treated her with special honor.
In each of these cases, one person relinquishes his rights in deference to another. Maybe I didn't want to change my Christmas plans or maybe I didn't want to be patient with my father-in-law or maybe I didn't want to see Sesame Street, or maybe my friend didn't want his remarks interrupted. However, in each case people were treated with special honor in the responses.
But the verse starts out saying, "the parts we think are less honorable." Interestingly, Paul is writing so he thinks they are less honorable too by using the word "we". What do we do to/for those people? We treat them with special honor. So, maybe we change our plans on the basis of their presence. Maybe we do things we might not entirely like to do because of their presence. Maybe we are more patient with those who because of a disability aren't entirely responsible for their behaviors/actions. Maybe we relinquish our rights in the name of facilitating something that will be a great benefit to everyone.
In EVERY case, when someone comes into my sphere to whom I must provide special honor, I cannot do the same things that I would typically choose to do. I have to change. By definition, if I do not change, I am not providing special honor. Suppose I told my daughter and her husband, "I hope you can work with the plans we have already made, because we aren't going to change them." Suppose I told my father-in-law, "I don't want you with me because you say and do things that are unusual". Suppose I said to my son, "You know, I don't like Sesame Street, so we are never going to a show." Suppose I said to the dignitary, "Sorry, we have a program and you are not on it." In every case someone, to the degree they were able to understand, would have felt offended, and justifiably so.
So, what of the people we think are less honorable? We already dishonor them by thinking them less honorable. Will we follow up that feeling by treating them less honorably, completing the circle? Or would we recognize that our feelings are wrong ("On the contrary" Paul says) and correct our negativity by treating them with special honor, not only for them BUT FOR OURSELVES! Can you see how this would be a corrective for them AND US!