Unfortunately, I don’t see much of it anymore. American culture seems to run on disrespect. Politicians show complete disrespect to other politicians. Crowds at ballgames disrespect the players, the referees, the coaches, and fans of the other team. And disrespect aimed at teachers, police officers, retail clerks, waiters, the flag, and drivers is rampant. We have become a disrespectful society.
I’d like to make a strong call for a return of respect and civility, especially in Christian circles.
I know all of the standard excuses for not offering respect. “You have to earn my respect” is a common refrain. I’m often told, “He isn’t worthy of my respect.” And in a silly justification that makes adults sound like preschoolers, I often hear, “He disrespected me, so I don’t have to show him respect.” That’s the same argument of “he started it” that drives parents crazy when it comes from their children. And it’s less justified among adults than it is among children.
I’m calling for respectful behavior whether or not it is earned, and especially when it is unearned. As believers, we are not responsible for the behavior of others. We are responsible for our own behavior. And respectful behavior is part of the character of the Christian. Peter told the church, “Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.” (1 Peter 2:17, NIV) And he wrote this in an era in which the emperor was unworthy of respect. His point is not to respect those who have earned it, but to offer respect to all people–to be respectful in all situations and not to just act respectfully in certain situations.
Now that I’ve introduced the topic, let me be specific about what I want to see in a return to respect and civility:
I want politicians to STOP calling other politicians names. I want an end to Twitter wars between governmental leaders. Disagreement is to be expected; disrespectful behavior is not.
In a similar fashion, I want to see respect shown by all people for all political leaders. Right now, conservatives show respect to conservatives and call liberals disgusting names. Liberals show respect to liberals and call conservatives disgusting names. Respect doesn’t require agreement and shouldn’t be offered just to those agree with you. Political discussion today now sounds more like the name-calling and spitting contests that occur between kindergartners when there are no adults in the room. And that description may be unfair to kindergartners.
I want to see police officers shown respect. I’m not saying that all police officers are always right, but they deserve our respect because of the job they have been hired to do.
I want to see sports figures, coaches, and referees shown respect. I am deeply disgusted when I’m in an arena or ballpark and the entire crowd is shouting an obscenity–in unison. It’s repugnant and barbaric behavior. We have forgotten that our opponent in a contest is not our sworn enemy. And the referees charged with running the game will often be wrong, but they still deserve respect.
I want to see ballplayers and crowds show proper respect to our nation, our leaders, our ideals, our national anthem, and to the flag. I know there are real issues that need to be addressed. I know that people have a right to protest and share their opinions. And I want to hear (and I even agree with some of) those opinions. But if you want your protest to be heard respectfully, you need to first offer proper respect.
I want to be able to have political and even religious discussion on social media without name-calling and falsehood. In today’s world, because of the widespread lack of respect for the opinions of others, it’s almost impossible. I often keep my mouth shut, not because I’m ashamed of my opinions, but because it starts a war of words that I want nothing to do with.
When I lead Children’s Camps, I give the children 3 basic rules for a good camp. Rule number 1 is “Be where you’re supposed to be when you’re supposed to be there!” Rule #2 is “Respect all nouns!” That includes the camp, the counselors, the other kids, the camp pastor and musicians, the vehicles we travel in, and anyone else we meet. And rule #3 is simple, “Have Fun!”
Those are pretty comprehensive rules for anyone at anytime. And rule number 2, “Respect all nouns” is deeply needed in the Christian community of today.
Respect. Civility. Dignity. Courtesy.
They are almost forgotten American characteristics. But they should never be forgotten by the true follow of Christ.
About Pastor Jack
Pastor Jack Marslender is the pastor of First Southern Baptist Church of Avondale. He is married (Dawn) and is the father of Tina, Rebecca, Kimberly, Melinda, Angela, Maria, Kenneth, Kevin, and Lorissa. He is also the grandfather of Wyatt, Emilie, Everett, Olivia, Dylan, Charlotte, and Aiden.