Dear brothers and sisters, honor those who are your leaders in the Lord’s work. They work hard among you and give you spiritual guidance. Show them great respect and wholehearted love because of their work. And live peacefully with each other.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13

On an episode of M*A*S*H 4077, Hawkeye Pierce asked Margaret Houlihan, “What do you want from me?” Margaret Houlihan responded, “Respect. Simple respect. I’ll expect nothing more and I’ll accept nothing less.”

Even though we have the freedom to set our own priorities, Jesus made a point of defining certain ones of them for us: “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37-39). Love is not a gray area in the Scriptures. Jesus gave love priority over all other Christian virtues. Every thought, response, and act of goodwill must first pass through the fine filter of love, or it means nothing at all. Respect is a byproduct of love.   

How do we define respect? Respect is giving due value, esteem or worth to another person.  “Then he returned to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. And his mother stored all these things in her heart.” (Luke 2:51)  Respect is having and showing proper regard for the other person. “You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.” (Matthew 7:9-11) And respect can be both inherent and, in some ways, earned over time.

Respecting the respectable is fairly easy. But one of the difficult lessons to learn in life is that we are sometimes disappointed by those whom we have come to respect. In times like these, we remember that the honor we give others, even the undeserving, is a reflection of the love we have for God. Ephesians 6:5-7 says, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ. Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you. As slaves of Christ, do the will of God with all your heart. Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.”

As Christians, we respect and value people. God values people so much that He gave His only Son, Jesus Christ, to us. Because all people matter to God, they all should matter to us. Because we value people, the needs, concerns and issues which are important to people are important to us.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How do you define respect? How do you define disrespect?
  2. There’s an old saying that claims, “Respect has to be earned.” Do you agree or disagree and why?
  3. What are some of the benefits of showing respect to others?
  4. What can we do to teach our children to respect others this week?