I’ve heard people say, “If you want my respect, you must treat me with respect.” It seems to be a popular philosophy for making sense of relationships. I’ve even heard one person say that this is the Golden Rule. Actually, it’s the opposite. If the Golden Rule were put in terms of respect it would be, “I will respect you because I want you to respect me.”
But this verse goes further. It requires me to respect everyone, regardless of how they treat me or how I want to be treated.
Respect everyone I encounter:
NO MATTER how they treat me
NO MATTER whether I know them
NO MATTER whether they are Christians
NO MATTER what kind of lifestyle they’re leading
To respect, according to Merriam Webster, is to give someone high or special regard. That means I should treat everyone as if they were special. I should recognize their worth as creations of God. I should accept them and be courteous toward them.
Respect is the starting point. My attitude should be nothing less than respect for everyone.
But God requires something more toward my Christian family. He wants me love all Christians because they are my brothers and sisters. The family gets respect and love.
And then there’s my attitude toward God. He wants me to fear Him. If respect is the starting point, and love is the next step, then God gets both of those. But I should also stand before Him in awe at His mighty power. Like Job, I should put my hand over my mouth when He speaks and tremble in His presence like Isaiah did.
Then the verse circles back to respect. Even though we’ve been told to respect everyone, it specifically tells us to respect the king. The king represents the governmental authorities. Specifically, I should respect the president, congressman and other elected officials. But I think God wants me to respect government in general. I should give authority high regard. God has instituted government for our good and no matter how much I disagree with the decisions of lawmakers, I should speak about them respectfully and recognize God’s sovereignty behind them.
This verse covers all areas of my life: Social, familial, spiritual and political. I should respect everyone I encounter in all these areas.
God simply doesn’t give me any excuse for picking and choosing who I will respect or for waiting for someone to deserve it.