“Let love be genuine, hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor …Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them …Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as depends on you, live peaceably with all.” (Romans 12:9, 14, 16-18)
The opening session of this year’s Global Leadership Summit featured a presentation by Bill Hybels, the founding pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in the Chicago area. One of Bill’s topics was “The Challenge of Leading in an Era of Divisiveness and Disrespect.” He pointed out that our lives have become places of increasing racial, ethnic, and religious divide. We live in a time that seems to be marked with increasing disrespect for women, widening gaps between the rich and the poor, and social media threatening to drown us in cesspools of vitriol. There is a growing epidemic of disrespect. Civility is at an all-time low.
While Bill Hybels’ talk was aimed at organizational leaders, it applies to us as followers of the risen Christ as well. The solution must begin with us…with me. How we choose to behave…how I choose to behave matters. We must set the example of how to differ with others without demonizing them. We must set the example of how to have spirited conversations without “drawing blood.” We must be courteous in word and deed to everyone at every level.
Respect everyone always. Every human being is made in the image of God and has intrinsic value. We don’t get to choose who we respect.
The Romans passage above is about love, and is closely tied to respect. John Wesley’s general rules, paraphrased as “Do no harm. Do good. Stay in love with God,” are ways to help us practice love and respect in our lives. For Wesley, faith and works go hand in hand. Our love for God is demonstrated in how we treat those created in God’s image.
When was the last time you reflected deeply on your own convictions regarding respect? Someone is looking to you as an example.