Respect Is About the Gospel
How can you show respect to someone when you don’t want to?
Matthew 12 says: 33 “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. 36 I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, 37 for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
Like it or not, we choose whether we show respect. We can allow resentment to build up in us, or we can choose to overcome and find a way to show respect. Too much resentment and it becomes a character issue.
Respect is about character. God has created us for respect: He designed us to model holy values found in His heart that lead to respecting others, and He designed us to pursue compassion, grace, mercy, and love that lead others to respect us. When respect falls short, we find ourselves at a crossroads: we can be introspective in order to grow, or we can double-down on our current character status and continue to believe the problem is external and no growth within ourselves is necessary. The reality is that people are better judges of respect than we want to admit, and when it seems to be missing for us, is probably a good indicator that we need to look for some help from our Heavenly Father.
Here are some points from the wise words of Jesus that can guide us on inward introspection of our respect gaps:
(1) Once a viper, always a viper?
Jesus reminds us of grace, and that as He makes all things new, we don’t have to be stuck in a place of evil and hardened hearts. If we believe His grace is sufficient enough to save even the worst of sinners, then we, who are probably not quite that bad, can overcome a bad reputation and/or an unwillingness to show respect to others. It’s amazing how forgiving people are when they see a change in us, and it’s even more powerful when we can point people to Jesus as the source of that change.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that the venom you’re spitting now with your words have to be a way of life.
(2) Good or evil, there is treasure built up either way
Whether good or evil, we store up attributes and responses that feed our self-worth. We can feed the negativity with beliefs we see as affirming to who we want to be, or we can lay down the vaulted way we see ourselves for the sake of finding the best in someone else. Build up more of that, and you will see respect returned on you in huge part.
What kind of treasure do you want to hoard: the pirate’s dream or the packrat’s delight?
(3) Respect isn’t just earned, it’s a state of heart
Jesus says that words condemn or justify. It may make us uncomfortable to think in these terms, but if they’re from the mouth of Jesus, then we better try to understand what He’s talking about.
Faith and good works are two sides of the same coin. We find the same language in the book of James; where you find faith and righteousness, you will find an outpouring of the Spirit giving way to good works. Show us faith and we will show you good works; show us good works for the sake of Christ, and we will show you a faith working toward moving mountains.
Don’t get caught up in the comparison trap and wondering if you’re saved by works or salvation. Have no fear, your righteousness in Christ is assured through His sacrifice. That is the Good News that leads to a changed state of heart. But Christ says: let your heart and actions reveal that faith that I have won for you.
As Christ has shown us all respect in His sacrifice, go and do likewise.
God wants you to show respect and be respected, even when you don’t want to and others would prefer not to. Don’t worry about the hearts of other people, just think about how much our Lord has loved us and was willing to honor us with His death, and if that means something to you, respect for others who have been won by that same sacrifice and those who need that message of sacrifice will be easier to give. We’re all sinners in need of redemption, and respect makes us gracious advocates for what is available for everyone. Amen.