A Culture of Respect By Daniel Juster

"With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness . . . My brothers, this should not be." (James 3:9, 10)

IMAGE OF GOD - BASIS FOR RESPECT

The Bible teaches us to deeply respect human beings because they are made in the image of God. No other basis can be found in any religion or philosophy for having such high regard for human beings. Secondly the Bible teaches us to respect all those in offices of authority because they represent God's authority. The western world historically based its regard for human beings upon the bedrock of these convictions. These convictions have largely been abandoned in the West, and in the United States there is a cultural battle of amazing proportions taking place over them. John Lennon, the famous Beatle songwriter, wrote in "Imagine" that a world with no God and no religious convictions, would be a world at peace. What a delusion! There were horrors in the western world in the days of greater Biblical world view influence, mostly before the 20th century. But they paled in comparison to the terrors from those who have repudiated this God-centered world view (for example, Nazi and Communist philosophies). The loss of the Biblical World View in the West has produced a loss of respect for human beings. Human beings have become subjects of the all-powerful government which becomes god. People are simply cogs in corporate and national machines.

CULTURE OF RESPECT IN BELIEVING COMMUNITY

My concern in this article is about how believers treat each other. In the last 40 years we have seen a pronounced coarsening of culture, part of which is in evidence in the way people speak to each other. I believe I saw this change during my own years as a school boy. All of my buddies and I knew that there were certain ways we did and did not speak if we were "good" boys. Coarsening is manifest in the way that people treat one another in business, in dealings with government clerks and even in the Church. In Israel, many have sadly succumbed to these trends. One of the great challenges in Israel (and of course in the West) is for followers of Yeshua to create a culture of respect in congregational communities. Our concern is not primarily for the culture of the larger society but for the manifestation of the Kingdom in the Body of Believers. This is a struggle because so many in the West have compromised with the patterns of disrespect. The coarsening of life undercuts our sense of our worth in God. It darkens our perception of the value and beauty of God's creation and thereby diminishes human happiness.

WHAT ARE THE KEYS TO CREATE A CULTURE OF RESPECT?

1. We are to treat one another by the Biblical standard of: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Yeshua and Judaism well taught that this summarizes our obligations to the Torah with regard to human beings. The standards of Torah are best applied in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7. Reading Yeshua's teaching in the light of this command is enlightening. His commandments reveal the nature of how to treat each other as created in God's image. Therefore we do not murder or hate, or commit adultery or lust in our minds. We do not divorce. We act in kindness and even show love to our enemies. Modesty in dress is another standard of respect with regard to human sexuality.

2. Our speech especially is to sincerely show our deep regard for human beings created in God's image. This is first to be manifest in a respectful tone of voice. A harsh and rejecting tone is sometimes due to our own fears and hurts. We must gain the Spirit's fruit of self control resisting the temptation to speak in an angry and vengeful manner. Scripture reveals this standard when Paul teaches that our speech is to be always with grace, seasoned with salt (Col. 4:6). Indeed, Scripture commands perfect courtesy. This implies the avoidance of coarse speech. Classical speech standards developed from the intuitive sense that we are to call attention to that which elevates our sense of the value of human beings. It also implied that we are to speak about those bodily functions that are unattractive in scientific terms when needed, or that we allude indirectly to such matters, but do not speak in demeaning and coarse ways. Dirty language is not consistent with this standard. We especially need to teach our young people good standards, since their peers teach them that it is cool to use coarse language. Ephesians summaries this as follows, "Do not let any unwholesome word come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." (NIV)

3. The subject of human sexuality is especially to be treated with great respect. In the Biblical view, human sexuality is a great gift given to us as part of the bonding experience of marriage, and for the privilege of participating with God in creating children. I believe that the joy of sexual bonding is experienced in part because of the joy of God in creating. God indeed enjoys human sexuality. The beauty and creativity of human sexuality is enhanced and furthered by speaking about it with respect. Sexual humor and jesting is part of that coarsening disrespect that must be overcome in the community of faith. Ephesians 5:3,4 speaks of this as follows, "Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk, or coarse joking, which are out of place, but thanksgiving." (NIV) The general practice of using a reference to human sexual intercourse as a four letter adjective that modifies all kinds of nouns is a terrible demeaning of God's great gift. Thankfully, believers rarely use such four letter words, but many have slipped into yielding to coarse sexual jokes. May we meditate on God's standards until our conscience becomes grieved when we hear such language. These are standards that show our love for one another. To create this kind of counter culture in Israel will be a tremendous challenge. In addition, the challenge of the second issue of respect, that of respect for those in the offices of authority, will also be difficult. We commit ourselves to create a culture of respect in Israel so that the contrast to the world will be clear. May the light reflected in believing communities bring glory to Yeshua.

By Daniel Juster


Dan Juster leads the overall ministry Tikkun International. Donate to Tikkun International.

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Comments:
15:45 07Aug05 The Rev. Dr. Nicholas A. Marziani -
As one who has endured countless incidents of direspect and even slander in the ordained ministry for well over a decade here in the USA, I resonate strongly with Dan's words regarding spiritual authority. In former years of my own ignorance and personal confusion, I dished it out, too, so "what goes around comes around." In any case, many are leaving the ordained ministry across the board because those under authority so often fail to heed the clear biblical admonition to honor legitimate leadership. Yes, leaders also fail to live up to their own callings, but the response needs to be believing prayer for errant leaders, not contemptuous speech. Thank you, Dan, for this strong and very timely word!

16:22 07Aug05 Diane Whitlock -
Thank you all so much for this article I will definitely share it. Blessings to all!

18:15 07Aug05 Saundra -
This article is greatly needed among the mishpocah family. Too many times when I ask someone not to use certain words their response is "It's only a word." This article speaks volumes. Many issues you have addressed. All I can say is TODAH... TODAH... TODAH.

21:57 07Aug05 Paul Van Hoesen -
Thank you for your article on a culture of respect as this is a critical component to reaching the world that goes far deeper than even language. How can we hope to attract the world with something if we ourselves are not walking it out amongst ourselves?
I think the essence of what Yeshua radiated when He was with sinners was a sense of honor - even among tax collectors and prostitutes! What He was honoring was the Father's image in them even though outwardly they did not manifest it yet or even believe that it could be possible to partake of this.
A Culture of Respect must go far beyond language and outward behavior to our very inward attitudes towards all men, particularly the household of believers. Yeshua was not put off by the external behavior of the very dregs of society but by honoring and respecting those very people by the simple acts of eating and drinking with them, called forth transformation. What He gained was the right to speak the truth in love to them and they listened. "Never a man spoke like this man."
The heart transformation that changes our language and action will only be as deep as the internal realization of who we are in Messiah Yeshua. We sons and daughters of the Most High, created to be lovers of sinners and saints alike, just like our Father. We will never be more accepted by the Father than we are right now.
The lack of respect in our speech among us is symptomatic of a much deeper issue as we will never love our neighbor beyond the image that we of ourselves in the sight of God.

23:48 07Aug05 - Tammy Bolt -
I would like to thank you for your willingness and for taking a stand on issues that needed to be addressed and corrected. Thank you and Patty for your daily sacrifices for the sake of our Lord's Name. Goodness and Mercy shall follow you both all the days of your life. Again thank you.

11:43 08Aug05 - =Deborah Nickerson -
I especially appreciated your comments about tone of voice; probably many of us indulge in an unkind tone at times, and it's very destructive of trust. A project I am working on in my own life is trying to keep my 'toniness,' when I'm not in a good place, for the prayer closet and away from others. It's not easy, but God does a good job of dealing with me, and other people don't get hurt.

18:58 14Aug05 - Jonathan Moore -
Remarkable timing for this topic as I have just been convicted of this. In fact, I felt it needed to be brought up at a recent "guys night." Thank you for the articulation of this new covenant reality and confirming a direction I need to be moving myself and those with whom I have influence.

19:57 15Aug05 anonymous -
I feel encouraged to begin to put your advice into practice immediately, Dr. Juster, as well as to help disciple others in this teaching. 17:34 12Sep05 Chaim Av -
Because I know Dr. Juster, I know that he does not want his readers to believe that authority and submission are unconditional. It would have been good for him to address issues of physical or other abuse by parents and church leaders. Sadly, so many instances of abuse have come to light that it is, in my opinion, a subject that can not be ignored in a teaching on submission. That is, an article on respect for authority should also deal with the limits of that authority.

18:47 19Sep05 Linda Schauer -
B'Seder-Order is obviously foundational to all healthy relationships. Unfortunately, we find that many of us have hidden agendas and family secrets, thus using power and control to get "Respected". We, as Jews, must still always understand that blind respect without understanding, knowledge and discernment can lead to a holocaust of abuse, whether at work with your boss, your father who might be molesting you, a government of tyranny, etc. The most important advantage that any Believer has is their relataionship with Hashem who leads us into all truths as we seek. Let us wisely discern and go to others of integrity who can be a bridge for us if we can't: those who have truly earned respect and allow us our dignity. Thanks for your article.