In every walk of life for both Christians and non-Christians, being respected by your friends, family, peers, bosses, pretty much anyone is important to most of us. Many say not to worry about what others think and there are times this is good advice; however, there are more when it is not. Consider, for example, an annual review with your boss. During their critique, your boss discusses certain areas of your performance in need of improvement. If you do not care what the boss thinks and make no effort to improve, you will probably not be around long enough for another review.
Pastor/Songwriter Mike Murdock says, “What you respect you will attract. What you don’t respect will move away from you.” Most people want to do what is right in the eyes of those whom they respect. When you demonstrate a lack of respect for someone, they will move away. In this message, it is my intent to draw a correlation between respect and love; to show how as Mr. Murdock said, you view others may have a serious impact on your own success. If you are part of a group and you demonstrate love to all but one of the members, you will almost certainly lose the respect of the entire group.
Please understand, when as a part of a group, you fail, it will almost always be because of a person or persons you treated poorly. On the other hand, when you demonstrate love to all members of a group you will certainly have a better chance for success.
What the Bible Says about Respect
1 Peter 2:17 says, “ Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.” This verse teaches us there are three areas of our lives where we as Christians are expected to demonstrate respect:
1. Respect all men - We do not have a choice, this is what the Bible says. If you cannot learn to treat everyone with dignity and respect, you will struggle with your Christian walk and may fail in areas you should be equipped to succeed.
2. Respect all Christians- In addition, this admonition of respect everyone is reinforced for your relationship with other Christians.
3. Fear God (very high level of respect)- no additional comments should be necessary for this one
4. Respect governmental authority and authorities – this point is probably as difficult as any for us to follow. I can do an entire message on this point but will focus on points 1 and 2 in this message.
Here is a question for everyone, ‘do you want your children to respect you?’ If the answer is yes, they better never see you disrespect anyone – Christian or otherwise. With that said, you may think I have lost my mind, however, keep in mind, demonstrating respect equates more to love than it does agreement. We can disagree with others, argue with others… without disrespecting them.
Ephesians 6:1 tells our children to respect their parents; “ Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” Then, in verse 4 of the same chapter, it also tells fathers how to treat their children. “4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” [NIV] I think you would agree that to intentionally exasperate or provoke someone demonstrates a lack of respect.
The scriptures teach us that we are to honor our fathers and mothers, love our enemies, respect the elderly and respect everyone. You will find a common theme in the next section where Respect and love come together.
I do not think I need to belabor this, it is really quite simple, God wants us to respect everyone; whether they respect us back is between God and them.
Love and Respect – the Connection
Agapé love is selfless and unconditional love framed in sacrifice. To fully understand the meaning of agapé and to recognize that without the Holy Spirit, we cannot achieve this level of love requires a great deal of study and meditation on the life of our Savior Jesus Christ. Though just a word, agapé defines God's immeasurable and incomparable love for people.
Love sacrifices, purifies, make things beautiful and creates intimacy. God has given you the free will to choose whether you love others or not; however, be careful, because just as He commanded us to respect everyone He also expects us to love everyone. Either you choose to harden your heart toward someone else or you follow God’s lead and choose to love them.
The following are just a few verses that reference agapé love and will help us understand that God expects us to love everyone:
· Mark 12:31 - And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
· Luke 6:27 - “But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
· John 14:21 - “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.”
If you have trouble loving someone, pretend and then watch the Holy Spirit do His work. Author C.S. Lewis wrote, "Do not waste your time bothering whether you 'love' your neighbor act as if you did. As soon as we do this, we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him. If you injure someone you dislike, you will find yourself disliking him more. If you do him a good turn, you will find yourself disliking him less." [from Mere Christianity ].
Here is a case that demonstrates what C.S. Lewis meant:
A Minister named George Crane had a woman come to his office, she was full of hatred toward her husband. "I do not only want to get rid of him, I want to get even. Before I divorce him, I want to hurt him as much as he has me."
Dr. Crane suggested the following: "Go home and act as if you really love your husband. Tell him how much he means to you. Praise him for every decent trait. Go out of your way to be as kind, considerate, and generous as possible. Spare no efforts to please him, to enjoy him. Make him believe you love him. After you've convinced him of your undying love and that you cannot live without him, then drop the bomb. Tell him that you’re getting a divorce. That will really hurt him."
With revenge in her eyes, she smiled and said, "Beautiful, beautiful. Will he ever be surprised!" And she did it with enthusiasm. From that point forward, she acted as if she loved him with all she had. This went on for over two months; she showed love, kindness, listening, giving, reinforcing, and sharing.
When she didn't return, Dr. Crane called. "Are you ready now to go through with the divorce?" "Divorce?" she exclaimed. "Never! I discovered I really do love him." Her actions actually changed her feelings and the effort migrated into genuine emotion. The ability to love is established not so much by fervent promise as often repeated deeds.
There is a gray line between faking something and practicing/ pretending. People will recognize a fake and it will drive them further away. So, make sure your heart is set on making changes in you, no matter how they respond, because that is the goal -not to change them but to change you.
No matter what the past holds, you can practice both love and respect and the beauty of practice is that it really does turn pretend into truth. God will honor your efforts and help you learn to love and respect even those whom you previously could not.
So, in case you have not figured it out, the common theme between Love and Respect is that God expects us to do both for everyone. Now think about this, it will be difficult to love someone you do not respect or to respect someone you do not love. You must learn to have both for all.
One other interesting correlation between love and respect. Generally, if you do not love someone they will not respect you; and if you do not respect someone, they cannot love you. How you treat others can and will greatly influence how they respond to you. Love and respect work hand in hand – oh and by the way, both men and women desire and need both love and respect.
God will place people in your path to ensure you learn this; therefore, you may as well start now. Pick someone whom you know and dislike or do not respect and start making a concerted effort to love and respect them. They may not return the feelings; however, you will be doing what God expects of you.