Show respect for all men [treat them honorably]. Love the brotherhood (the Christian fraternity of which Christ is the Head). Reverence God. Honor the emperor.
1 Peter 2:17 AMP
One of the clearest teachings on respect that I’ve ever heard is given by Martha in her Love Your Children audio series. Respect, like boundaries, is not innate to people; we have to be taught. Don’t believe me? Spend five minutes with a group of toddlers. It’s Lord of the Flies and sooner or later they always pick a Piggy. But respect is a powerful, powerful thing, and even if someone isn’t well-versed in it, their heart can still respond to it. I sometimes wonder if the foundation of respect within the Spirit’s kindness isn’t the key to being able to pour God’s love on a stranger in an instant.
Part of every definition of respect that I could find is included the act of regarding, or looking/gazing. I know well the power of being seen, and I’m beginning to know the power of gazing. If I do not see a person as an individual, utterly distinct from myself, then I do not respect them.
That seems to go without saying, but I can tell you from experience that it simply doesn’t. For years and years, it was absolutely normal for me to hear about a situation or crisis that someone was going through, and then assume that I had an idea of what they were feeling by matching it to one of my own experiences. Their life was just a reflection of mine, not a unique entity. I disrespected them completely because I chose not to see them. They were not singular humans with individual lives; they were screens that existed for me to project myself onto, and not much more.
Respect and Gazing
I’m not sure it’s possible to more deeply disrespect someone than to refuse to see them as a unique, living being. I still hit the floor in repentance over this, and I beg the Spirit to do all that He must to sanctify me. And He’s faithful, always. So I’m learning respect as I watch Christ in me “show respect for all men.”
I didn’t know that you could smile without regarding someone, but you can. There is an empty kindness that lacks respect, a false persona that chirps and grins without acknowledging the existence of another. I’ve done that, too. It’s as easy as breathing, but Jesus is not a persona. He’s a Person, and His Life gives life, even in a glance.
I walk through stores and let the Lord lift my eyes to meet those of another. The response is so often a hungry relief that I could sit down and cry for days at all the times I’ve let fear keep me from this ministry of respect. Such a simple kindness, to look someone in the eyes and acknowledge them. What an easy way to love a stranger! Just SEE them!
Because God is love, there are more ways to love than I will ever know in this life. But it’s a joy to be shown by the Spirit some of the hidden gifts of love and, in this case, the deeper meaning of respect. May this weekend hold new Spirit-filled adventures for us all!
Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.
Romans 12:10 NLT