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None of us are exempt. No matter how much we purpose to live a Golden rule life, at some point we will all face a disrespectful person: putting our noble resolve to love as Jesus did to the test. Whether it be a boss, leader, father, or husband; we will all be challenged by someone.
On more than one occasion I have found myself in this place: paralyzed at the intersection of choice. I’ve had to choose between treating the unnamed person the way they deserved to be treated, or offering them what was unwarranted. I wish I could say I always chose the latter option: turning the other cheek, aiming high when they went low, and killing them with kindness.
On the contrary, I have taken the most traveled road of immaturity far too many times. I’m quick tempered by nature and prone to spontaneously combust at the mere hint of injustice. Couple this trait with my tendency to hold a grudge, speak my mind, and vent in a demonstrative fashion and you have a lethal cocktail.
Thus, when it comes to respecting the disrespectful I have several failures intertwined with a few moments of grace. Occasionally, I have opted for maturity rather than the antithesis of it; but it has been a struggle.
Wouldn’t it be great if God gave us a pass? I mean, he knows the difficult people in our lives. He is completely aware of those times where we’ve been the recipient of inappropriate comments, public humiliation, and blatant disrespect. But the Bible offers no escape clauses when it comes to respecting others.
In Matthew 7:12 (NIV) it says,
So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
In Ephesians 6:1-3 (NIV) it says,
Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise—“so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”
In Romans 13:1 NIV it says,
Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God.
In Ephesians 5:33 (NIV)
However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
And as if that wasn’t enough, in Mark 12:30-31 (NIV) it says,
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself.
But what if people are (for lack of a better word) jerks? What about those people who cut us off on in traffic? What about abusive parents, calloused husbands, self-centered leaders, and the those who are downright disrespectful? Should we be forced to respect them too?
Shouldn’t we have the option to selectively opt out of respecting rude individuals? In less than ideal circumstances the Bible’s commands can begin to feel like an unfair, unrealistic, and unnecessary weight around our neck. Why would God ask us to show respect when it is not given?
In today’s hostile world it seemingly makes more sense to treat people the way they treat us. No one wants to look like a naive pushover, easily knocked around by the big bad bullies of the world. Is this not why we rejoice with the protagonist who wins the battle or shows the antagonist who's boss?
There is something on the inside of us that feels a sense of satisfaction when the bad guy gets what they’ve dished out. But what if this were the case in our relationship with God: forcing us to evaluate ourselves on God’s barometer? Ashamedly, as much as I would like to place myself in a respectable position 100% of the time, I know I have not been.
The Bible tells us in Romans 2:1 (NIV), “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.”
The apostle Paul is right, as good as I try to be or purport that I am, I have been disrespectful. The temptation is to measure my disrespect against another person: making my behavior not so bad. But God does not use comparative analysis, he evaluates us on an individual basis. We are measured against His standards for righteousness.
As a result, none of us measure up and are not in a position to sit in the judge's seat evaluating mankind. Although we don’t have the option to discriminate who we show respect to, we can choose how we show respect. Respect will not look the same in all circumstances but there are some universal practices every person can implement.
In the sermon on the mount, Jesus raised the bar on our collective prayer lives when he said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, Matthew 5: 43 - 44 (NIV). Here Christ challenges us to do good for the disrespectful by carrying them directly to the foot of the cross in prayer.
He then proceeds to say if we love someone who is deserving of it what reward is there in that. To which I would add it is easy to respect a respectable person. Love bestowed on a person who is undeserving of it has the power to change lives. A decision to pray for disrespectful people can change us as well as the people we are praying for.
As a bonafide talker and extrovert, I know first hand, the difficulties of respecting people in speech. But the Bible gives clear instruction in this area. In Ephesians 4:15 we are admonished to:“Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.”
In this verse we are given license to communicate truth but it must be encased in love. This means gossip, slander, and tearing down for venting sake are not options we should choose. In James 3:9 -10 (NIV) it says, “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.”
When we find it difficult to employ the aforementioned scriptural truths, the Bible also tells us there is, “a time to be silent and a time to speak” in Ecclesiastes 3:7. In times of frustration and anger it is sometimes appropriate to honor disrespectful people with our silence.
We have been given the ultimate example of humble leadership in the person of Jesus Christ. In Philippians 2:5-8 (NIV) we see that Christ chose humility when responding to disrespectful people.
Christ who was God encased in flesh, endured the disrespectful treatment of those most closest to him. He was betrayed, lied on, spat on, beaten, and crucified, yet he remained respectful towards others.
In the face of outright shameless mistreatment and disrespect Christ chose humility. He did this because He had fixed his eyes on the greater purpose: redeeming the souls of mankind. As a result he modeled for us what it looks like to humbly respect the disrespectful.
Kia Stephens is a wife and homeschooling mama of two who is passionate about helping women know God as Father. For this reason, she created The Father Swap Blog to be a source of encouragement, healing, and practical wisdom for women dealing with the effects of a physically or emotionally absent father. Each week through practical and biblically sound teaching she encourages women to exchange father wounds for the love of God the Father. Download Kia's free ebook, Hope for the Woman With Father Wounds here. Additionally, you can connect with Kia on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.