When I walk into Starbucks, inevitably somebody is walking out. Out of courtesy and habit, I hold the door open allowing the other person to exit the store. While I sit in the store having my morning coffee, I often observe how people interact when entering and exiting the building. Some are courteous and gracious, allowing others in and out first. Others are oblivious to others and quickly push their way past oncoming patrons.
To be blunt, I have a hard time watching people bull their way past others without a care towards them. I learned that many years ago the importance of manners, respect and chivalry. Peter’s words come to mind where he says in 1 Peter 2:17, “Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honour the emperor.”
Respect. That is something that has been lost in our society. There was a lady back in my hometown with whom I would go on walks with. She was constantly reminding me of the importance of what it meant to be a man; making sure I opened doors for her and walking on the street side of the sidewalk.
Whenever I hear, “Thank you,” for doing what I think is something natural, it is a reminder to me that I am doing what I am supposed to do. With all the negativity in our world today, doing good and being kind are simple ways of being a blessing.
It does not take much effort to see that respect is frequently absent in our society. We see it in the realm of politics, where our most esteemed government officials hurl rhetoric and slanderous comments towards one another. Even worse is online where social media has now become the platform for “anonymous” character assassination. There sarcasm and slander reign. Talking down to someone or insulting one another is the new norm. For adults and for kids, respect is often nowhere to be found.
No longer do we use terms like “sir” and “ma’am” when speaking to a stranger. Addressing elders with terms of esteem is rare as well. And having respect for authority seems to have gone out of style long ago. Now some might think I am “old fashioned”. In fact, a friend of mine called me a “Renaissance Man” today… and she’s older than me!
But, today’s digital world has taken this to a new level. It has become commonplace to sling opinions on a screen, whether on social media or while leaving a comment on a blog post. On our city streets, gangs tag buildings. Online, people tag others. And unfortunately, sometimes these comments and thoughts aren’t tucked in an envelope of respect. Instead, they are laced with cynicism, mockery, or disdain.
The verse in 1 Peter is a challenge to us to treat one another with respect. Respect is not something reserved for those in authority like a teacher, a police officer, or a judge. It goes so far as to say that we are to respect everyone.
The word, “everyone” is pretty comprehensive. Does it mean the grumpy neighbour whose dog uses your yard as an outhouse? Yes. Does it mean your aunt who never speaks respectfully to you? Yes. Does it mean your co-worker who is constantly taking credit for your ideas and achievements? Yes. Does it mean the person who uses derogatory comments about you after an Instagram picture? Yes.
We can’t miss the point in this Scripture. We are to respect everyone, not just those we like. Not just those who are easy to get along with. A mark of true Christians is that they do not play favourites. In Luke 6:32-33, Jesus says, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that.”
How we respond to these “difficult” people is a measuring stick of our maturity and character. We can learn to speak respectfully no matter the situation. By drawing on the power of the Holy Spirit to temper our tongues and help us weigh our words, we can speak in a polite tone. This does not mean we don’t speak the truth. It just means we verbalize it in an honourable and honouring way. We can reflect the love of Jesus when we engage in conversations with a calm, collected, and civil tone. When our language is respectful and our words are honouring, we honour God and reflect His character and love.
Why should we do this? Showing respect toward others shows our fear of God. I used to read the phrase “fear God” and get confused. What does it mean to fear God? God is love so why should we fear Him? Why should we be scared of Him? But, in Scripture, fearing God has more to do with being in awe of Him, having reverence for Him, and respecting Him. And since humanity have been made in God’s likeness and bear His image, when we respect others with our words and actions, we are also showing reverence towards God.
As Christians, our behaviour should stand out. It stands out when we choose to show honour and respect to everyone, regardless of who they are or what we think of them. Romans 12:10 says, “Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves.” In doing so, we reflect God and demonstrate His love to all.