Respect: The Lost Virtue That Is Worth Caring About

First, some obvious stuff.

We live in quite a diverse world. Lots of different people have lots of different opinions on things and issues and ideas. Now, I’m not one who is running into the grocery store with my gun screaming about socialism, but I do think that there are lots of different agendas being pushed out there. Some are good, some aren’t. Some I agree with and some I don’t (and I won’t get into which is which in this post. That misses the point). But the truth is, everyone has their own idea of how they think things should go. Everyone has their own idea of how people should act. Everyone has their own idea of what people should believe. In one sense, that’s the beauty of freedom. In another sense, it causes a ridiculous amount of division between people.

Think of all of the conversations you have been in where you have disagreed with someone. Maybe it’s big topics like politics or religion. Maybe it’s as simple as where you and your friends should eat for lunch or Apple vs. Android. We are constantly divided.

Watch the news stations and you will see the right doing everything they can to oppose our president and the left. Watch the left and you will see them doing everything they can to oppose Speaker Boehner and the right. They are constantly blaming each other for the problems of this nation and never once considering taking responsibility for their own missteps.

Look at theology. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in or overheard a Calvinism vs. Arminianism or Creation vs. Evolution debate. I’ve heard people question the character and even salvation of others, including mine, because of their stance on the topic as if your opinion on election and how old you think the earth is somehow determines your love for Jesus.

I’ve seen people, and myself have, argued for the sake or arguing with our parents. Likewise, I’ve seen parents control their children simply to show their authority.

Virtues

Virtue is something our society doesn’t talk about that much anymore, but all of us still think about it. The thing is, now that we live in a post-modern society, everyone has their own idea of what is virtuous and what isn’t. And I’m okay with that. I’m not necessarily arguing against that. It just gets confusing.

Some people find tolerance to be a virtue and some find confidence to be. Some find being pro-life a virtue and some find being vegan to be one. However, whatever some people consider a virtue, someone else considers a vice. And this is where the problem lies. In our post-modern society, there is no one, standard virtue that people can agree on.

I’m not proposing the end of post-modernism, but I am proposing a universal virtue that was long forgotten and is in need of a recovery.  It’s not tolerance. It’s not conservativism. It’s not veganism. It’s not even faith.

It’s respect.

Respect

I’m pretty sure the last person to talk about respect was Aretha Franklin and all she did was spell it for us. But apparently it meant a lot to her. Even though that song is a bit of a joke now, I would argue that the good ole’ R-E-S-P-E-C-T should mean quite a bit to us as well.

“To be one, to be united is a great thing. But to respect the right to be different is maybe even greater.” – Bono

Here’s what I’m not saying. I’m not saying that we should tolerate each other. I’m also not saying that we should like each other. Respect surpasses tolerance and transcends liking each other. Respect is seeing value in each person, even in differing worldviews.

Unity is not possible without Respect. I believe that as a nation and as a church, unity is essential. Our country is called the United States of America and Jesus prayed that His Church would be one as He and the Father are one. Unity is essential to how we are supposed to live as both Americans and Christians. However, unity without respect is impossible.

Just because your opinion makes sense to you doesn’t mean that you get to go around being disrespectful to whoever you want to. Your words matter and it’s important that we chose them carefully.

Christians are supposed to be the most respectful people in the whole world. We are, after all, representing the God of the universe and if we aren’t respectful to the people who don’t know him, how will that make them see God Himself?

Really what my generation craves isn’t authenticity or power. It’s respect. We want to live in a world that isn’t dominated by immaturity. Respect isn’t a revolutionary idea. It’s a basic one that’s lost amidst critics and cynics.

Respect deserves to be a primary virtue. Is respectfully disagreeing without demonizing the opposition to much to ask? Jesus told us to love our enemy and I think even saying someone you disagree with is your enemy is a stretch. How much more should we love and respect those people?

It’s okay to not see eye to eye on every issue. Your opponent isn’t dumb. They just see the world through slightly different lenses and experiences. And that, ironically enough, is what makes humanity beautiful.

In a world dominated by tweets, blogs, YouTube comments, Facebook statuses, and a 24 hour newsreel, we could all use a little Respect.

Be known as the most respectful person around.

Be respectful to liberals and conservatives.

Be respectful to Christians and Muslims (and atheists).

Be respectful to the young and the elderly.

Be respectful to white people and black people.

Be respectful to everyone.

Once we can respect each other again, then we can begin to have a real, civilized conversation again. But it all starts with respect.