There’s a little meme that has become a pet peeve of mine. I bump into it all over bloggerville and facebook and it says “respect is earned.” I understand the thinking behind it, people are responding to those who lord their authority over others, demanding respect. So it’s a way of proclaiming we don’t have to respect anyone who hasn’t earned it, who isn’t worthy.
Here’s the problem however, if it were possible to earn respect than Jesus Christ as a perfect and sin free man who gave His very life for us, should engender respect from the whole world, and yet He doesn’t always, there are still those who reject Him or worse, try to mock and ridicule Him.
So, “respect” is simply to esteem, admire, think highly of and honor, or “to admire (someone or something) deeply, as a result of their abilities, qualities, or achievements.” In theory as a Christian we are called to perceive people as having been made in the image of our Creator, having such worth and value Christ thought we were to die for.
I get it, some people do not always make that very easy. Some people can be down right unloveable. However, there is also the reminder that, what you do for the least of these you do for me. So Jesus Christ turns all our human hierarchies on their head. Respect is given, granted, and it has nothing to do with someone’s worth and value, their achievements and abilities.
Even when it comes to outright enemies, those who seem to have declared a personal war against us, respect your enemies. Why? because it’s really foolish to underestimate them. I’m thinking of David, this little guy armed with a rock, who probably did not engender much respect while going against Goliath. No doubt people were casting lots in favor of the giant. We have no way of knowing, but it would not surprise me at all if that giant was laughing in derision…. right when that rock got him between the eyes.
Respect has a lot more to do with the roles people play in our lives, rather than whether or not they are “worthy” of that role. So, bosses at work who are a complete train wreck, we’re still called to respect them because they’re trying to do a job. Disrespect is only going to make things worse. Cops are another one, while there may be some who are awful, we have a procedure for that, a chain of command, and way to file a complaint. We have to recognize they are doing a job and respect them.
These things seem like common sense to me and yet within our culture they are actually becoming less common, in part due to this little meme that always insists “respect must be earned.” No, it must be given, offered freely, because that is the wisest course of action in pretty much all situations.