Aretha Franklin sang that famous line we all know: “R-E-S-P-E-C-T!” (You can hear it in your head now, can’t you)? Respect –– all of us want that. It’s normal as a human to want respect. Unfortunately, in our relationships (romantic or otherwise), respect is increasingly rare because we live in a world where respect is no longer a cultural value, at least not here in the West. In fact, what we see more often than not is people attacking one another over differences of opinion. That’s unfortunate because we want to cultivate respect, even for people we don’t agree with –– that’s the kind of treatment we’d want too!
As followers of Jesus, it’s actually essential that we walk respectfully in our relationships. You and I both deserve respect.
First and foremost, respect acknowledges that someone is created in the image and likeness of God. To disrespect another human is to disrespect God’s own image! So we show respect for God by respecting other people. Now, you might be thinking, “Not everyone deserves or has earned my respect!” And what I would counter is the Bible teaches that none of us is perfect. Although we have all been created in the image and likeness of God, all of us have been flawed, warped by sin. Everyone (except Jesus, the only perfect human) is a marred version of the image of God. Ultimately, none of us will ever be perfect enough to earn respect. But because we’re all on even footing before God, we can respect and love one another.
If you can find a place of mutual respect with other people, you may not agree with each other, but your relationship will still be healthy and something that adds value to your life.
Within a marriage, respect is the foundation upon which a relationship can grow –– it’s absolutely essential!
Now, it’s important to note respect within relationships doesn’t mean we give others everything they ask for. If you look at the life of Jesus in the gospels, even Jesus didn’t do that! But as he went through life, even when he disagreed with people, he dignified them as human beings made in God’s image, and he even went beyond that with the ultimate display of self-sacrificial love.
Jesus never asks us to allow wrong, hurtful or exploitative behavior to continue in his name…It’s not loving for us to allow someone else to sin against God, themselves or us. We never have to let people have their way (if it’s wrong), in the name of being respectful and self-deferential. As we walk with Jesus and allow ourselves to be led by his Spirit, he gives us wisdom to know where to set up boundaries in our lives that enable us to live both righteously and respectfully with other people.
As we move into the coming week, let’s evaluate our lives: who can we show greater respect for? How do we need to set up boundaries that allow mutual respect within disagreement? How can we better walk through this life like Jesus? If we can answer those questions for ourselves, we’re well on our way to changing the culture we live in by cultivating relationships built on respect –– that’s a beautiful thing!