If a negative attitude could be an epidemic, it feels like the planet would be in jeopardy of extinction. Disagreements seem to be at an all-time high, and as people draw their lines in the sand, they seem not to be able to play nicely with anyone outside their camp. I believe that the decline of respect can be directly related to the fact that we’ve limited respect to admiration. Certainly, we respect those we admire, but we can also respect those we don’t particularly admire. God shows us how to do this in his Word, and we can pass on this wisdom to our children.
God created all of us…even the person we can’t stand. He created the smelly lady on the bus, the person from a culture that seems so different from our upbringing, and yes, even those from a different political and religious persuasion from our own.
Let’s pretend that I am a potter, and that I’ve painstakingly made a vase that I feel is a thing of beauty. After entrusting it to you, though I worked hard on it, you’ve found it unworthy and thrown the vase in a box in the basement where it can gather dust and cobwebs. One day, while cleaning the basement, you find it again. It’s dirty and has lost its luster, so you decide to toss it aside into the donation pile. After a long time, I decide to visit you, and when I arrive, I ask where you’ve displayed my beautiful vase. You can see where this is going. You’ve disrespected my creation; something I put time and effort into forming.
Each of us are God’s creation and precious to him. When we disrespect others, we are disrespecting God’s precious creation. We don’t have to agree with the choices and opinions of others, but we can recognize that to God they are a creature of beauty, worthy of respect. Romans 12:10 reminds us, “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.”
Not only did God create all of us, but he created all of us in his image. When we disrespect one another, we are disrespecting something that reflects God's glory! In essence, when we disrespect any human being, we are disrespecting God. It is true that all of us “fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). We are called as God’s people to see no one through the eyes of the flesh, but rather through spiritual eyes. "So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer" (II Corinthians 5:16). When we view others the way that God sees them, we are able to respect them as God’s beloved creation who has the ability to reflect his image.
There are times when we might vehemently disagree with a boss, pastor, or political leader. However, the Bible is clear that though we disagree, we can still respect their position of authority. One of the most tangible ways we are instructed to do this is to pray for our leaders. We find this to be the case in II Timothy 2:2, “Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.” We want to live in peace and quiet, so it only makes sense to pray for those who have authority in our lives because often times it is their decisions that change our outward world the most!
A great example of respecting an authority while disagreeing with them can be found in the relationship between David and Saul. Although Saul began his life humbly and anointed, eventually he began seeking his own way rather than God’s way. He became very jealous of David, especially when he realized that God’s favor was on David’s life. Soon Saul’s jealousy drove him to the point of trying to murder David!
One day, Saul went into a cave to relieve himself. Little did he know, but David and his men were also in the cave. In fact, they were so close to Saul that David was able to cut a small part of his robe! David could finally get revenge on his enemy. More importantly, he could rid the people of Israel of an evil leader. After all, God had appointed him as the next king. This could be David’s big chance in bringing about God’s will for David’s life. However, David felt guilty at having disrespected God’s chosen king. He said, “The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, or lay my hand on him; for he is the anointed of the Lord.” With these words David sharply rebuked his men and did not allow them to attack Saul. And Saul left the cave and went his way (I Samuel 24:6-7).
Parents often demand the outward expressions of respect and ignore the opportunity to teach the heart of the matter. The first and most important way to teach children a life of respect is to model the behavior in your own life. This is what David did in the above verses. He modeled respect to his mighty men and they followed his example. If you’ve noticed a streak of disrespect in your children, the first step might be to check your own respect level. Just as we reflect God’s image, our children often reflect ours.
Another powerful tool is to listen and watch. As with any character trait, listening to your kids’ conversations and watching their behavior with the purpose of looking for teachable moments can be key to developing the character of Christ in their lives. The Holy Spirit will equip you with examples and stories that will cut to their heart, in the same way that David was cut to his heart when he realized his disrespect. After all, God created you to be the parent of your children, and you can trust that he will equip you to do a good job. You can respect your own position of authority!
A respectful employee, volunteer, leader, etc. can be a great advantage in life. Respect is something that all of us crave, but not all of us know how to achieve. Respect also brings a peace to life because you are congratulating God on his job well done. The person before you is his masterpiece. When we can see and treat someone according to how God sees them, we are providing something that all of us desperately desire; value. When respecting a leader, regardless of how wrong or right you think they may be, you, like David are trusting God that the opportunity will come to make things right again. With these skills in place, your children will have an advantage in life.
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra