This month’s characteristic is: “Respect For Others.“
The word “respect” is used 11 times in the King James New Testament. None of those uses has the exact meaning that our modern terminology has. Most of the passages in the N.T. have something to do with showing or not showing partiality. Our use of the word is with the idea of showing deference toward a person or object as in “respecting the flag” or “respecting the President.”
We live in a world in which so little respect is shown by most. Several years ago as I was visiting a high school, I saw a boy say to a teacher and vice principal that they could not make him go to the office. The chances are good (though not certain) that the young man learned his disrespect from parents who showed disrespect for the people in their lives as well. Let me give a few examples.
When a mother gives her daughter permission to go ahead and wear clothing the father does not approve of, she is teaching her daughter disrespect for everyone. If you do not have to respect your father, who do you have to respect? When a father keeps his speed over the speed limit after one of his kids point out that he is over, he is teaching them to disrespect lawgivers, including God. When the legal limit of fish or game is exceeded in hopes of not getting caught, dad is teaching disrespect for his own authority. When mom and dad roast the bad judgment of the elders or an elder, they teach their children to grow up with disdain for the church. When it comes to teaching disrespect, we often sow to the wind, but reap a whirlwind from our kids we never intended or expected. (Hosea 8:7) We do not have a disrespectful world because of the younger generation. We have a disrespectful world because the generation of grandparents and parents taught it to their children. Respect and disrespect are learned characteristics.
One of the most fascinating lessons about respect is taught in Matthew 23:1-4. Jesus points out that the scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. That is, they occupy the position of lawgiver and leader of God’s people that Moses had. He then logically concludes, “…therefore, whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do…” Please keep in mind that our Lord was not talking about obeying God’s laws. That was a given expectation. Rather, he was talking about the heavy, grievous, difficult burdens which the scribes and Pharisees would bind upon the people. Our Lord then anticipated the objection that might be made to such respectful obedience. The scribes and Pharisees deserved no such respect. They were hypocrites. They did not even keep their own bound traditions. You might ask how we can respect such men. The answer, of course, is that one cannot rightly respect the men. But the men occupy a position, duly authorized. Perhaps they should not be in that position, but they are. The position deserves respect, therefore the men in the position must be respected. Paul acknowledged this very point in Acts 23:3-5.
Friends, if we are judging by our worthiness, surely none of us really believe that we deserve respect. We all make too many blunders, have too many human shortcomings to claim worthiness (Romans 3:10). But, God has ordained certain positions: husband, wife, mother, father, child, elder, deacon, governor, master, servant, boss, employee, etc. These positions, God ordained, deserve respectfulness. We are all the creation of God. We are the creation of God made in His image. That alone is a position requiring respect.
We often disrespect ourselves and the positions we occupy. Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10), Hophni and Phinehas (1 Samuel 2:12-25) not only disrespected God, their fathers, the people they served, but, also themselves and the position they occupied. Men whom God ordained to lead their homes and the world, often disrespect their position by relinquishing leadership to women and children. Elders too often relinquish leadership to the preachers. Moms too often relinquish leadership to the daycare.
Brothers and sisters, let’s learn to be respectful. If we are, so too will the next generation be respectful of us, God, government, their friends and lost sinners.