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Respect, The Lost Virtue

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Allow me to introduce this next article. 

We recently rediscovered this timeless gem in our archives. “Respect: The Lost Virtue” first appeared in the pages of the Remnant exactly 20 years ago. While we do not know the original author, the content of what he or she had to say is more important today than ever.

We chose to replace the opening comments in the original article with our own to set the stage and bring it from September 2003 up to September 2023. The main reason? The world has vastly changed, and not for the better. The meat of the article we have left intact.

Those born in 2003 or thereafter know nothing of 9/11, its aftermath, and the war on terror. In 2003, the U.S. launched its newly formed Department of Homeland Security. The events of that fateful September day in 2001 changed America. People had a newfound sense of patriotism and respect: respect for men in uniform, respect for those holding office in our government, and respect for our nation. They had respect for the American flag and what it stood for. The Pledge of Allegiance was frequently recited in public gatherings. Everyone stood at attention with hats off and their right hands over their hearts as we sang our national anthem. 

We saw our nation brought together as never before. Members of Congress stood on the steps of our nation’s Capitol and sang “God Bless America.” Both sides of the aisle regarded the other with dignity and respect. From our factories to our places of worship, people came together and cared for one another.

But something else was beginning to slowly take root. Technology was making advances at an increasing speed. Especially in how we communicate.

In the early 2000s flip phones and BlackBerry smartphones became popular. Email was quickly replacing the U.S. Postal Service, and texting became the new preferred method of communication. Also, in 2003 a new social media website launched called MySpace. Social media platforms began springing up in the early 2000s, rapidly gaining popularity and followers. MySpace competed head-to-head with another young company named Facebook. As a result, the generations coming of age since then are more connected than ever.

However, as technology grew and our dependence on its conveniences, it was not without a heavy cost. The ease of being able to quickly communicate thoughts to someone miles away without any kind of pause or reflection on their consequences has had a corrosive effect on society. Yet, while digital communication has become the norm and is so very easy to do, much translation is lost without the aid of speaking face-to-face. Additionally, all of this has made our society more callous, blunt, crass, etc., and less kind. Respect today is at an all-time low.

So, with our introductory remarks, we present the following: “Respect: The Lost Virtue.”

MANNERS

Manners are simply our conduct and behavior. Manners involve actions, whereas respect is an attitude of the heart. We cannot have respect without a natural form of good manners. What is in our hearts will be shown in our manners, just as a tree is known by the fruit it bears. Jesus said in Matthew 12:33, “Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt; for the tree is known by his fruit.” Verse 35, “A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.”

If we desire to keep the seed of rebellion out of our hearts, then we should guard our manners or our actions. The little words of “please” and “thank you” are very important, especially in the life of a child. Teaching them the reason to say, “excuse me” and not interrupt will build good things in their hearts so that the seeds of respect can grow. The simple acts of sharing and allowing another to choose first or to be first, teach children consideration for others. Not planting the seeds of respect in a child’s mind and heart only allows them to grow to believe that the world revolves around them and their desires. It will produce a selfish adult that will care little about other people.

RESPECT FOR OTHERS

We must teach our youth to consider others, and the best way to teach them is to set the example before them in our own lives. Romans 12:9 teaches us to, “Let love be without dissimulation….” Dissimulation is false pretense or hypocrisy. Some can have an outward show of good manners, but have little or no respect in their hearts. Verses 9-11 continues, “Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another; not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord.” To prefer one another means to take the lead in showing deference one to another. Deference is showing a yielding or submission of judgment to the opinion or judgment of another.

There is a prevalent spirit today centered on “rights.” If we are not careful, that spirit can affect us. Can we take the lead in yielding to another, or are we ones who will stand up for our “rights” down to the end? This yielding has nothing to do with compromising Bible doctrine, but has everything to do with honor, respect, and humility; for preferring one another is Bible doctrine. When opinions clash, as they will, can we take the situation to God in prayer, asking Him to work out His will in the matter? Can we listen and consider the opinion of another, or do we always feel that our opinion is the right one? Proverbs 21:2 warns us that “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes….” Respect is important even for our own soul’s safety. Good manners alone will not produce this kind of fruit, but this fruit will come from a respectful heart.

Do our manners show a regard to the property of others? “Not slothful in business” encompasses many things. If we borrow a book or tool from another person and it becomes damaged, do we just return it in that form, or do we replace what we have damaged? Do we have the respect in our hearts that enables us to prefer the property of the one from whom we have borrowed? Or does our heart lean towards the selfish side, and we just shrug our shoulders and say, “Oh, it was an accident? I do not have the money to replace it, and that is why I borrowed it.” Being kindly affectioned, preferring one another, and not being slothful in business are all fruits of a respectful heart. What would your manner be toward one who had “borrowed and broken”? Maybe they really do not have the money to replace it; could you still have a respectful attitude toward that one? Could you prefer your brethren in this case?

Do we respect the privacy of others, or do we allow our curiosity to lead us to the point of gossip? Many troubled hearts have been only more deeply hurt because another person did not show enough respect for them to mind their own business. A nosy person does not have consideration for others. Some people seem to thrive on how much information they can gather about another’s circumstances. Possibly, they do not repeat the matter, but they have satisfied their own curiosity and selfish desires. This is not respectful, nor does it prefer one another.

How is our attitude toward the handicapped, the aged, or even the poor among us? Do we look down upon them as being a nuisance to society, or do we honor them? Have we considered that if it were not for the mercy of God, our situation in life could be as theirs? Unless God calls us home, each one of us will be among the aged. When it is our turn, will we wish that we had been more obedient to the Golden Rule of doing unto others as we would have them do unto us? Do we ridicule, even in our minds, those whose lot in life is less fortunate than ours? We need to be careful, for “whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” Galatians 6:7.

We live in an age where people feel that they have the right to do anything they desire. Their desires show even in the apparel they wear. Some businesses have posted a slogan, “No shirt, no shoes… no service!” Why has this slogan become necessary? It is because people have lost respect for others. Their thinking has become so twisted that they do not even see why they should dress in an appropriate manner. They think that if it feels good, they should be allowed to do it, and it all comes from a selfish heart.

Some people have little respect for our courts of law. We have been told that young people show up in court in T-shirts and jeans, and our judges immediately recognize the lack of respect in the life of that young person due to the way they are dressed. Possibly the court appearance is over a speeding violation, which could be considered a minor thing. But the lesser degree of offence should not lessen our degree of respect for the authority that the court represents.

RESPECT FOR AUTHORITY

Since the beginning of time, has there been a more widespread, overall lack of respect for authority? We live in perilous times! Lawlessness abounds and the spirit of “you-are-not-telling-me-what-to-do” is extremely prevalent in our day. Teachers have a difficult time in our schools because children know that the teachers are allowed to do little to them in form of discipline. One reason for this lack of respect for authority is the lack of strong leadership in those who are in authority. Our laws are lax; parents are too busy with their own lives to take the time to control their children. It is easier to say no than it is to enforce no, thus giving children and teenagers the opportunity to manipulate their parents and teachers. They know that no judgment is going to fall. All of this works to destroy respect and breed rebellion.

This same spirit would like to work upon the people of God, tempting them to lose the proper respect for God, His ministry, and even the house of God. As parents, do we allow our children to disrespect the house of God by running, leaving their papers for another to clean up, eating candy, chewing gum, and just a general lack of proper behavior? By allowing these things in our children, we are doing them an injustice where instilling respect in their hearts is concerned. Do we question the authority of our pastor, a teacher, or another saint who has been placed in charge of a particular work in the congregation? We must check our own hearts because our children see what we do and hear what we say. Are we breeding respect or rebellion?

In Matthew 7:28-29 we read that people were astonished at Jesus’ doctrine, “For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” The authority that God places upon His ministry is a divine authority, worthy and deserving of our respect. The scribes were hypocritical, and the people did not respect their teachings, but they noticed the difference in Jesus. He did not teach with fair speeches and sweet words, but with the authority of God. We hear the ministry today preaching strong and close, with the authority of God. We need to thank God for this, for it enables us to maintain the proper respect that we need towards the authority of God.

Each of us has another in authority over us. It might be children submitting to parents or teachers, wives submitting to husbands, parents submitting to pastors, employees submitting to their employer, employers submitting to owners of companies, citizens submitting to laws, and greatest of all, mankind submitting to God. It is God’s divine plan that we respect the authority that is over us. Without the proper respect, submission is difficult.

The second chapter of 1 Peter has good instruction for us. Verses 13-16 teaches us to “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God.”

We live in a time where talks of “freedom” ring. As Americans, we love our freedom, and as saints, we love our freedom to worship and serve God. But some have misinterpreted “freedom” as doing anything they want; this does not breed respect. We are not to use our spiritual liberties as an excuse or cloke to do anything we want or what we think God wants—especially when that want brings strife in the congregation. Do we use our “spiritual liberties” to disregard the authority another saint may have over us, especially when we think it should be another way? What is your attitude toward another brother or sister who has been placed in charge of an area that you think you have more experience or knowledge in? Do you try to take the authority from them by telling them how to do it, or do you yield to their desires? In honor, do you prefer one another? When we have respect for authority in our hearts, we can follow the instruction in 1 Peter 5:5, “Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.” By having the proper respect for each other, we have the proper respect for our pastor and for God.

RESPECT FOR GOD

Above all else, we must have respect for God, for it is this respect that enables us to have the proper respect in all other areas of our life. “0 Lord, thou art my God; I will exhalt thee, I will praise thy name; for thou hast done wonderful things; thy counsels of old are faithfulness and truth” (Isaiah 25:1). Do we exalt God and give honor to Him? Do we recognize Him as the Creator? Do we acknowledge God’s control of the universe? Do we see His faithfulness and truth, or are we determined to go our own way?

Multitudes today give no honor or recognition to God. This lack of respect for the Divine has brought on the perilous times in which we live. People believe they are self-made men and women, and they have everything under control. The humanistic teaching that there are no rights or wrongs, no absolutes, have left the world with no standard by which to weigh their actions. We see more and more where the world wants to rid themselves of even the very mention of God. Things that once gave honor to Him are under attack today: our Pledge of Allegiance, our money, our national motto and some of our state’s mottos, and the very mention of God in our public schools and offices are all under the attack by Satan.

How much more should we, the people of God, lift up our praise and honor unto Him for the wonderful things He has done in our lives. Thank God, we still have the Bible to set up a standard for us to weigh our actions by! Let us respect and honor the things of God so others, the unbelieving, may see. 1 Peter 2:15, “For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.”

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