Respect isn’t what you think it is

 re-spect [ri-spekt] noun esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person

“If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that.”
Matthew 5.47 (NLT)

“Men are respectable only as they respect.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Who do you respect? Why? Is it because that person lives by a set of principles you aspire to live by yourself? Is it because you agree with the way that person lives? Is it because they treat you nicely? Is it because they have a life that you wish for yourself? It occurred to me recently that, for the person who wants to live life like Jesus, none of those things are respect. I’m not sure what they are. Maybe it’s preference or a desire to just hang out with people you agree with or, in the case of the person who has a life you wish to have, it’s just veiled envy. Whatever it is, it’s not respect. For the follower of Jesus, respect is given for a much simpler reason. The simplicity of it makes it much more difficult to give.

Respect is simply acknowledging and accepting a person based on their worth as a human being. Every person around me is a unique and beautiful creation of God with worth beyond measure. That alone makes them worthy of my respect. It doesn’t matter whether I like what they do or don’t do. How they live their life doesn’t enter into the equation. I don’t care who they voted for or even if they vote. Young, old, rich, poor…none of that matters. The only thing that matters is their inherent value as a person.

Horse trainer Buck Brannaman made it really simple. He said that respect is acceptance. Jesus took it even further by saying that we extend respect to everyone. If we only give it to people that we think deserve it we tread on dangerous ground. Anyone can do that. That kind of “respect” doesn’t set followers of Christ apart from anybody else.

As always, Jesus calls us to a higher standard.

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