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ON BEING HONORED

According to various psychological tests I have taken and by my own thinking, I am classified as an introvert. However, I do not mind speaking in public, as my wife and I often did so throughout our careers in Wycliffe, as well as teaching and consulting with SIL International. Nevertheless, I always remember my roots: a farm boy, who was born during the Great Depression and gathered his education in a small one-room country school (8 grades, one teacher), small high school, and small college (now defunct). Later I attended large schools: Cornell University and Australian National University (The Research School of Pacific Studies). But when I became a Christian, I was too scared to lead in silent prayer.


On May 3rd, I was invited to the commencement exercises of the Dallas International University (diu.edu) where I was awarded an honorary doctorate, a DHL (Doctor of Humane Letters).


Why me? I’m not sure, but certainly, Joice would have shared it with me, as she did a multitude of things during our 65 years of marriage. One reason for the honor—the main one—is that I was one of the founders of the University (then called the Graduate Institute of Applied Linguistics), and I had taught there for several years.


It was an honor and privilege but humbling at the same time. Although I have been somewhat of a scholar, I have not been able to be a great donor to the school. Seventeen years earlier, I was in an academic position where I could help start the school, and I have no doubt (now) that was one of the reasons God had me there.


When they honored me, they, of course, said nice things about me. Mom, Dad, and Joice would have been proud, but I was mainly thinking of how gracious God has been to me and how He is the one to be honored. Without knowing Christ and following his leading in many areas of my life for many years, I might still be milking cows back in Pennsylvania. (I hope not, but I threw that in for effect.)


In Revelation four, we read that the twenty-four elders “cast” (some versions say “lay,” but I also like the one that translates the Greek as “threw”) their crowns before the throne. If I get the opportunity, that is what I will do with my diploma (which is insignificant compared to crowns), and echo the elders, saying: “You are worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power. For you created all things, and they exist because you created what you pleased.”


When you throw something down, it is more dramatic than laying it down and you are showing that it does not mean much to you—compared to something else.


Many years ago, when living in a Kewa village in the Southern Highlands of Papua New Guinea an important man was accused of not getting his sick baby to the mission clinic (some 5 hours away) for medical help and the baby died. We were sitting around a fire in a small hut, and some people were accusing him of neglect. Suddenly, the man took his axe and cut the rope holding a prize shell around his neck, and threw the shell into the fire. He was showing how remorseful he was that the baby died, and his shell meant nothing compared to the baby’s life. It was a dramatic object lesson and one that I have never forgotten.


Thinking about honor also leads me to think about justice and judgment. I ponder the verse in Matthew 7.2: “For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged” because I know that I have not always treated others well. Elsewhere, Jesus tells us not to judge at all, but rather to extend forgiveness: “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6.37).


I am also encouraged when I read about judgment because “when we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned along with the world." (1 Corinthians 11.32)


All my life, I have prayed for wisdom, and Proverbs 4.8 is an encouragement: “If you prize wisdom, she will make you great. Embrace her, and she will honor you.”


I have been honored with a diploma from the University that I helped start, but an even greater honor is to have wisdom from God.


Karl Franklin

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