I recently did a very informal social media poll asking what are the values you see disappearing in our culture today. The overwhelming majority of responses included the word RESPECT. Merriam-Webster defines RESPECT as worthy of high regard, or to esteem.
I’m not surprised by this response. I see a growing lack of basic respect and civility in our culture, but am troubled because it seems this is also increasing among those of us who claim to follow Jesus. We are to honor and respect all people because they are made in the image of God and because they are people for whom Jesus died. We can and should show respect and be civil to people, including those we disagree with. As followers of Jesus we can do this because God gives us the power and ability to do so (Ephesians 1:19-20, 2 Peter 1:3-4).
I believe far too many of us who follow Jesus are basing our identity on something other than Jesus. Instead of clothing ourselves with Christ and basing our identity in Him (Gal. 3:27-28) we align more with a political party, race, gender, socio-economic group or personal orientation. As a result, we fail to surrender to Jesus first and ignore the commands central to our faith that should permeate our lives; love God and love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:34-40). I understand that none of do this with perfection, but it should be the central trait and direction of our lives.
And for some of us who claim to follow Jesus, we may need to follow the admonition of the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 13:5 where he said: “Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine…” I believe there are several tests of genuine faith found in the First Epistle of the Apostle John (1 John). One of those I read this morning in 1 John 2:7-11 where John wrote:
“7 Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard. 8 At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. 9 Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. 10 Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. 11 But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.”