The National Anthem at an NFL game has become a divisive moment. Some players kneel in protest of racial inequality and police brutality. Others stand as an act of patriotism and respect for flag, military, and country.
There has been a strong outlash to these protests. Some see it as an act of disrespect and have quit watching football. Others see it as freedom of speech and respect their decision.
This issue was not the point of a recent sermon. I tried to try to sift through all the emotions of the issues to discover what is behind the keeling and the standing? What is causing so much anger on both sides? Is it the flag? Is it the country? Is it the President? I don’t think it is any of these. It is respect.
Regardless of whether you kneel or stand, agree or disagree, the foundational issue is that there is a lot of disrespect going on.
What is respect?
According to Websters dictionary, respect means “high or special regard; the quality or state of being esteemed.” Synonyms for respect are: esteem, admiration, politeness, courtesy, value, dignity, honor.
Every person has value and should be respected. The Bible speaks of value, not in terms of what we have done or will do, but because God created us. Every person has value because they were created in the image of God.
It is because of this that we are to respect others, especially leaders. Leaders are easier targets to dishonor. According to Dale Carnegie, most criticisms are rooted in envy. There is something about a leader we wish we had – money, power, personality, possessions, position. To disrespect others pulls them down and makes us feel better about ourselves. Criticism is actually a back-handed compliment.
But we live in a rude world. Common courtesy isn’t so common any more. This is not to be the pattern of those who follow Jesus. We are to show respect.
Who are we to respect?
In the Bible, the term that is most used for respect is “honor.” We find several people to whom we are to show honor.
God – “…all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father.” (John 5:23)
Parents – “Honour thy father and thy mother…” (Ex. 20:12)
Government leaders – “…Honor the king.” (1 Peter 2:17)
Church Leaders – “…know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake…” (1 Thess. 5:12-13)
Other Christians – “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another.” (Romans 12:10)
Everybody – “Honor all men…” (1 Peter 2:17); “…but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves”. (Phil. 2:3)
Lessons about respect (1 Samuel 26:7-11)
It’s easy to teach about respect when you have people that are easy to respect. But how do you honor dishonorable people? Does God expect us to respect the ungodly as much as the godly? To answer this I want to find an example in the Old Testament. In 1 Samuel 26:7-11 we find a story of David and Saul.
Saul was king of Israel. Saul was God’s anointed king, but he had disappointed and disobeyed God to the point that God had David anointed to be the next king. Saul was angry jealous and tried to kill David. So David ran for his life. But one day David found himself in a field standing over a sleeping Saul.
David refused to take advantage of this opportunity to kill Saul. He said, “The Lord forbid that I should stretch forth my hand against the Lord’s anointed.” There are some valuable lessons we can learn from this story.
1 – Your best actions will receive the worst attacks.
David was just trying to be the best he could be. He was a loyal servant, a successful soldier, didn’t want to do anything to hurt Saul. But Saul had it out for him. You need to know that people are going to be cruel and rude. They will attach selfish motives to your best actions. And then they’ll tell others and try to hurt you. If they can’t hurt you, they will try to hurt those you love. That’s just part of a sinful world. You can expect it. If they did it to the perfect Son of God, they will do it to you.
But you also need to check yourself. You are not immune to a critical spirit. Oh, you might think you have a right assessment of a person or situation. But you don’t know all the facts. You don’t know a person’s heart. You don’t know God’s will. The best thing you can do is when you feel like “stretching out your hand (or your voice)” against the other, stop.
2 – It is never right to do wrong to do right.
It is human nature to rationalize our wrong behavior. But there is never a right way to do a wrong thing. Murder is wrong. And David had no godly reason to take another life.
This doesn’t mean that we are to ignore sin and sit back and allow evil leaders to do wickedness. You’ll find later in the story that David took Saul’s water bottle, went on the next hill, and announced to Saul how close he was to death. David challenged Saul to recognize his wrong.
It is easy to get ahead of God’s timing and purpose. Impatience is a great enemy of those who want to do good. Trust God and leave the timing and outcome in His hands.
David felt some pressure from his friend to kill Saul. To Abishai, the circumstances proved God wanted Saul killed and he was willing to do it. But David refused. It is never right to do wrong to do right.
3 – When you honor others, you honor God. When you honor God, God honors you.
It wasn’t because of Saul that David refused to act. It was because of God. Saul was God’s anointed. As sinful and rebellious as Saul was, David recognized the sovereignty of God. People may not deserve respect. But we don’t respect because people deserve it. We respect because God commands it.
We can’t always determine what happens to us, but we can determine how we respond. And though we can determine our response and choices, we don’t get to determine the consequences of those responses. So what happened to David He became a man after God’s own heart and the greatest king of Israel. God honored David. He became the ancestor of Jesus Christ. If you want God to honor you, you need to honor others.
Do you have any response about respect in our society? Love to hear from you.