A Lost-Virtue: Respect

By common dictionary definition, respect is “deference to a right, privilege, privileged position, or someone or something considered to have certain rights or privileges,” referring to respect for an office [such as President]; but it also means “esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person.” This latter definition is broader, and does not depend on an individual holding some position of power or influence to have respect, but simply gives worth to an individual because, well, they are also human beings and we think that is reason enough.

      While those may be the common dictionary definitions for respect, current societal trends make it seem like many people don’t know there is such a thing as respect, don’t know the meaning, or just don’t feel compelled to show respect to anyone or anything. On many levels and in many situations, there seems to be a complete lack of respect for people, property, rules and laws, or simple things like common decency and propriety.

      Common examples that illustrate this are such things as the many cases where individuals brazenly knock down and rob the elderly or unaccompanied women without care for age or any physical harm they might inflict, some recently-publicized instances of vandalism of public parks by graffiti [sometimes live-streamed as they do it, or posted on social media], riots in certain cities where stores owned by innocent owners were looted and burned, vehicles’ windows being smashed merely for fun, and we probably all have seen [maybe firsthand] the rude behavior of individuals towards restaurant and/or department store owners and employees for merely following government directives during [and following] the pandemic.

      In all these examples [and many more we could probably all recount], what is missing is respect — respect for our fellow human beings, respect for others’ property, and respect for laws. And I haven’t even addressed the abundant lack of respect for God and anything religious — especially Christianity. So, why are we so deficient in respect these days? Why does it seem like we, as a society, have lost the desire for showing simple respect? [And, no, this is not just an ‘old fogy’ complaining about how things aren’t like ‘the good old days.’]

      It Starts at the Top. It may be tempting to say we have so little respect in society today because kids are not learning respect for their parents at home [we will address that later], but the reality is, a lack of respect for God is more likely the answer. The fact is, when men have no desire to respect God —- the highest being and the highest authority — then we human beings will have no motivation or incentive to show respect anyone or anything lesser [which is everyone and everything].

      God is certainly worthy of respect — and to the greatest degree we could ever offer. He is our Creator (Gen. 1:26, 27), and the one who holds our life in His hand (Job 34:14, 15). He is the God “who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20). Job recognized, when speaking to God, “I know that You can do everything, and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You” (Job 42:2). The wise writer also questioned, “Consider the work of God; for who can make straight what He has made crooked?” (Eccl. 5:13). Just on the basis of His position as God — our Creator and the most powerful being — God is worthy of the greatest respect.

      But God is also deserving of the greatest respect for His character. This is He “who cannot lie” (Titus 1:2), who “is righteous in all His ways” (Psa. 145:17), the God who looked down at His creation and saw “There is none righteous, no, not one…there is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside…there is none who does good, no, not one” (Rom. 3:10-12) and, at the same time, “so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16) for those same ones who were not good. This is the God who “demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). This is the God who not just loves to the greatest degree, but also the God who is love (1 John 4:8).

      Now, with God being God — the only true and living God — and being the God who has power above all, we who are His creation should show due respect to Him. And with God having the character He has, always speaking truth, always acting righteously, and always demonstrating love to those who did not deserve it, He is only more deserving of respect. When we deny Him the due respect, it says more about us than it does about Him, and what it says about us is that we are arrogant, foolish, ungrateful, and self-centered. If God is not worthy of respect, then who is?

      It Continues in the Home. Respect is something that must be taught and demonstrated in the home, too. I hope it should be obvious now that the first thing that needs to be taught in the home regarding respect is the worthiness of God to receive our respect; that will be the foundation for everything else! If we have genuine respect for God, and if we convey the importance of that respect to those in our household, then it will be the motivation behind the respect they will show to one another; if respect for God is not shown in the home, then there will be no motivation to show respect to anyone else in the home — or anywhere else, for that matter.

      Children are admonished, “obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother,’ which is the first commandment with promise: ‘that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth’” (Eph. 6:1-3). To honor them means to give them the respect due them, and the obedience is a demonstration of respect for their authority.

      But it is not just the children who are to show respect; wives are also commanded, “submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord” (Eph. 5:22), but that is done out of respect for her husband; the parallel is the church obeying the Lord, the head of the church, which is also done out of respect for Him as the head. Paul will later plainly state it: “let the wife see that she respects her husband” (Eph. 5:33). The respect comes because of his position as head, not because we deem him personally ‘worthy’ of our respect.

      But it is not just the wives who are expected [commanded] to show respect to their husbands; Peter admonished the women to be examples of ones with “a gentle and quiet spirit,” but then turned to the husbands and said, “Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel” (1 Pet. 3:4, 7). That “giving honor” literally means husbands must grant value to them, and treat them accordingly. That demands husbands respect their wives!

      Remember that respect is granted not just because we deem someone or something ‘worthy’ [by their character, or based on how they treat us]; respect also must be granted to some simply because of the position they hold — usually positions of authority over us, but not always. Therein lies the answer to why we have so little respect in society nowadays: We don’t want someone to have any authority over us!

            This lost virtue need not be lost forever. Now is the time to start.           — Steven Harper