Usually, when the Bible uses respect, especially when it is talking about the relationships between human beings, it means to favor one over the other. In this article, we are not using it in that manner. Instead, by respect we mean “to value or esteem, to show courtesy or politeness.” We mean to “treat with the dignity that one is deserving.” In this world today, there is very little respect for God, for one’s fellows, or even for one’s self.
Respect for God is a vanishing thing. Man goes his merry way devoid of the attitude toward God expressed by the Psalmist who wrote, “Oh that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes! Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all thy commandments” (Psa. 119:5-6). Many people today either deny God altogether, disregard His statutes, or try to keep reverence for God and His laws a secret. We live in a society where too often it is what the majority of men, or what the squeaky wheel seeks that is judged to be the right thing. Many have either forgotten or do not believe that every one of us will give an account of himself to God (Rom. 14:12). Among those who pay lip service to the judgment there seems to be the attitude of, “God, I am true to what I believe is right, and that shall be the basis for my judgment, not what You say.” Not so, Jesus informs us that the Word He has spoken will be that which shall judge us in the last day (John 12:48). Respect for God requires respect for His Word. That is too often, a vanishing thing.
There is a vanishing respect between people. Courtesy is all but gone. Politeness is a thing quickly becoming something from the past. To lie or cheat someone else seems to be an acceptable thing so long as those are done for one’s own presupposed benefit. By inspiration the apostle Paul wrote,
For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself (Rom. 13:9).
This is the thought behind his message to the church at Philippi, “Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others” (Phi. 2:4). It used to be common for us to say or hear that we live in a “me first,” society. That is rapidly deteriorating even more to a, “me only,” society. Respect for other people is a vanishing thing.
No one should be surprised that there is a diminishing respect for one’s fellow men. Self-respect is a vanishing commodity also. How will one respect others if he does not have respect for himself? More and more, people demonstrate a lack of respect for their own bodies. We now live in a paint up and puncture yourself world. Apparently, those who engage in such activities believe they look cool. No, they are not only making a spectacle out of themselves, which thing immediately conflicts with the New Testament requirement of modesty. They are manifesting a lack of self-respect. The majority of the world obviously believes this behavior is no big deal, and dare we say it is being more and more acceptable among the people of God. Self-respect is not demonstrated by disfiguring one’s self, or by the putting on of apparel, plaiting of the hair, nor the wearing of gold, but by a chaste life coupled with fear (1 Pet. 3:2-3). Many are ignorant of two things: first is that immodesty is that which draws undue attention to themselves, and, second, they are ignorant of just what it is that draws that undue attention to themselves. That is true whether it be in apparel, adornment or disfigurement of their bodies. Self-respect, like the vanishing respect for God and our fellow men is rapidly disappearing.
Our Lord needs for His people to be an example to others for that which is good. To be that example we must let our lights shine. However, the light cannot shine if we allow it to go out so all that is left to manifest is the darkness which is in the world already.