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Civility and Respect

August 24th, 2012

“Don’t let anyone look down on you, but set an example . .” 1 Timothy 4:12 NIV

Civility is the right choice; respect is the result.

My thoughts and comments today are about “civility and respect.”

Commerce, community, friendships, and family all do best in the climate of mutual respect. As multiple Grammy Awards winner, Aretha Franklin, so notably sang, All I’m askin’ is for a little respect, R-e-s-p-e-c-t; find out what it means to me.” The Bible commands all of us to, “Show proper respect to everyone: love the brotherhood of believers, [reverence] God, honor the king . . Give respect and honor to all to whom it is due.” 1 Peter 2:17 NIV/Rom 13:7 NLT. Being respectful of others is the surest way to be respected by others. The Psalmist seemed filled with wonder as he considered, “Though the LORD is on high, yet He regards the lowly.” Psalm 138:6 NKJV. What an example.

But first, there is another side to this discussion. Wherever respect is lacking disrespect fills the void. That seems to have become a pervading attitude at every level of culture and society, and we are not the better for that. It seems increasingly common to hold little of anything or anyone in regard. Personal rights disrespect selfless concern for the common good.  Personal whim disrespects traditions, however long-standing and valuable. Respectful discourse is replaced with coarse language, more suited for the street than the home.

Every individual is either part of the problem, or part of a solution. Disrespect is at the root of any attitude or action evidencing an opinion that diminishes another person’s worth or importance. Such opinions are born from prejudice about things such as age, gender, nationality, education, or social standing. External and unchangeable differences should not necessitate disrespect.

Any person wants respect; every person deserves some respect. I think this begins with honest civility. Civility is the right choice; respect is the result. “This should be your ambition: to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we commanded you before. As a result, people who are not Christians will respect the way you live . .” 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 NLT. Your goal should be that your life in very practical, everyday ways is worthy of others’ respect. Respect cannot be demanded; it can be generously extended.

It is not length of years, but rather depth of character that commands others’ respect. Paul’s advice to young Timothy was, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young [or old, rich or poor, educated or uneducated, native or immigrant, man or woman] but set an example . .  in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12 NIV. I might paraphrase Paul’s words in this way: people will not look down on those who always give others reasons to look up to them. Our nation, politicians, communities, churches, marriages, families, and individuals need a revival of gracious civility and Godly respect. Let that begin today with you.

My prayer for you today is that you will live respectfully in a manner that honors God.

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