Respect everyone, and love the family of believers. Fear God, and respect the king. — 1 Peter 2:17 NLT
It was a rainy winter afternoon. Our youngest son was in middle school and I was walking down the school hallway following a meeting. As I opened my umbrella to ward off the chilly shower, I heard a woman’s voice pipe up. “Hello? Excuse me. May I ask you a question?”
I turned to see one of the lunchroom workers. “Are you Spencer’s mother?” she inquired, adjusting her hairnet.
“Yes,” I answered. “Is something wrong?” My heart fluttered and fretted. I had just left the vice principal’s office, where my son sat busted for pulling a stunt in class — one he and his friends found completely hysterical but the substitute teacher saw no humor in. I was not bursting with parental pride. Now I feared he’d also misbehaved in the lunchroom.
“Oh, no. Nothing is wrong at all!” she asserted. “I just wanted to tell you how respectful your son is. He never fails to ask if I’m having a good day or flash a huge smile and thank me when I hand him his food. And he addresses me as ‘ma’am’ and calls the custodian ‘sir.’ Such a fine and respectful son you’ve raised!”
To say that her words thrilled this parent’s heart would be an understatement. In fact, it was a little kiss from God that day when this thoughtful school employee pointed out a positive quality she saw in my teenage son’s behavior.
Respect is frequently absent in our society. In person — and especially online — snark and sarcasm often rule. Talking down to someone or insulting one another is the new norm. For adults and for kids, respect is often nowhere to be found.
No longer do we use terms like “sir” and “ma’am” when speaking to a stranger. Addressing elders with terms of esteem is rare as well. And having respect for authority seems to have gone out of style long ago.
Today’s digital world has taken this to a new level. It has become commonplace to sling opinions on a screen, whether on social media or while leaving a comment on a blog post. And unfortunately, sometimes these comments and thoughts aren’t tucked in an envelope of respect. Instead they are laced with cynicism, mockery, or disdain.
However, today’s challenge verse talks about respect. And not just respecting those in authority, like a teacher, a police officer, or a judge. It goes so far as to say that we are to respect everyone.
Does this mean the grumpy neighbor whose dog uses your yard as an outhouse? Yes.
Does it include your combative relative who never speaks respectfully to you? Yes.
What about the difficult person on that committee with you, whose personality and behavior get on your very last nerve? Yep. That one too.
We can learn to speak respectfully no matter the situation. By drawing on the power of the Holy Spirit to temper our tongues and help us weigh our words, we can speak in a polite tone. This doesn’t mean we don’t speak the truth. It just means we verbalize it in an honorable and honoring way.
We can reflect the love of Jesus when we engage in conversations with a calm, collected, and civil tone.
Then others might notice — as in the case of the lunch-room lady and my prank-pulling son — that our speech isn’t snappy, impolite, or rude. Our language is respectful. Our words are honoring — to those we are talking to and, more importantly, to God.
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- Respecting others shows our fear of God. I used to read the phrase “fear God” and get confused. What does it mean to fear God? Isn’t God love? If so, why should we be scared of him? But in Scripture, fearing God has more to do with being in awe of Him, reverencing Him, and respecting Him. And since humans have been made in God’s likeness and bear His image, when we respect others with our words and actions, we are also reverencing God.
- Everyone means everyone. We can’t miss the point in this Scripture. We are to respect everyone, not just those we like. Not just those who are easy to get along with. A mark of true Christians is that they do not play favorites. Luke 6:32 states,
If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.
- Our behavior should stand out. It stands out when we choose to show honor and respect to everyone, regardless of who they are or what we think of them.
Lesson for the Lips
Can you name someone in your life who speaks respectfully a majority of the time? What stands out the most to you about how that person uses his or her words?
Do you know someone you have a hard time speaking to respectfully? Why do you think you have trouble showing that person respect with your speech?
Think about the person you just named. It’s been said if we look hard enough, we can find a good quality in anyone. So name one good quality about this person. Take your time… you’ll eventually find something.
Okay… deep breath… reach out to that person with your words this week — either spoken, written, texted, or typed — and say you admire that quality in them. Do not expect a response. Do it only to show love and display respect. As you do, think about this verse:
Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. — Romans 12:10 NLT
Father, help me think before I speak, making sure my words are respectful. Let my tone be tempered and my manner kind. I want to please You and honor others with my speech. In Jesus’s name, amen.
Excerpted with permission from Zip It: The Keep It Shut 40-Day Challenge by Karen Ehman, copyright Karen Ehman.
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How can you love others with your words of respect today? Who needs to hear from you today? Come share with us on our blog! ~ Devotionals Daily