What is respect? What images come to mind when you hear the word?
Do you think of military chain of command, with each subordinate respecting their commanding officer? Or maybe a similar, thought slightly more informal respect, shown by a young person toward an elderly ancestor?
A feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements
Ah… respect is elicited by some ability, quality, or achievement. So, maybe a professional athlete? Some people respect them for their achievements and abilities. Perhaps a graduate of a certain academic program elicits your respect? How about a well-known historical figure who accomplished great, world-changing things in their lifetime?
How about giving up your seat to someone who looks like they need it more? What about trusting someone with something (or someone) you really care about? And do we show respect when we listen to someone; really listen?
Have due regard for the feelings, wishes, rights, or traditions of [another]
Hmm. That’s different. That respect is due to another simply because the are. They exist. They are another created being, with feelings, rights, wishes and even traditions.
Our value is not (only) in what we have accomplished. Our real value is found in our worth to the One who made us. We are worth everything to him; his own life.
I overheard someone speaking about respect recently. It was a mother, scolding her young child, saying, “You have to earn respect!” While there is some truth to that (see definition one above) the greater truth is that this mother will not likely receive the respect she is hoping for from her child, because her words and her tone are not giving respect to the other person she is addressing.
It’s always interesting with children. I speak from parenting experience. Sometimes you just need them to obey. “DO WHAT I AM ASKING YOU… NOW!” But I fully believe that when we treat others with full respect, allowing them to make a reasoned, willing decision, a respectful submission to instruction will be the most likely result—even from a child.
Treat others just as you want to be treated.
For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.
What if we did it backwards? Like Jesus said in those last two quotes above. It’s not ‘Treat other people the way they treat you’, no… it’s ‘treat others the way you want to be treated.’ You first. I get to make the first show of respect.
I’ve seen this in action as a school bus driver, believe it or not. I’m sure you have a picture in your mind of what it’s like on a big bus full of young children. And… you’re right. It’s pretty loud, energetic, fun, and crazy! But the drivers who have the best ability to control their busses, when needed, are those who look kids in the eyes when they first get on the bus and offer a genuine, friendly greeting. When things get out of hand, they address the unruly ones by name, firmly but respectfully, and most often, the measure of respect that is given is the same measure returned.
Of course I know this doesn’t always work. Maybe not even very often. But doesn’t it stand the best chance? Isn’t it just the right thing to do?
Jesus thought so.
We have chances almost every second of our lives to show another the respect they are due simply because God has breathed life into them. You’ve probably heard that we will be known by the way we love, well that’s really the same thing—respect is love, is respect. Think about others before you think about yourself. Treat the person next to you like the heir to the throne that he or she is.
(And it will come back to you in the measure that you give.)
So listen to your spouse. Show your teenager empathy. Give heaps of grace to your little ones. Look a stranger in the eye and give a genuine, friendly greeting. Do something for someone that costs you. Maybe even a lot.
We love—we respect—because he first loved us. When we know how much we are loved, then we can treat the people around us the same way. It’s the same principle, on a cosmic, galactic, universal (and beyond) scale.
You have earned my respect because you are God’s masterpiece, created anew in Jesus to do the good things he planned for us long ago. Done deal.
Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.
Let’s try it. See what happens.