These are unsettling times. Between political turmoil, racial unrest and other current events, most people are feeling overwhelmed, confused or anxious to some degree. In response, some people choose to lash out at others, leading to an increasingly toxic environment of disrespect. How should a follower of Christ navigate the difficult waters of showing respect to others? What is the biblical definition of respect?
Why Show Biblical Respect to Others?
The very first page of the Bible addresses this. Genesis 1:27 says, “So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (NRSV). Because all people are created in the image of God, they have intrinsic value and dignity. When we interact with people, we are to see them as image bearers of God. We engage with people - not just their ideas and opinions. We can disagree with ideas and opinions but still treat people as valuable. Indeed, all ideas and opinions are not equally valid, but all people are valuable.
Being dismissive, demeaning or disrespectful to people undermines their value and dignity. By listening and trying to understand others, we reflect the image of God who loves and hears all people, and we recognize the image of God in the person we are listening to.
What are Some Biblical Principles that Guide Us in How to Show Respect?
The principles of selflessness and humility can help guide us in difficult conversations. The New Testament tells us,
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others (Philippians 2:3-4, NIV).
Similarly, Romans 12:3 says, "For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you” (Romans 12:3).
It can be easy to think more highly of our own opinions than of the value of the human sitting next to us (or behind the other computer screen). However, the Bible emphasizes that people are of the utmost value and we are to look out for each other.
Jesus modeled this, demonstrating the ultimate example of the biblical definition of respect. He ate dinners with people who had been left behind by society. He washed dirty feet, the actual job of a servant. He died a criminal’s death on a cross to pay for our sin. He put us first. He did not adopt the beliefs of everyone he served, but he valued them and served them.
A Final Word About Biblical Respect
Following Jesus’ example of biblical respect, when we are conversing with people, we must remember there is a real person created in the image of God with value and dignity in the conversation with us. Be humble and selfless. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Listen to them. Maybe even give up the right to have the last word. In doing so, we recognize the image of God in our brothers or sisters.
Grand Canyon University has been training Christians in ministry since its inception. If you are interested in pursuing a career in ministry, GCU's College of Theology has many degree programs, including Bachelor of Arts in Christian Ministry and Bachelor of Arts in Christian Studies.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University.