Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor. (1 Peter 2:17)
Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. (Romans 13:7)
Respectful people seem to be a dying breed these days. Among younger people, I see an appalling lack of respect for people and property. General courtesies seem to be missing like “please” and “thank you.” Most of Chandler’s friends call me John, which is fine, if I asked them to, but I never did. A “Mr. Fischer” is a welcome surprise. I used to say, “That’s okay, you can call me John; when someone says Mr. Fischer I start looking around for my father,” but I don’t say that anymore. If one of these kids calls me Mr. Fischer, I receive it as a refreshing form of politeness and respect for an adult.
I’m not saying this to try and solve it; I’m only making a cultural observation. Certainly terrorism has shown us a total disregard for human life, and for those who have different values. Civility is missing in the marketplace. It’s gone from the public square. Civility is missing in Congress where Republicans and Democrats show an inappropriate lack of respect for each other and seem to be more and more intolerant of those who think differently. And as another political election heats up, look for the mud to fly.
Into this hostile environment enters the follower of Christ, seeking to respect everyone, and give everyone the right to be who they are and think what they think. I’ll go one step farther, as Os Guinness taught us, we need to champion that right. Christians need to be at the forefront of creating a safe civil environment for freedom of belief and expression. We can make a huge difference in our culture simply by being respectful of all people regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, immigration status, sexual preference, political opinion, and anything else that might make someone different from us.
It helps me to make this an issue of the image of God — God left His mark on every man and woman, regardless. That’s a basic given we can start from. No matter how much I may be tempted to dislike a person, they are still in the image of God. And they are loved by God. And Christ died for them. That’s a lot right there to respect.
Mostly we need to respect each person’s process of coming to faith or not. When Peter says to give a reason for the hope that we have, with gentleness and respect, to anyone who asks us, he is not only saying respect for the individual; he is saying respect for the process. Respect for where they are at on the scale of disbelief to belief. We don’t know anyway what’s going on in someone’s heart. We don’t fault them for what they believe. What they believe has come from their experience, their background, their influencers. They are in process just as we are. They get to have their process and we can’t take that away from them. We wouldn’t want to. Their process could be leading them to Christ and we may be an important step in that.
God is drawing people to Himself. He doesn’t need our help to do that; He needs our help to be human vessels in whom He can manifest the presence of Christ in the world. That’s it. And that’s a pretty big deal.