Note: This was written some time ago, but I believe it still has application today.
Respect is a quickly diminishing character quality without which a society can not effectively function. It is behind and understood to be part of every authority structure of all time. It goes hand in hand with self discipline, humility, and self denial. Yet, it is this area that is under attack.
I was recently attending a class in which this was made very plain and clear to me. One student, perhaps supported by others, decided that the teacher should let us out exactly on time and give us a break (for it was a three hour class) when he wanted. So, in the middle of the teacher’s discussion of a point, the student interrupts with “can we take our break now?” The teacher acquiesces to the student.
These students further demonstrated my point by talking all during the lecture. The teacher did stop to correct it, and since it did surprise and maybe embarrass them briefly, they stopped for the rest of the lecture. Near the end, the students tried to get out when they wanted, by saying that the class was supposed to end at 9:15pm. The sad thing was that the teacher interpreted the request as someone needed to leave at that time, though when I saw no hands raise when he asked if there was a need to leave right on time.
The point is that we have gotten to a stage in our society that we are so worried about quality and not hurting the person’s self-image that we have the selfish people ruling the day. There has been a movement to erase the difference between teens and adults in an effort to try to make the teens feel that they can talk to the adults, or that they are the same.
The Bible does not say that there is not a difference. In fact, it is very clear about the difference. You could start with the most basic. “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right” (Eph 6:1). Okay, you say, but what about when I am grown? “Honor thy Father and thy Mother” (Ex 20:12). That Scripture does not have an age qualification. But what about adults that are not our parents?
This is where we dig a little deeper. Let’s first look at the life of Elisha. After Elijah is caught up to be with God, some “young children” start to mock the prophet. He curses them and bears come out of the woods and eat them (II Kings 2:23-24). Is this wrong? These young people (a better translation) did not give respect to God’s prophet. They did not respect his age (“Go up thou bald head”) or his office as prophet.
We that know Christ as our Savior are sons of God. Children of the King are to be respected. Age also brings with it experience and responsibility. Those qualities should also be respected. The Bible also teaches the principle of the younger learning from the older. Titus 2:1-7 says that the older men and women are to be examples, patterns to follow. It does not say that the adults should try to be like the teens, but the other way around. A gray head is something to be attributed to the wise, and to be respected.
But the problem is far worse than this. The lack of respect for others has carried itself over to a lack of respect for God and the things of God. When Isaiah saw God in Isaiah 6 he exclaimed, “Woe is me, for I am undone!” (Isaiah 6:5) When Christ went to be baptized by John the Baptist, John said that he was not worthy to unclasp Christ’s sandals. Paul fell off his horse asking “Who art thou, Lord?” When John saw Christ in Revelation, he was on the ground out of respect. I could add Moses and the holy ground around the burning bush, the High Priest and the Ark, and many more.
What these men showed was respect for God and the things of God. So, why are we satisfied with doing the least in our service to Him? Why does He become something that is ordinary? Why is it that we emphasize more the love of God than the holiness of God? What do the angels and people in Revelation cry out about God? “Love, love, love?” No, “Holy, Holy, Holy!”
Christians, in our present society, are known to take His name in vain, or accept it when others do so. We are light in how we approach church services. We come to meetings asking what we can get out of it. We let the Devil convince us that we shouldn’t witness because it might embarrass us or make us feel uncomfortable. We try to fit in, we allow Satan to win, and we remain defeated!
It is when we lose the proper respect for God that we start putting ourselves first. Petty things that are personal preferences begin to take hold as things that we should do. Instead of respecting Him and others before ourselves, we take up the argument that since we do not think, and you cannot prove it verbatim from the Bible, that something is bad, we will practice it, despite an offended brother. Show me that principle in Scripture!
Instead of respecting others, placing them first, we end up doing something that creates an atmosphere of tension. Instead of working with the abundance of things that we agree on, we focus on the few things where we disagree. The society begs for tolerance while not tolerating certain views. We Christians are sometimes guilty of the same.
This lack of respect is seen everywhere. We have lack of respect for God and the laws that He has laid down. We have lack of respect for the offices placed in authority over us or that we are holding. We have a lack of respect in the family. We have a lack of respect of others. At the root of this is the desire to see self elevated, which is why Christ said, and I close with this, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” (Matt 16:24).
Are we willing to give over to God not only those things that are bad, but those that we thing may be acceptable to serve Him? Are we willing to respect others and God more than ourselves?