by Jon Walker
Respect begins with a godly perspective.
Respect means we see one another through our Father’s eyes as eternal beings (John 3:16) chosen by God “for the high calling of priestly work … God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him ….” (1Peter 2:9, Msg). It also means seeing each other as “heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17, NIV).
Respect means we consistently remember we’ll soon be sharing heaven with other believers whom we know from our churches, our neighborhoods, our places of work — anywhere we meet other people. We give respect even to those whom we have difficulty respecting.
We give respect other believers, regardless of their so-called station in life, understanding that God “put the body together in such a way that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity” (1 Corinthians 12:24, NLT).
Respect also means we recognize that all human beings, regardless of their beliefs, are eternal beings created by God. C.S. Lewis notes this in “Mere Christianity,” that all men and women are created for eternity; the significant question is where they will spend eternity – with God or away from God.
A significant part of showing respect is simply listening. We offer our presence and open our ears—listening to the hidden hurts and heartaches, the deepest dreams and desires of one another. The God of the universe listens to our prayers; Jesus listened to those around him; we should listen to our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Part of listening means we don’t rush to fix things or to give an answer; we respect others enough to let others share their full story. Sometimes all another person needs is for someone to hear what’s on his or her heart, just as we need for others to listen to us.
Respect means we trust others, instead of assuming they’ll get it wrong, or not do it as well as we would (Philippians 2:3). In other words, we don’t insist that others wear our armor, as King Saul wanted David to do when the young shepherd went into battle with Goliath. We respect the way God has Shaped them, understanding they may do things in a different way.
We also demonstrate respect by doing what we can to protect the reputation and dignity of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Instead of listening to malicious gossip about others, or contributing to the spread of rumors, we let our love cover over a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8, NIV).
What else does this mean?
· Tactful, not just truthful — Tactfulness is thinking before you speak, knowing that the way you say something will influence how it is received. Criticism is best received when it is presented in a loving manner and, as mature Christians, we’re to “know the whole truth” but “tell it in love” (Ephesians 4:15, Msg). Before you speak frankly with someone, ask yourself, ‘Why am I saying thisí Will my words build them up or tear them down?’ “Kind words bring life but cruel words crush your spirit” (Proverbs 15:4, TEV)
· Understanding, not demanding — We respect others when we treat them the way we would want to be treated (Luke 6:31). When people are interacting with you, do you want them to demand or understand? We should be considerate of one another’s feelings and stresses: sometimes people don’t feel good, or they’re just having a bad day. The Bible says, “A wise, mature person is known for his understanding” (Proverbs 16:21, TEV). The best place to start practicing this is in our homes and Bible study groups. It’s sad, but true that often we’re more polite to strangers than we are to the people we see every day.
· Gentle, not judgmental — Even when we disagree with one another, we should still be courteous and respectful—focusing on our own behavior first: “… Each of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us stop passing judgment on each other. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block in your brother’s way” (Romans 14:12–13, NIV).
· Polite, not rude — When others are rude to you, you’re not required to respond with rudeness (Although it’s amazing how often we act as if a rude response is a requirement). As Christ-followers, we are taught to respond with kindness: “Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good” (Romans 12:21, Msg).
A special note on respect — God entrusted the pastors and spiritual leaders of your church to “watch over your souls,” and they are accountable to God for this task (Hebrews 13:17, LB). They must correctly teach God’s Word; confront false teaching before it spreads; proclaim the Gospel to nonbelievers; pray for all people, including you and your family; train and appoint leaders; and they must do this all while serving as an example of what it means to be a follower of Jesus (1 and 2 Timothy). This week think of ways you can show them respect and appreciation. A simple not of encouragement is a good place to start.
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