Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.
1 Peter 2:17 (NIV)
A few weeks ago I ran into a person whom I’d not seen in quite a while. I confess that I don’t particularly get along with this person, and this person has made it very clear that they don’t like me. I’m glad you are not privy to the spiteful thoughts and vengeful desires that welled up inside me when I ran into them. The actions of this person that I’ve witnessed over the years have been deceptive and have stirred up trouble in ways that have been destructive to community and relationships that I care about. The words of this person have been false and deceitful. The foolish behavior of this person has been mischievous and self-seeking.
Nevertheless, when I ran into this person in a public place amidst a crowd of people I smiled and addressed them respectfully. We had a brief interchange and I chose to keep my affect respectfully positive and my conversation respectfully benign.
I observe that the polarization of political and cultural thought in America has led to what I deem a general erosion of respect. I remember a time when politicians, even bitter rivals, continued to treat one another with respect. Now I witness politicians who choose to be publicly disrespectful, malicious, and insulting to their opponents in order to maintain the support of extreme factions within their respective parties. I grew up being taught that freedom of thought, education, speech, religion, and the press came with the societal expectation of respectful public debate and discourse. Now I observe university campuses reduced to destructive chaos and physical assault on those who do not march lock-step with their particular beliefs and opinions.
Perhaps that’s why Peter’s simple command jumped off the page at me this morning: “Show proper respect to everyone.”
I believe I need to treat others with respect because we are all members of the human family descended from the same mother.
I believe I need to treat others with respect because we are all imperfect people in need of forgiveness and grace.
I believe I need to treat people with respect because I am constantly growing and needing the grace of others. I have to extend grace to others who are in process as well.
I believe I need to treat people with respect because it affords the best opportunity for strained relationships to find some kind of mutual understanding, reconciliation and redemption.
I believe I need to treat people with respect because the path of disrespect is harmful both to myself, other individuals, community, and humanity.
I believe I need to treat people with respect because it’s the way of Jesus, and as a follower I’m compelled to adopt His teaching and example.
This morning I’m thinking about the simple act of being respectful to others. A few weeks ago when I respectfully addressed my deceptive and foolish acquaintance I knew that I couldn’t control their reaction to me in the moment nor their continued words or actions. I can’t control others. I can’t control our current culture. I can only control myself.
I’m going to continue to pursue the path of being respectful. Who knows. Perhaps it will go viral.