A Culture of Respect II By Daniel Juster

"Brothers, I did not realize that he was the high priest, for it is written, do not speak evil about the ruler of your people." Acts 23:5 (NIV)

In this remarkable passage, we read of Paul's repentant words and attitude after he called Ananias a "white-washed wall." He had ordered Paul to be struck for no good reason because he did not approve of his testimony. According to history, Ananais was corrupt and a usurper. At that time the descendants of Zadok were prevented from serving as high priests, though they alone were qualified for this office by the promise of God. Even so, because Ananias served in the office of high priest, Paul's manner of speech indicated that he owed Ananias a level of respect. This is so very contrary to what is practiced in Western and Israeli societies.

The Bible teaches us that all are created in the image of God and worthy of respect, but also that those in authority are due special respect because they represent the authority of God. To rebel against authority or to disrespect authority in word and deed is to show disrespect to God Himself. This is a serious matter. In addition, the Bible teaches that proper submission to even harsh authority releases the power of God to discipline authority.

Romans 13 speaks of our relationship to civil government, yet its words apply to all in authority in any sphere. "The authorities that exist have been established by God, and he that rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment upon themselves." The section ends with the words, "Give to everyone what you owe him; if respect then respect; if honor then honor"

We should have an attitude of sincere submission to all those in offices of authority. However we may at times need to respectfully disobey when the one in authority transgresses his legitimate sphere of authority and calls upon us to disobey God's law.

The Primary Spheres of Authority

The Bible shows us three spheres of primary authority in which respect is due. They are the civil government, the Body of Believers or the religious community, and the family. There are other areas of authority of a voluntary nature such as business and education. Though the Bible shows an equality of value for all persons, there is not an equality of authority. The civil government is the one sphere where we still find an enforcement of respect. This is especially the case in the courtroom and when police intervene for traffic violations or other offenses. Yet, I believe that we fall grossly short in the way we speak of our political leaders when we feel they are unworthy or making mistakes. We are called to pray for our leaders. They are not beyond the influence of God to do the right thing.

A society often receives the kind of leaders it deserves. This is sobering because the community of believers is the most important factor in society. Believers in Yeshua are especially tested in Israel and the nations when they disagree with Prime Minister Sharon's policies. Disagreement is legitimate, but some have spoken with great disdain and unproven accusation.

Brother Yun of China, one of the greatest leaders of the house church movement, says that they pray for the kind of government that can best further the Kingdom. We are told in Paul's directions for prayer, that this is usually a just government, but not always. (I Timothy 2) Therefore it is our duty to appeal to civil authorities in a respectful tone and with well chosen words.

Elders in Congregational Life

Elders rule in the sphere of congregational life and are also to be treated with special respect in the manner of our speech. They are not to be slandered or gossiped about, for to do so is to rebel against God's authority. Scripture explicitly states that we are to respect elders. This also includes inter-congregational authorities.

Business and Education

In business and education, one voluntarily places oneself under those who have ability in these spheres. Parents also place children in the care of educators in a surrogate role. We can see an example of respect in the sphere of education in the traditions of Rabbinic schooling and how disciples treated teachers. The Reformers went so far as to apply, "Honor your father and mother" to teachers. We also see such respect applied to even the most difficult form of employment in New Testament times - slavery. The New Testament does not endorse slavery, and encourages those who can gain their freedom to do so. Nevertheless it tells slaves to submit to their masters as unto God!

The Family

I believe that the family is the most important sphere of respect. The training of children in respect for their parents gives them the proper orientation for respect and honor in all areas. The submission and respect a wife shows to a husband trains the children by example. The love and respect a husband shows his wife are key to demonstrating the kind of respect that all authorities are to have for their subjects as made in the image of God. [See Ephesians 5 and I Peter 3.] We should also note that parents are to respect their children and not provoke them to wrath.

All of this is an enormous challenge. Many parents today do not enforce standards of respect, neither does the society at large. The deterioration in the classroom and the influence of peers have destroyed much of the proper respect that God requires. Thus the Body of Believers and its elders have an enormous task of discipleship for families.

A Counter-Culture of Respect In Israel

Israel presents an enormous discipleship problem as well. The culture of disrespect in the schools is leading to a decline in education, as recently outlined in an alarming article in the Jerusalem Post. The way many Israeli husbands and wives speak to each other, and the way children show disrespect to parents and are nevertheless indulged, is most grievous. Some Israelis are aware of the problem, but hope that army service will turn things around. To some extent it does, but the army can not make up for the loss of family standards. So here is the challenge: Can we as Messianic Jews in Israel create a counter culture of respect in the land of Israel? This respect is rooted in our understanding of the image of God, the moral standards of the Bible and the expression of those moral standards in respect for authority. What a great challenge! Only the power of the Messiah Yeshua in us through His Holy Spirit makes us adequate to the task.

By Daniel Juster


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

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Comments:
15:49 01Sep05 Susan Warner -
Thanks for this article. I plan to pass it on. Chaos and anarchy beging in the home! The stories of the wonderful attitudes of the military during the Gaza withdrawl are also quite moving with regard to your reflections, Amen?

17:50 01Sep05 Janice Hensley RN MA -
I agree with your article in general, but I respectfully disagree with your position that the family is the most important sphere of respect. I would argue that the most important "sphere" would be the trifold relationship that firstly we have with God, secondly that we have with ourselves, and thirdly the relationship that we have with each and every other person in which we come into contact. A deep respect for those in this trifold relationship is, I believe, the most important "sphere of respect". Since a wholehearted love, healthy fear, and respect for God as expressed by obedience to our Maker - the God of the Bible and His ways - is fundamental to all other outworkings of respect in ourselves and to others, this foundation would, of course, have to be primary. The motivation to be obedient would be found in deeply rooted love and respect for our Lord which would then "anchor" all other relationships into a "culture of respect". Unless this foundation is laid in each and every family member, an orderly and harmonious family unit where respect for each other would be the rule would be, I would think, very difficult.
ALSO, ideally respect should be motivated by a high regard for - or love - for that person, so we come back to really falling in love with our Messiah Yeshua, because when a person really begins to understand the implications of His sacrifice for our sins, and our belonging to Him as His inheritence - His property if you will - then our whole outlook on life changes, and we will WANT to love and respect others, including those in our family, or even our "enemies", BECAUSE WE ARE SO MUCH IN LOVE WITH HIM AND WANT TO PLEASE HIM. I would argue that a true culture of genuine respect is really only possible when we have this deep understanding of what He did for all of us - otherwise we just kind of go through the motions of being respectful to others, if that.