It’s time to talk about Respect, our focus last week for the first step in loving others.
We hope you’ve gathered a sister or two to join you. Don’t forget your Bible, your journal and pen.
Let’s begin by looking at the CS Lewis quote depicting the basis of our respect for others.
It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.
─CS Lewis, The Weight of Glory
What do you hear him saying in this passage?
Do you agree or disagree with him?
There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.
My mom’s childhood was something most would consider horrific. At the age of nine she came home after church to find her house surrounded by police and the news her stepfather killed her mother. As her mother was lowered in the ground her biological father left her and her older sister standing there with nowhere to go, no one to take care of them. She bounced around a bit until she and her sister settled with their paternal grandparents for the rest of her upbringing.
I don’t remember much about my mom’s father. Memories so faded I’m not sure what he looked like. I do know he was addicted to alcohol and prescription drugs. When I was young, his addiction caused his death.
My mom had every reason to be disrespectful of her parents and the choices they made. They deserved everything she could have thrown at them. Anger. Bitterness. Disrespect. But not once, as long as I can remember, did she say one negative word, make one disrespectful comment. The stories she shares aren’t laced with disdain or filled with contempt. Her love for the parents who gave her life is evident in the way she has always revealed her respect for them.
My mom’s respect for her parents paved the way for me to respect others too.
Inside our failing flesh, we all carry around a life force, our soul, which God breathed into us at creation. This life force will live out eternity in either one of two places: heaven or hell. Respecting people as created by God and in His image for eternity, should help us to see them in a new light.
He loves all He created, so much He came to die for us. This is where we began our week in Respect:
Everyone is Someone for Whom Christ Died:
We started off by seeing ourselves with respect to others when it comes to sin. We were all in the same state (Ephesians 2:1-3). Dead in our sins, led by the spirit at work in those who are disobedient, living solely for ourselves, all children of wrath. Not one of us was any different than all the rest. Until…
Read Ephesians 2:4-10
What does God want to show about Himself through us? What should our redeemed lives reveal?
Through our saved lives we are to be revelations of His grace and kindness toward us in Christ.
What kind of revelation are you for God’s grace and kindness? Do you reflect His mercy and love toward others? or judgment?
Our culture’s understanding of respect is not the way of love. The world teaches we must earn respect. If we don’t deserve it, we don’t get it. This is not God’s way.
When we recognize our sinful nature. Humbly accept we were once in the same sinful place, didn’t do one thing to earn God’s respect, then we are moved to love and respect others the same way. God’s love is not conditional. We are called to love others in the same way He loves us.
Once we respect others as worthy in God’s eyes, then we begin to respect their choices.
Respecting the Freedom to Choose:
Respecting others’ freedom to choose brought us face to face with God’s sovereignty on choosing when, how, and if, to reveal the truth about Jesus and giving the gift of grace to an individual.
Read Matthew 16:13-17
People believed many different things about Jesus’s identity. When Simon Peter got the right answer, Jesus said no one could reveal this to him except His Father who is in heaven. Only God reveals the truth about Jesus, faith, and salvation.
In Talk It Over you were asked whether you respected God’s judgment and timing in doling out faith. How did your talk go? Is it something you wrestle with?
As I read through Freedom to Choose and considered respecting God’s authority over gifting faith and salvation, I found myself wrestling. Struggling with His writing of my faith story.
There are still times I question why He left me where I was for so long. Why He allowed me to make terrible sinful choices. “Why didn’t You reveal truth to me earlier? I could be so much farther along on this journey. Been a better mom… wife… witness…”
Whenever these questions stir in my heart, I have to remind myself of His perfect timing. His purpose, even in my failures. His sovereignty in salvation.
Surprisingly, these questions continue to surface, and almost seem harder to deal with than the long season of waiting I’ve had for Him to open the eyes of those I love.
His sovereignty over grace and faith is the foundation of our choice to believe. It can be a hard thing to wrap our minds around, when it feels like we are making these choices in and of ourselves. But to begin to understand His ultimate role in the process, helps us offer grace to others when they make the choice to remain His enemy.
How does God call us to deal with our enemies?
He calls us to deal with our enemies the same way He deals with His enemies. Love them. Do good to them. Pray for them.
The reality is we only have one enemy, and he is not flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:11-12). It’s not the grumpy neighbor next door or the estranged husband. It’s not the gossip spreading lies about us or a political faction, nor the thief who stole our possessions. Our enemy is God’s only enemy and his name is Satan. Yes, the enemy may use others to attack us, but they are not our enemy. They are his unwitting weapons.
Those who fall for the enemy’s lies, end up causing all sorts of heartache and trouble. Respecting someone’s choices is not the same as agreeing with or commending their decisions. Respect is not acceptance.
Poor ungodly choices come with consequences. God gives us freedom to choose but we may not like what comes with the choices.
Jesus endured the sinful choices of His church which led to His unjust crucifixion. He trusted His Father with His life, with the choices of others, and His Father’s ability to use their choices for good and for His glory. His struggle to respect the choices of both His church and His Father are seen in the Garden of Gethsemane. Sweating blood as He surrendered: Your will be done (Luke 22:41-44). This is not an easy thing.
Do you respect others choices? Are you willing to suffer with someone else’s bad choices? endure the consequences along with them? trust Him to be all He says He is? Why or why not?
With the freedom to choose, inevitably comes the freedom to walk away. Another choice we have to respect in others.
Respecting the Freedom to Walk Away:
We read the story of Jesus and the rich young man who walked away from the path to eternal life and how Jesus loved him, yet did nothing to bring him back (Mark 10:17-27). We read about the disciples who walked away from Him because of His hard teaching (John 6:53-69). Again, Jesus just let them walk on.
Sorrow and confusion follow when people reject truth and walk away in unbelief. But unbelief and doubt are not the only reasons people walk away. Sometimes Believers walk away from one another.
Read Acts 15:36-41
What was the cause of the separation between Paul and Barnabas?
Sometimes Believers walk away from fellow Believers over a disagreement, even when they have served together in ministry a long time.
What was the outcome of Paul and Barnabas parting ways?
A disagreement over who to include on the next mission trip caused the division. Barnabas wanted to give a young immature Believer a second chance, Paul didn’t.
What was the outcome of their parting ways?
Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and departed, having been commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. And he went through Syria and Cilicia strengthening the churches.
Acts 15:39-41 ESV
In addition to new leaders being raised up and more churches strengthened in the same amount of time, Barnabas’s encouragement of John Mark led to his maturity as a Believer. John Mark eventually returned to serve alongside Paul (Colossians 4:10). He also wrote the gospel of Mark.
Not only must we respect the choices of unbelief, we must respect the passion of each member in the body of Christ when it comes to disagreements in ministry, even when it causes one to walk away.
God impassions us with different gifts. Paul was focused on strengthening churches. Barnabas on strengthening individual Believers. Both gifts are important and vital to the church as a whole. Sometimes, allowing fellow Believers to walk away because of a difference in focus actually builds the church. So, let them walk away and love them.
Talk It Out asked you to consider a walking away or walking out in your life. Reflect on the emotions, discern the root issues, then take it to God in prayer. What thoughts or revelations did you have during this time?
We spent hours together, birthed boys in the same season, and took family vacations together. She was one of my best friends. As she made choices in the wrong direction, I talked and prayed and counseled. I begged God to allow my words to help her choose another way. In the end, she chose to continue her path, and I watched her go.
It was hard and I grieved the loss of my friend and our relationship. I still do at times. I’m like the prodigal son’s father most days when I think of her. Watching, hoping, waiting for return. It’s been almost ten years. I still love her, still pray for her.
One of the hardest parts of this is my feeling of guilt. I have lamented my own poor decisions, my inability to change or help or save. And that’s the real issue, because I’m not the one who changes or heals or saves. God is, and I’ve found much freedom in this kind of respect.
Respecting our loved one’s choices to walk away is tough. It’s often tempting to wash our hands of the situation and give up. But God calls us to love in spite of the road others take. This love, the one which continues while they are following the wrong god, is our ultimate call. And it only happens because God loves them through us.
We could never conjure up the kind of love God calls us to, being respectful of others with their choices and the authority He’s given them to make those choices.
Respecting authority ultimately comes down to respecting God’s sovereignty in placing people in their positions of authority. Even establishing realms of authority, such as husbands over wives, parents over children, governing bodies over its citizens.
We are under God’s authority. Respecting the authority in our lives doesn’t make us slaves to them or their way. Nor does it mean we agree with their policies or the way they lead. It is one of the basic forms of obedience in our lives, a way in which we love God and others.
In every area of life, God is our authority.
How are you at seeing Him as your primary authority? at work? at home? at church? on vacation? how you spend your free time?
Jesus had some things to say about the attitude and life of those who serve Him.
Read Luke 12:35-40
What does He tell us to be like?
He says: Be like men waiting for their master to come home… What does this look like for a servant to be ready to serve his master when he comes home?
Dressed for work, lights on, ready to do for the master whatever he needs. Be ready to receive him.
Does the servant know when the master is coming home?
No. Masters aren’t accountable to their servants. Servants are accountable to their masters.
What does this look like for Believers waiting on Jesus to return? How are we to be ready?
What does this look like in your life?
Luke 12:35 in the ESV says, “Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning.” The original reads more like the NKJV: “Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning.” They wore long garments, which they cinched up with a belt at the waist to serve and work.
This is a picture making yourself ready for service. Keeping lights on so you can see. When He comes we don’t want to be caught in the dark with our pants down.
Spiritually speaking what does it mean to be dressed and ready to serve? to have the lights on? our lamps burning?
No matter the authority over us or the authority we have over others. We need to be prepared to serve God in and through all of it. Trusting His love for everyone.
Respecting God’s Unique Love:
The divine goal of God’s love often seems at odds with the goals we have for our lives and the lives of our children and loved ones. We long for those we love to be happy, successful, with good jobs and good relationships. What He wants most for those He’s created, is for them to have a relationship with Him.
Many Christian parents lose sight of what’s most important for their children – an intimate relationship with God and an eternal future in His presence. They worry more about their earthly circumstances than their spiritual growth. A good education and the material possessions the world defines as success, often take priority. Some “help” parents give their children these days actually disables them. Rescuing them from every hardship can do more harm than good.
Are you willing to stand by and watch loved ones suffer in order to let God love them in His unique way? Have you?
Do you tend to rescue without seeking His guidance in a situation? How might that stunt their spiritual growth?
It isn’t easy to watch anyone struggle. Not the stranger weaving her way to another handout, or the mentally ill man wandering the streets, nor the teen mom working hard to love her child the way she was never loved. But if it’s necessary, even critical to the turning of a life to Love, well… then there just is no other way.
Jesus is the only way to know and love God, but there are thousands upon thousands of ways to come to know and love the Way.
On this earth, we may always struggle with God’s unique brand of love. We may never fully understand what He is up to, but He does invite us, call us, to love others His way. What if part of the purpose of suffering in the world is to give us opportunities to love others with compassion and mercy? What if our own sufferings are an opportunity for others to love us in sacrificial ways?
Jesus came to do just that. He loved perfectly. Some loved Him in return. Others did not. His church chose to nail Him to a cross. They missed their opportunity to love God in the flesh. The Father knew they would. But in His power and sovereignty, He saw it as an opportunity to love us right out of sin’s death grip.
What if that’s part of the purpose in suffering? Can we see suffering, injustice, oppression, abuse as an opportunity to love? An opportunity to follow Jesus, even when we get emotionally crucified?
Can we be an opportunity for others to love, when there’s no guarantee they will? Can we trust Him to use our suffering for something far beyond what we could imagine?
No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
1John 4:12 ESV
Our decision to love as He does, enables others to see Him. When we accept the suffering He allows in our lives as filtered through the hands of our loving Father who invites us into the work of Jesus, to give others an opportunity to love, our hearts are changed. We are moved to say: Your will be done… and Forgive them for they know not what they do. Solely because our love for Him leads us to let Him love others through us. Just like Jesus.
“…As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. …” –Jesus
John 15:9 ESV
Remember my mom’s story I shared? She once said, “It doesn’t matter what choices your parents made. Good or bad. No matter what, they are still your parents and you love them.”
Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to love children who are living in very difficult circumstances. There is a family I’ve spent a lot of time helping. When the children were young, my family picked them up for church and other activities. The oldest worked in the shop during the busy seasons. I developed a relationship with them and they shared many stories about their family situation.
It would have been easy to judge the adults in their lives. Easy to make assumptions and determine they were not good parents. There were times I thought about taking them home with me and offering something “better.” At least better from my point of view. But when I found myself falling into judgmental thought patterns, my mom’s words would float through my mind. I chose to respect the children’s parents with my words and actions.
The two oldest girls came for a visit last week. I listened and prompted them to share what’s going on in their lives. I asked about their family. Not much has changed. Still, as I listened, hope and joy filled my heart. I heard their goals to help each other go to college. I listened to the oldest share her heart in raising her own child differently. I saw God at work in their love for each other and their drive to live differently.
God knew what He was doing when He placed these girls in this family. His unique plan for them has worked in a way I could have never imagined or dared to hope for. If I had my way, every single child would be in a perfect God-following family. No child would endure hardship or poverty. There’s nothing unique about my way. Even if I had my way, children would still rebel, make wrong choices, and some would never come to Jesus. Because God knows what I don’t. He knows what it will take to bring every single child to a full knowledge of who He is and He places them there for that reason alone.
Lord, open our hearts to loving You more, so we might allow You to love others through us.
Have a great week.