1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 – “And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. Be at peace among yourselves.” NKJV
I believe that respect is earned not demanded. I hear people say, “Don’t disrespect me” as though they had an inherent right to be respected regardless of their disrespectful attitude or actions. I believe that everyone’s rights should be respected but not everyone is deserving of respect. That statement may cause some difficulty but an unruly child that rebels are not deserving of respect. A parent that berates their children and family and is unfaithful to the marriage and family and fails to provide is not deserving of respect.
When I acknowledged God’s call to the ministry and assumed my first assignment as pastor of a small rural congregation I assumed that everyone would respect me because of the call of God. Unfortunately, that utopian vision of the ministry was short-lived and I found that the desire for power among people does not include healthy respectfulness. We are commanded in Scripture to ‘respect’ spiritual leaders because of the WORK. Most who have served as pastor, have heard, “What do you do all day? Why do you need a day off? It must be nice to have a job where you just read the Bible and pray all day.”
Hebrews 13:17 instructs us to OBEY those who rule over us and be SUBMISSIVE. Why? They watch for our souls and God holds them accountable for our condition and development. I have participated in meetings where the leader would present ideas and on one occasion where the majority did not agree they stated: “We do not agree but if you believe this is best and is in the best interest of all involved we will support you as the leader.” They were not being obsequious for some were quite strong-willed individuals but they were deferring to their leader because of their respect for his position and person.
HOW DO YOU EARN GENUINE RESPECT?
- Show Yourself Worthy.
One minister said, “I cannot stand in the pulpit and command the congregation to respect me. It is earned by demeanor, by love, and by character.” I believe that character and integrity are foundational in respect. That means we have to be attentive to small things and strive to be above reproach at all times and in all things.
- Respect Ourselves.
People truly do take their cues about respecting a leader from the leader him or herself. My attitude is that in myself I am nothing but I can do all things through God who strengthens me and if God called me He is or has prepared me. Therefore, my confidence is in God. Without tooting your own horn it is sometimes necessary to let people know what God has done using you as a vessel of service.
- Respect Others.
Respecting others for a pastor means learning what their needs are and work diligently to address them. Likewise how you handle partiality is a reflection on your respect for others.
- Confront Disrespectful Actions.
Remember Paul’s counsel to Titus, “Let no one despise you.” I have found that if you overlook or ignore disrespect it will be repeated and usually more prolific than before. I am talking about things that are genuinely disrespectful. I have experienced someone seeking to demean and disallow my authority and corrupt my responsibility in order to gain power. I did not let those go without notice and each one was handled differently as the Holy Spirit directed. I tried to be kind, gentle, loving but firm enough that it would be understood that behavior which had the potential of disrupting the church could not be tolerated.
I prefer to approach disrespect with a servant heart and the spirit of meekness toward the disrespectful person. So, I tolerate it for a time and once I have proved their spirit and it continues I can then demonstrate mine and on that strength, I can confront whatever is necessary with God’s authority behind me.
As with having friends, we must be friendly to gain respect, we must be respectful. RESPECT is earned! God bless you as you go through your day!