Respect reveals as much as it builds relationship. The Oxford dictionary defines respect as; “A feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.” Respect is displayed in the differential behaviour we have to those we feel merit it. Respect also says as much about us as it does about those who we respect. We respect what we value and admire. Some respect rich people just because they love the money they have. The same goes for power, social status, wisdom or integrity. What we value we respect others for.
The apostle Paul tells Timothy to respect his elders and peers; “Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, with all purity.” (1 Timothy 5:1,2) Sharp disapproval or criticism has no place in family relationships because they express a denial of close relationship and assert one person’s superiority over another. Jesus took the notion of ‘superiority’ to a whole new level with His disciples; “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their superiors exercise authority over them. It shall not be this way among you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.” (Matthew 20:25,26) Those who serve merit respect because of their service. Those who are served merit respect because they also serve others in turn.
Jesus defined the fundamental character of relationship within His church. We are His disciples and His friend if we are obedient to His Word and love one another; “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:12-15) Jesus is the Head of His church, nationally and locally. Jesus is the center of all Christian fellowship in the church and the family. If He isn’t then something is wrong.
The Bible gives us good guidelines to keep family relationships holy; “Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers,do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.” (Colossians 3:18-21) It all starts with submission and not just the wife’s. For truly Christian family relationships and by extension a church family relationships everyone – husband, wife, daughter, son – all must submit to Jesus first. When this happens then family relationships are characterised by giving respect rather than demanding it.