By Pastor Glenn Pease
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 rejection.
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 successful parenting:
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 other."
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.