Americans don’t like the way other countries seem to disrespect the United States, especially given the fact we help so many. Gang members claim that their violence and criminal activity are all about finding respect. Political pundits accuse one another of not showing proper esteem for the other’s party. Parents want respect from their children, employers want honor from their employees, and teachers would like for their students to show them due regard. And most important to me, I want respect from others.
Respect is a feeling or display of how one sees another’s life or position, and usually based on admiration and a sense of worthiness. In other words, if you like someone and approve of their behavior you will probably show them esteem. So giving respect is personal and based on one’s view of another.
Be careful who you respect and the manner in which you regard them. It’s clear some people don’t deserve our honor because of their choices and life-style. Why would anyone have a high opinion of many in Hollywood, with their profane and immoral way of living? Yet many young people seem enthralled by the Kardashians, the Jersey Shore cast, and MTV. Regardless of their denials, Hollywood has influenced the way many kids and grow-ups think and act. Sadly, in some homes across our nation we see the Desperate Housewives played out, and MTV’s Sixteen and Pregnant is all too often reality in schools throughout our country. Conduct like this deserves our contempt and rejection, not our respect and emulation.
Your friends or peers at school, work or in the neighborhood may not merit your respect either. Too often a craving to fit in leads us to overlook or excuse the bad behavior of those we are around the most. Their influence slowly, and almost imperceptibly, begins to chip away at our faith and character until we become like them. Our trust in God dwindles, and the issues we stood for and against are laid aside. Your friends and peers don’t understand their precarious position. They want you to do as they do and join in the fun. If you start to respect their carefree and ungodly life-style it’s just a small step to become like them.
Who should you respect? The Bible provides the answer for this question. Complete and unconditional respect belongs to God alone. In fact, He is the only one who deserves this degree of reverence and admiration because He has never failed us or led us astray. (Deut. 32:4) Every word of God is true, just, and has been or will be fulfilled. (Matt. 5:18) God is the Creator of all, including our lives. (Psalms 33:8-9) There is nothing evil in Him and He wants only what is good for us. (Psalms 92:15) God’s understanding and wisdom are far superior to ours in every regard. (Isa. 55:8-9) He deserves our respect because He loved us when by all rights we were unlovable. (Rom. 5:8) And perhaps one of the most compelling reasons we should honor Him is that we will all stand before Him in judgment. (2 Cor. 5:10) So we should respect God because of His position and character.
While one may deserve and demand respect, you cannot force others to give it. So it is that God has demanded our adoration, but He will not make us love or revere Him. (Joshua 24:14-15) Sadly, the world chooses to slight God in many ways. Atheists deny Him, agnostics doubt Him, the Jews reject His Son, and the pagans worship a god of their own creation. Muslims reject Christ and follow Mohamed, and Hindus follow a diverse system of beliefs based on the idea of who knows for sure. Denominationalists don’t honor God either because they follow their creeds and human hierarchies over Divine revelation. Remember, if you love and reverence God you will keep His commandments. (John 14:15)
The Bible also teaches us to respect those in authority. While it’s true some in such a position may not live in a way to deserve our esteem, it is a matter of honoring the office. We live in a society of law based on the foundation of hierarchy. This is important to keep everything running smoothly and orderly. Citizens should obey and honor their leaders. (Rom. 13:7) Employees ought to respect their employers. (Eph. 6:5-8) Wives should subordinate themselves to their husbands. (1 Peter 3:1-6) Children need to honor and comply with their parents. (Eph. 6:1-2) Christians follow the eldership of a local congregation. (Heb. 13:17)
Ideally and according to God’s directive, those in power will also display due respect for the ones under their authority. They will do what is right, be fair, and never misuse or abuse their position. In every case mentioned in the previous paragraph God speaks to this point as well.
So may you disrespect people of power if they don’t behave properly? According to the Bible the answer is no. Most Caesars behaved horribly and many masters abused their servants. Husbands didn’t always treat their wives properly, nor did parents necessarily raise their kids as God wanted. Even elders can miss the mark of good judgment at times. Even though leaders aren’t perfect, God wants us to respect them by giving due honor to their position. That’s not to say we should follow blindly or approve of evil conduct. Our service to man should always be tempered by Divine Will. (Acts 5:27-29)
One reason respecting earthly authority is so important is its correlation with the way man approaches God. If you will not honor and obey those in secular power, the chances are you won’t respect and surrender to God either. It’s a mindset and attitude of rebellion that says I don’t have to reverence anyone. Christians must not disrespect what God has put in order.