…find out what it means to me. – Aretha Franklin
Sometimes when a person has a vitamin deficiencies you can see the effect in their body: e.g. hair loss, bleeding gums, a loss of energy, etc. The deficiency makes the person sick.
America is sick.
It is suffering from a deficiency and you can see it in our collective body.
It is a deficiency of Respect.
So here are the questions:
Who do you respect even when they don’t agree with you?
Who do you respect enough that their words or opinions cause you to reconsider your own?
Do you respect the President… even when you didn’t vote for him or her?
Do you have respect for 4 or 5 of the last 6 presidents: Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama, Trump, Biden?
If you only respect presidents that you voted for, you have a respect deficiency.
Do you respect the Congress… even when the “other” party is in charge?
If you only respect Congress when your party holds the majority, you have a respect deficiency.
Do you respect most of the mainline media (e.g. ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, NPR, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, New York Time, etc.)… even when they have an unfavorable report about your party, president or opinion?
If you only respect the media outlets that agree with your preexisting opinions, you have a respect deficiency.
Do you respect your religion’s leaders (popes, bishops, pastors, rabbis, imams, etc)… even when their teaching or preaching challenges your preexisting opinions?
If you only respect “leaders” who agree with your preexisting opinions, you have a respect deficiency.
Do you respect your Doctor… even when he or she tells you to lose weight, stop smoking, stop drinking, start exercising, get vaccinated? If you don’t respect them when they give you hard news, you have a respect deficiency and they can’t help you.
Do you respect the Supreme Court… even when the balance seems to favor the other side (liberal or conservative)? If you don’t respect them when they rule against you, you have a respect deficiency.
You get the pattern. We could continue: teachers, universities, lawyers, judges, accountants, government agencies, business and industry, men, women, children, police officers, military leaders, etc, etc, etc.
Now to be clear, not everyone deserves our respect.
Respect can be lost. It is sometimes squandered and misplaced.
But respect is also a necessary ingredient for human communities.
It is, it seems to me, a necessary starting point.
We need people to respect laws and those who enforce them.
We need people to respect teachers, administrators and school boards.
We need people to respect institutions that are bigger than their individual opinions.
When Vicar Tori graduates from seminary, for example,
she will likely be called and ordained in the ELCA.
Her graduation, her call and her ordination will all mark her as a leader worthy of our respect.
She will deserve our respect even when her learned opinion challenges us.
Even now as someone approved to begin the process of ordination, Vicar deserves our respect.
She might lose our respect, but until and unless she does, she deserves it.
The same is true for teachers, doctors, bus drivers, lawyers, merchants, elected officials, scientists, judges, journalists, police officers, judges and plumbers, etc, etc, etc.
How about this…
All people deserve our respect as a starting point.
All people deserve our respect until by their words or actions they lose it.
If and when they lose it… they and we should work hard to restore it.
(That’s what Jesus said. Look it up in Matthew 18:15ff.)
Let’s begin with respect.
Without a baseline of respect for others,
even when they challenge our pre-existing opinions, we are sick.
The deficiency is respect. The disease is idolatry.
We will have cast ourselves as the judge of others and claimed the place of God.
And the good news is…
any pastor can forgive even this sin…
but you would have to respect him or her to give them that power in your life.
©️ 2022, Pastor Bill Bernau.