This is definitely not my normal post. However, two months ago, I received this private message, "Hello Cathy. I wanted to know have you written anything on respect and the Bibles perspective..."
I love it when someone asks me to write about a topic. Plus, this one "just happened to be" floating around in my head after a lunch time restaurant encounter. But, wow, RESPECT! It's a heavy topic! And, perhaps, now more than ever before.
From beginning to end, the Bible has a lot to say about respect (how we treat one another)! Plus, I am old school. I guess you might even say, I am getting old. But, fifty plus years ago, as a child who grew up in many cities, in several states, I remember no matter where we lived there were common manners, courtesies, and respect. You could go to nearly any home in any neighborhood and be called out on rude words, bad behavior, or disrespectful conduct. And, you got in trouble for it at their home, and likely, later, at yours too.
Now before you go thinking this is a rant against millennials, it is not! I love dozens of talented, respectful, and hard working young men and women. However, in my travels and simply in my day-to-day activities, I see more and more disrespect, rudeness, and just plain obliviousness in people (mostly younger). This makes me sad. Like at the sushi restaurant where I stopped for a quick lunch a few weeks ago.
It was a nice spring day, so I chose a table on the patio in the most sunny spot I could find. While I waited for my teriyaki chicken bowl, (I'm not a big sushi fan), I watched the other customers. (I love people-watching) A clean cut, young man sat at the table in front of mine. His back was to me, but I could tell he had a very fancy sushi roll. His jacket was strewn across the chair next to him. Every once in a while, he would take his cell phone from under the jacket to check it. Then, he would carefully put it back.
A woman walked into the patio area with, I presume, her adolescent son. It looked to me like she might be having a rough day. In fact, truth be told, it looked like she'd had a rough life. The boy, about 12, held a phone in his hand, and never once looked up from a game he was playing. The two took a seat in front of the young man who was sitting in front of me.
My story-teller, wild imagination was running, and I conjured up that this mom only had partial custody of her son. She seemed nervous and uncomfortable, even though she attempted several times to make conversation with him. The boy never responded. He never even looked up. I confess, I was livid! (And, yes, I know, I too am guilty of being on my own phone way too much). It was all I could do not to walk over to their table, push the phone away from the young man, and tell him, "talk to your mama! One day you will regret it if you don't!"
But instead, I prayed for that mother and son, while I ate my lunch. I wondered about the fresh tattoo, covered in plastic, and what the message said on the calf of the young man sitting in front of me. For on his muscular lower leg was the face of a beautiful woman with a very cool afro and some type of poem or prayer below her. I knew this, because, I could clearly read the word "prayer" smack dab in the middle of the writing. Perplexed, I continued to daydream and pray.
Suddenly, without saying a word, the mother stood up and walked out to the parking lot. Her son was still on his phone, while somehow devouring his lunch. Panic filled his face, however, when he finally looked up and realized she was gone. Frantically, he stood up, looked around, and ran to try and find her.
Then, to my surprise, the young man, with the mysterious tattoo, turned around and said to me, "did you see that?"
I told him I did, and explained how I had almost gone over and said something to the boy. The guy was obviously very upset, so I asked him, "How did you get to be so wise that that situation bothered you so much?"
He looked me straight in the eye and answered, "my mama would have killed me if I ever treated her that way."
We continued to talk, and I learned he was from Detroit, but was currently stationed in San Diego. I asked him about his tattoo, and he read me a poem about "why we pray" from a photo he had saved on his phone. He was such great guy! I would have loved to get to know him better.
That experience was such a dramatic contrast between respect and disrespect from two young men. It reminded me of lessons we tried to teach and model to our own kids when they were young. The first scene, was driving home late from a new year's eve party at a friend's house. Our Suburban was loaded with our kids and their friends. They had broken rules that night, were way too wild, and had been really mean to their little brother. They were in big trouble, and they knew it!
As we discussed the situation, we passed a police officer on the freeway. My husband instinctively slowed a little. Then an idea came to him. He asked our kids, "what do you think of or feel like when you see a police officer?"
There was silence. Nothing. They had no fear, healthy or otherwise, of this government official. In the 80's and 90's, everyone pretty much went by first names. So, my husband began there. The very next day, our kids were required to call the adults who they knew by a title. Mr, Mrs, Miss, Pastor...
This small exercise of respect carried with it nearly instant results and a lasting change in our kids' attitudes toward authority. And, it influenced many of their friends as well.
Then a second memory came to mind, of a time I had taken my daughter to her harp lessons. It was in an area of town with many small businesses in cute and quaint old houses. Her brothers and their friends tagged along, and brought their skateboards to ride while they waited for her lesson. I was sitting outside, when the boys ran up to me holding their skateboards. They were clearly upset, as a shop owner had given them the riot act about being hoodlums and up to no good. They were hurt and offended he had thrown them into a stereotypical group they didn't feel they belonged in. As they grumbled to me, an idea came to mind.
"Prove him wrong!" I told them.
"What?" they were totally bewildered.
So, I explained. "Go back and apologize. Tell him you didn't know you were breaking any rules and upsetting him. Ask him where you could skate. Show him that all teenage skateboarders are not disrespectful or rude! Prove him wrong!"
I bet the storeowner was shocked when those respectful, skateboarder dudes went back to apologize. And, I hope they learned a valuable lesson, that they could be different. As well as, the truth that they didn't have to be labeled troublemakers and rule breakers.
The Urban Dictionary defines respect like this: It means valuing each others points of view. It means being open to being wrong. It means accepting people as they are. It means not dumping on someone because you're having a bad day. It means being polite and kind always, because being kind to people is not negotiable. It means not dissing people because they're different to you. It means not gossiping about people or spreading lies.
Sadly, an anonymous urban dictionary commenter adds: A quality seriously lacking in today's society.
We can find so much in God's Word about honoring and respecting others, including those in authority. The first passage that came to mind for me was 1 Peter 2:13-17, For the Lord's sake, submit to all human authority---whether to the king as head of state, or the officials He has appointed. For the king has sent them to punish those who do wrong and to honor those who do right. It's God's will that your honorable lives should silence those ignorant people who make foolish accusations against you. For you are free, yet you are God's slaves, so don't use your freedom as an excuse to do evil. Respect everyone. And love the family of believers. Fear God, and respect the king.
Ironically, in my daily reading, I "stumbled upon" the end of 2 Kings 2. There, Elisha the prophet is being jeered at by a large group of teenage boys, who call to him, "Get out of here baldy."
Elisha is not amused and calls down a curse upon them, and they are mauled by two bears. To be honest, I'm not sure what to do with stories like that one, except to shudder!
Then, I also remembered the story of the boy Jesus. In an old blog post I wrote about the lesson I learned, when my children were teenagers, about the natural tension with young people, which can look like disrespect. It happens when young men and women began to sense God has a call on their lives and a purpose for them greater than their nucleus family. We see it in the life of Jesus when he is twelve years old, as he stays back from the family caravan to talk with the elders in the temple. His parents were very upset, and he was genuinely taken back why they couldn't understand his need to be about His Father's business. Still, he returned home with them with respect and submission.
Dear readers, this is a long post, but I really believe it is crucial that we continue to pray for, model to, and teach our young people about God's heart for and the benefits for us all of honoring and respecting one another. Blessings and respect to you all! Cathy