Respect Your Parents, Oh, And By The Way, Everyone Else, Too

I’ve been wondering for a while about identifying some basic factor, other than original sin, related to the age-old problem of dysfunctional human interaction. Even if everyone were a Christian, it would yet exist simply because Christians fall prey to the same problems, but as should be expected, to a much lesser degree.

I think the basic factor, because of our fallen nature, is simply lack of respect (which then can be traced back probably to a lack of love). Now then, wasn’t that easy? Let’s just all respect each other and live happily ever after. I’d like to explore a few items about respect that I feel are important. Nothing new, just my perspective.

There is no particular reason that unbelievers should respect anyone, and we all have encountered those who seem to hold many folks in low regard. I’ve heard explanations about respect, which generally say one has to “earn” respect, or that we can respect the “position or office,” but not necessarily the person. In the past I often told counselees that we might not want to respect someone for whom the person is, but certainly should respect them for who we are. I tried to appeal to their sense of personal integrity and being the better person.

For the Christian, however, it is because of who they (everyone) are, and also for who we are. The only way this can really become natural, is when the Holy Spirit sheds love abroad in our hearts to love and respect His creation. Our carnal nature wants only to please self and have everyone else respect us. The two terms respect and honor usually can be interchanged. We are instructed in the Bible to honor (respect) parents, all others, God and the king (government)(I Pet. 2:17, Ex. 20:12). I want to focus on the two that are encountered almost daily, that being parents and all others.

When I directed a Federal Program of helping students into college, I hired counselors who worked closely with participants. One counselor in particular was finishing college majoring in education, and went on to have a very successful career. In a causal conversation once he mentioned visiting his parents in another city. At that time he was a smoker (he eventually quit), which proved to be a problem when he went home. During visits he did not smoke since his mother was unaware of his habit. He did not want to disappoint his mom whom he knew would disapprove. I viewed this as respect for his mother and not wanting to cause her grief.

Yes, children should spare their parents, even if somehow they really know. It is a matter of respect. Now this flies in the face of current pop-psychology that encourages everyone to “be true to yourself,” be the “real you” regardless of any consequences. Well, I don’t know a single person who has “come out of the closet,” so to speak, in all areas of their lives. It is not possible, necessary, or even healthy, in my opinion. And if those “secret” sins bother you, which they do, then confess and give them up. With few exceptions all parents want their kids to be better then are they, and it is not a secret what the expectations are. Make your parents proud. Show them respect.

I sat with another young man for a while talking about his life and how he was trying to break a drug addiction that was ruining his career, family and life. He confessed how he did everything possible to keep it from his parents because, as he put it, “it would break my dad’s heart.” In the midst of it all, he didn’t want to disappoint his parents. He had a lot of respect for them and wanted them to be proud of him. Unfortunately, he could not keep it a secret forever, no one can. It was remarkable to see such respect for his parents, when usually addicts will abuse and manipulate everyone for a fix. Not too long afterward we attended his funeral.

And lastly, I just read an article in the afa Journal about James Brown. There have been a couple of famous entertainers named James Brown, but this one is the award-winning host of the CBS network’s NFL Today. When not on the job, this man of God goes around the country preaching the Gospel. His stated purpose on the job is to make others look good. He says, “It’s not about me. I want my colleagues to look good, so I esteem them more highly than myself, as Scripture says (Phil. 2:3). I play to their strengths and stay away from their weaknesses.” Putting that Scripture into practice is the ultimate respect for others. His friend Toney Dungy says about J.B., that he “has still gotten to the top in a different way than the world would. It’s so refreshing to see.”

There are many stories about respecting parents and others, and too many about disrespecting parents and others. Until we have real security in “who we are,” it is not humanly possible to “esteem others more highly than ourselves.” We find our real selves only by “being in Christ” (2 Cor. 5:17), for there we begin to have God’s wisdom rather than man’s, for “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”(Prov. 9:10). The “fear of the Lord” is to honor and respect the creator of the universe and to rest in His grace. Then there would be no need, either ignorantly or flauntingly, to poke our parents or anyone else in the eye for real or imagined slights, or to look down on others to make ourselves feel better.

As for me personally, I simply ask my family, as a start, to be true to Gods Word as written in Leviticus 19:32.

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