Aretha Franklin and numerous other artists have turned the song "R.E.S.P.E.C.T." into a musical classic. And although I find the lyrics a bit distasteful, the message is clear; folks need to be respected. Everyone wants to be respected. When someone looks down at me, I want to demand he or she respect me. After all, I have spent twenty years serving my country in the U.S. Navy. I have been married to the same wife for forty-eight years (although from day to day I am not sure she is always the same). I went from being an atheist to being a born again Christian, and I have served the Lord for almost forty years. I graduated from three schools of higher education with honors, including Seminary. I had worked for fifty-three years before I was forced to retire due to health issues. I have tried my best to assist my family any way I could, raising two of my grandchildren and boarding whoever needed a place to stay. Dog gone it, I deserve a little respect! Right?
The answer depends upon whom one asks. If I ask my wife, kids, grandkids, and great grandkids, the answer is often no. You see, in between all those great achievements, people who are most familiar with me know my true nature, and they aren't particularly impressed with me. In fact, knowing myself as I do, I am not all that impressed. I will not spend time or space listing my flaws; if you want to know about them, simply ask one of my family members. Suffice it to say, I am a hypocrite just like every person I know who wants to live for the Lord. We want to be pleasing to Him, but circumstances and people get in the way. I find it difficult to respect those who are less than perfect, just as they find it difficult to respect me. When it comes down to the bottom line, I don't have much respect for myself either. I am reminded of the hero of Schindler's List, who after saving over a thousand Jews, bemoaned the fact that he could have done so much more.
As I have mentioned on numerous occasions, Paul, although he was an Apostle of Christ, struggled with his ability to live up to his own standards (Rom. 7). In Philippians 3:4-9, he calls "his credentials" before coming to faith in Christ as "dung." And in 3:12-16, he tells us to forget our passed failures and keep our eyes on the goal, and for those who think they are perfect, to think as he does about his own unworthiness. None of us has arrived at Christ-likeness, and the Lord knows how far short we fall of being what He wants us to be; yet He loves us and continues to work producing "little replicas" of His Son (Rom. 8:28-29; Phil. 1:6; 2:13).
When it comes to those God respects, it is the humble (Ps. 138:6). He respects those who have accepted His gift of righteousness (2 Kgs. 13:23). But God is also very clear that He does not view one person as "better" than another (Acts 10:34; Rom. 2:11; Eph. 6:9; Col. 3:25; 1 Pet. 1:17). And when it comes down to us respecting one person over another, we are told it is wrong (Prov. 24:23; 28:21; Jam. 2:1-9). So if God is no respecter of persons, and we are told not to respect man, why do I so strongly crave the respect of others? If I see myself as nothing without Christ, why do I want others to respect ME? Shouldn't I be wanting them to respect Christ? (That is a rhetorical question!) To Him be the glory! Amen!