Waren Webster, missionary to Pakistan, tells of his first attempt
to be friendly to the children who came to watch him as he tore a
crate apart to rebuild it as a desk. He said, "Hello," and they
frowned and ran. He felt disappointed, but later they came back
and he said it again, and again they took off like a shot. He was
puzzled, and later he asked and English speaking Palestinian what
was happening. He explained to him that in their language the
sound of hello meant scram, get out of here. In our culture it is a
friendly sound, but in that culture it is the sound of hostility and
Communication of love is often very complex in the world of
cross-cultural ministry. When Webster preached his first sermon to
the people they began to laugh and giggle, and he was preaching a
serious message on the feeding of the 5000. He had to ask again
what was going on, and he got another lesson on the fine points of
the language. There are two words very much alike. The word for
fish is kurady, and the word for lizard is kirady. When he told of
the lad who gave his lunch he said that he had 5 loaves and 2 lizards.
They were laughing first at what kind of a mother would pack such
a lunch. He said it was a sacrifice, but anybody would be glad to
give it away, and it was no wonder that there were 12 baskets left
over, for no one could imagine who would eat the stuff.
That slight difference in the sound of one word turned his serious
sermon into a stand-up comedy routine. It is a very humbling
experience to try and communicate across cultural barriers. You
wonder why anybody ever tries, but the reason is simple. They do
so because Jesus said go into all the world and preach the Gospel to
every creature. If Christians are to honor their Lord's final
command, they have no choice but to tackle the tough job of
cross-cultural communication. We also help pay for the very
expensive job of teaching missionaries the language of the people
where they are going to serve. It is all costly and time consuming,
but it is done because of respect for the command of Jesus.
To forsake the task of fulfilling the Great Commission would be
to dishonor our Lord and lose respect for His will. The theme of
honor revolves around Jesus in the New Testament. Paul, Peter,
and John used the word honor frequently as they exalt Jesus as the
one who was worthy of honor, glory, and power forever and ever. It
is the theme song of heaven that Jesus is worthy of honor. The
Greek word to describe the honor of Christ is time. It is the same
spelling as our word for time. This word translated honor 32 times
in the New Testament means the worth one ascribes to a person. In
I Tim. 2:7 where Peter, referring to Christ, says, "Now to you who
believe, this stone is precious." The Greek word for precious is time.
This word for honor can mean precious, for that is the value you
can place on a person. They can be precious to you, and if you
honor Christ He will be precious to you. This is a word you use to
describe someone you treasure. They are worthy of honor, praise,
and your highest respect, because you value them and esteem them
highly, and you long to dignify them with your devotion. It is no
wonder that such a powerful word is used most often for the honor
we are to give to Christ. But it is a wonder when the same word is
used to describe how we are to relate to one another within the
family. When Peter says in I Peter 3:7 that husbands are to treat
their wives with respect, that is the word time. It is the same word
used of the honor and respect we are to show Christ.
The very dignity you ascribe to your Lord you are to give to
your mate. This does not mean we worship our wives, but it means
we are to treasure them as one of our most precious gifts. We are to
treat them like we do a new car that we do not want to get scratched
or dented. They are of great value and we do not want to see them
damaged. We have paid a great price to possess the car, and so why
should we not long to preserve its value and beauty. Many a wife
would love to be treated with the respect her husband gives to his
new car. But instead, she often feels like a junker, for he does not
seem to care about keeping her feeling good about herself by
building her self-image, which he could do by ascribing to her the
worth she is to him.
We honor dignitaries and people of power, wealth, and
popularity, but the greatest responsibility we have is to honor the
people God has given to us to be our family. The family is a mini
kingdom with rulers and followers, and with power, rank, and
responsibility. In this kingdom all are to be honored and respected
for their role in the kingdom. If we can succeed in respecting each
member of this kingdom of the home, we will have succeeded as
kings and queens of an empire that may not be important to man,
but one of great importance to God.
In Ex. 20:12 God's command to children is that they honor their
father and mother. The honor and respect due to kings, and to God
himself, is also due to parents. Within the family of God each
member is to treat the other members with respect. Paul used this
same word time in Rom. 12:10: "Honor one another above
yourselves." We have not exhausted the study of this word, but one
thing is evident, and that is where Christ is present a high sense of
honor and respect will characterize all who are aware of his
presence. In other words, if we open our home to Christ and
become aware of His presence, we will be a people who develop a
greater respect for one another. We would not throw rocks through
a stained glass window, nor wipe our shoes on a communion table.
We respect these material things because they are connected with
Christ. How much more should be respect and treasure persons in
whom Christ dwells?
The ideal home is one where every member of the family is
treated like royalty with each esteeming the other higher than
themselves. This is an ideal, of course, and we are consistent of
falling short of it, but that is the way it will be in eternity where we
will be like Christ, and be able to truly show honor to whom honor
is due. The reason it is so hard to respect people we live with is
because we know them too well. We can easily show respect and
give honor to some foreign dignitary we don't know from Adam
because we don't know him from Adam. We don't know that he
snores at night; leaves his socks on the floor, and forgets to put the
cat out. Our ignorance is bliss, and so we honor the man even if his
wife is a nervous wreck because of his bad manners. Closeness and
familiarity do breed contempt because we know too much to honor
those whose flaws are so obvious to us.
The problem with this is that it can lead us to the power of
negative thinking where we miss out on God's best because of our
misconceptions. Jesus said that a prophet has no honor in his own
country. He could not do much in His home- town of Nazareth
because He was known. They refused to give a hometown boy the
honor He deserved, and the result was, they lost out on the wonder
of His miracles. We think the same about our family so often. We
know our mates and children too well, and so we deny them the
honor and respect they need. By so doing we lose the potential of
what they might be had they gotten the respect they needed in order
to be their best.
Instead of saying, "What good can come out of Nazareth," our
goal should be to be to reverse this natural pessimism and begin to
look at the members of our family like Jesus does. He sees each one
of us, not just for what we are, but for what we can be. Jesus does
not necessarily respect the actual, but He does respect the potential.
This is why He became our Savior. He did not die for us because we
were so good. It is yet while we were yet sinners that He died for us.
Jesus does not save anyone because of what they are, but because of
what they can be. He showed great respect for the harlot, the
Publican, and other sinners. He did them the honor of talking with
them, eating with them, and entering their homes. It was not
because He loved what they were, but because He loved what they
could become. Every sinner is a potential saint, and so He saved the
sinner for the sake of the saint.
In the presence of Christ this is how we will treat people if we
are aware of His presence. If we open our home to Christ, it means
we will treat each other in the home with honor and respect. This
does not mean we have to praise their flaws, and pretend they are
pleasant when they are rotten. Since all people tend to be selfish,
this is a major problem with all family members. Mother scolded,
"How many times have I told you to share your toys with your
brother?" The older brother replied, "I am doing it mom. I'm
using the sled going down hill, and he's using it going up." It's hard
to respect this kind of 50-50 sharing.
There are a lot of things hard to respect about children. One baby
sitter said to the late arriving parents, "Don't apologize. I
wouldn't be in any hurry to come home either." Bad behavior is
not what Jesus respected in anyone. Jesus never honored anyone for
their sin or folly. He did not respect any kind of behavior but
righteous behavior, but He did respect people who fell short of
righteousness. If you don't do this, there is no one left to respect.
Christ expects us to respect persons because it is by means of respect
that persons are motivated toward the potential that God has in
mind for them. People need to be respected to bring out the best
them, and this is especially true for the people in our family. Let's
consider for example-
I. RESPECT FOR CHILDREN.
Children are so often a nuisance and a distraction from adult
goals. This led even the disciples of Jesus to treat them without
respect. They tried to keep children from bothering the master. But
Jesus had a great respect for children, and He told them to stop it
and let the children come to Him. Jesus gave honor to children by
giving them access to His presence, and by using their childlike faith
as an example to adults. "You must become like a child to enter the
kingdom of heaven," said Jesus. We could argue that Jesus was
never married and never had to endure the trials of the terrible
two's, the traumatic teens, or the temperamental twenties, but the
fact is, Jesus helped His mother raise the other children after Joseph
died. He did experience the trials of parenting.
Jesus did not have it made, for there was resistance to His
authority. He did not have the respect He should have from His
family. The Gospels tell us that they thought He was going crazy
when He proclaimed Himself the Messiah. They did not believe Him
until after the resurrection. He knew what it was like to live with
children who saw life from a different perspective. Maybe He even
had a Dennis the Menace brother to raise. I found this Dennis the
Menace prayer that reveals just how different a perspective can be.
He prayed, "I got into a good fight with Tommy. Mrs. Wilson
chased me home again, and Margaret said she hates me. Thank you
Lord for another perfect day." Jesus was not blind to this side of
childhood, but He saw beyond the actual to the potential, and this
demanded that children be respected as persons of worth.
Modern studies reveal that the one factor that all successful and
stable adults have in common is a sense of self-esteem they
developed in childhood. Dr. Stanley Coopersmith of the University
of California did a study of 1,748 boys that ran for 6 years. He
found that social class, ethnic background, and outside environment
played only a minor role in building self-esteem. A child's attitude
toward himself is formed primarily within the home. As his parents
see him, so he will see himself. If we are aware of the presence of
Christ in our home, we will be conscious of the need to respect our
children, and do these things Jesus would do to build their
self-esteem. Dr. Coopersmith discovered these three things about
1. First of all love was expressed and felt. He writes, "It was a love
expressed in respect and concern for each child. When the child
feels he is respected and the object of parental pride, he sense he is a
person of significance."
2. Secondly, the parents do not pretend to be perfect, but share with
their children in the struggle of failure and guilt. They let the child
know they are loved even though they are sinners, and that
self-esteem need not be destroyed because they fail.
3. Thirdly, good parents help their teens believe they will make it as
adults. Teens fear the future, and they are full of self-doubt. This is
not the time to say that they will never amount to anything. That is
just what they fear. They need a family who has faith in them to
spur them on to fulfill their potential.
The key to a healthy family is respect. Each member of the
family must respect the worth of the others and seek to build that
worth rather than diminish it. If we are aware of the presence of
Christ in our home, we will not degrade our children and treat them
as worthless and insignificant. Parents need to work constantly in
making their children feel valuable as persons. This means listening
to them, and letting them have some say in decision making. It
means being sensitive to their feelings so that you do not condemned
them in front of their friends. Even disciple needs to be done in such
a way as to preserve their dignity and self-respect.
Parents need to make a conscious effort to try and see life from
their child's perspective. Children tend to be very literal minded,
and this leads to some strange communication. A small girl heard
that the neighbors had fired their cook, and for weeks she lived in
fear of them thinking they had set their poor cook on fire. A mother
told her boy to be sure to look up and down before he crossed the
street. He faithfully looked up to the sky and then down to the curb,
but out of a natural sense of self-preservation he also looked to the
right and to the left for cars. Parents sometimes think they are
communicating with their children, but it is just like cross-cultural
communications where what you think just is not so.
Respecting a child means seeking for feedback to know if what
you say is understood on their level. Don't take things for granted,
and don't assume they know the difference between things you mean
and things you don't. Parents do not realize they are conditioning
their children by their common expressions of frustration like:
"You never remember anything." "You always forget everything."
"You are such a klutz." Carelessness with our words can hurt a
child's self-esteem. If you open your home to Christ, one of the
evidences that you are growing in your awareness will be the
attitude of respect you develop for your children.
Believe it or not, this spirit of respect begins to effect the child
from the day of birth. Mothers and fathers relate to a child
differently, and they experience different things, or the same things
at different times. Mothers get nausea after a baby is conceived.
Fathers do not experience this until they change their first diaper.
There are a lot of differences, but one of the things that is the same is
that both parents are constantly communicating a sense of respect or
disrespect. Studies show that a baby receives many non-verbal
messages before it understands language. A baby can feel whether
or not the parent is holding it in love, out of duty, or with feelings of
resentment. They can feel if the holder enjoys their presence or not.
We are broadcasting feeling messages from day one.
Respecting a baby means to get your act together, forget your
frustrations and other problems, and concentrate on communicating
love to the baby. "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he." If you
are full of negative thoughts when you care for your baby, you are
conveying negative vibrations to the child. The second point we
want to focus on is really the first, but I want to close with it in order
to impress on our minds that it is the foundation for a happy home.
II. RESPECT FOR OUR MATES.
F. J. Sheed in his book Society And Sanity makes a profound
statement when he says, "In marriage reverence is more important
even than love...A steady awareness in each that the other has a
kinship with the eternal." In other words, even when you are not
feeling very loving toward your mate you are to respect them as
children of God. Loyalty to the royalty we have as children of the
King is possible in the presence of Christ. We do not always live as
children of the King, and so what we do is often not worthy of
respect, but we must be consistent in recognizing respect for a
person is not the same as condoning behavior, or approval of
attitudes. We need to develop the ability to reject negative behavior
and attitudes without rejecting the person behind them.
This is touchy business, and we will probably never get it down
pat in this life, but we must be ever working toward the goal of
giving our mates a sense of security about our respect for them. Our
security in Christ is based on the fact that we know He does not
reject us because of what He does not approve in our behavior and
attitudes. He is willing to forgive and respect us even when He
rejects what we do. Parents have to establish this same relationship
with children and with one another. The best partners are not those
who married the best people, but those who bring out the best in the
people they marry.
It scares me sometimes to think of what I would be like without
Lavonne. She did not know before she married me just how many
qualities I lack that make a man lovable to a woman. I was selfish
with workaholic tendencies, and had little interest in the virtues of
cleanliness, courtesy, and thoughtfulness. Had she dumped me
before she got me half-way civilized she would have missed out on
the pleasure of what she now has. But it was hard work. If there
are still some rough edges, which we know there are, my wife isn't
finished with me yet. What I am saying is, there is a cost involved in
showing respect. The price you have to pay to respect your mate is
the enduring of that less than their best as you seek to draw out their
best. This is a time consuming process, and frequent failure is the
norm, but this is what respect is all about.
Let's go back to that Greek word again, which is time. It has to
do with the value you put on a person. If you value a person and
treasure their worth you will pay a price for building a relationship
with them. This word for respect is also used to refer to the price or
value of something in the New Testament. You are bought with a
price. We still use honor in this way in one context. We pay an
honorarium to a guest speaker, and by this price we honor them by
saying that their service has been worthy of our respect, and so we
share this with you to show that we value you. To respect and honor
our mates means that we pay the price that is necessary to show
them that we treasure them, and that we consider them of value and
worthy of sacrifice.
Respect involves cost. To honor anyone you have to give them
something. If it cost you nothing to relate to another there is little
respect involved. The more you pay to relate to another, and the
more it cost you to please them, the more you honor them. This is
why courtship is such a time of romance. This is when all of one's
resources are channeled toward the building of your relationship.
Your time and money are consumed on one another. You feel
treasured and of great value to one another. After marriage your
resources need to go in many other directions, and this can lead to a
loss of the sense of your worth to each other. Mates need to work
hard at saving money and time so they can devote them solely to one
another just as they did in courtship. This is part of the whole idea
of respect and honor.
The cross is the perpetual symbol of just how greatly Christ
treasured His bride the church, and how great a price He was
willing to pay to purchase her and bring her to her full potential.
We need symbols in our relationship as mates also. Maybe it's some
special annual event or get away. Maybe its some weekly or
monthly outing, but we need to work at paying a price to honor our
mates. This is also the key element in respecting our children in
giving them the best. Many will argue with psychiatrist Justin S.
Green who wrote, "In my 25 years of practice, I have yet to see a
serious emotional problem in a child whose parents love each other
and whose love for the child was an outgrowth of their love for each
If you respect your mate, you are also respecting your Lord and your children.
This is supported by many modern studies. Delores
Curran, a family specialist, asks 551 specialists who work with
families to select out of 56 items those they felt were the key to
healthy families. Respect came up as number 3. James R. Hine,
professor of family relations and a martial therapist, did an
intensive study of 50 couples over a period of years, and he
concluded that mutual respect was one of the foundations for a
happy and enduring marriage.
John Drescher, author of 27 books, says in his book If We Were
Starting Our Marriage Over Again, "The more areas of respect, the
more satisfying the marriage." There are no end to the authorities
who will support the vital importance of respecting your mate to
achieve God's best. Jesus respects His bride even though she is far
from being without spot or wrinkle. He respects her potential and
relates to her in grace by giving much that is not deserved. He
relates in mercy and withholds judgment that is deserved.
To respect another person is to reflect to that person the presence
of Christ. If we are living in the awareness of Christ's presence in
our home, we will be asking often, "What would Jesus do?" This
will help us to show respect and honor where we would fail going by
our own feelings. May God help us bring this high level of respect
into our homes.