Friday, February 22, 2008

Respect, Trust, Love

Does the requirement to love also require us to respect others? What about to trust them?

Of course we are all called to love. And love is connected to respect.

In the ancient world, “honor” was a very important concept, even as it is to those who we see as being “macho” today. Many people—men, especially—are sensitive about their dignity, that they be treated with the proper amount of respect. In the ancient world, all men were concerned about that. Being treated with dignity was a basic human requirement, unless you were a slave or a woman.

In the church, slaves and women began to be treated with dignity as well. Poor people, who were treated at times as little better than slaves, were to be treated with dignity as well. James makes the connection between love and respect very clear in his second chapter. Poor people were being ignore by the church, who focused all their lavish attention on the wealthy. James says that the church was disrespecting the poor man, whom God blesses because of their faith. Then he gives his Scriptural proof—“Love your neighbor as yourself.” Even as we do not wish to be disrespected, to be treated without dignity, even so we should treat others with dignity, with basic respect.

What does this respect mean? Does it mean to praise everyone? Does it mean that we have to say nice things about all people no matter what they do? Does it mean that we need to give everyone the “red carpet treatment”? No. We do not have to treat everyone like a Nobel Lauriat.

Respect means the following things:
a. We speak politely to everyone
b. We don’t look down on anyone, no matter who they are or what they’ve done
c. We listen to what people are saying
d. We do not treat another person as a bad person unless we have proof that they are, and even then, we let people know that any cautions we take are not personal.
e. We apologize for any slight we might have given to others, whether intentional or unintentional
f. We should thank and praise people for the work they have done for us or for the Lord

We can give some people more respect than others, but this should be for how they have lived before the Lord, not because of worldly standards. We shouldn’t respect one person above another because they have more money, more fame, more status than others. If a person is an authority, such as a police officer or a governor, then we should give the respect that is due to the office—but that is more of a formal politeness (Paul said to “give respect to whom respect is due” in speaking of government officials).

But if someone like Jean Vanier comes by, then we should give him more respect than others. Not because of his fame, but because of his faithfulness to the Lord. Because he started a great work and has built up God’s kingdom. We should see the Mother Theresas of the world, and give them great respect. Not because others are giving them respect. But because God has respect for them. And we should open our eyes to those whom God respects that the world does not, such as Byron, and give them the respect that the world does not give. We should go out of our way to thank them for their life of faithfulness.

The saying goes, “Trust isn’t given, it is earned.” I would say that a certain amount of trust IS given. If someone walks in our house, we don’t assume that they will steal anything. We will not leave someone with our guest to make sure that they don’t make off with the silver. If we did, we would be treating them as a thief and that would be a sign of disrespect.

But when trust is broken, that is when it must be earned back. And it usually must be earned twice as much to establish the trust that is given freely to anyone.
But I think you were asking about the trust we should give.

First of all, do not give or withhold basic trust based on appearances or life circumstance. Just because someone is impoverished doesn’t mean that they are less trustworthy in money matters. Just because someone is mentally ill doesn’t mean they are dangerous (less so, statistically). We need to give everyone the same amount of trust or lack of trust unless we see that their actions don’t support that trust.

If someone breaks our trust, we should not use that as an excuse to break our relationship with them. We must give them an opportunity to repent.

If the person does repent, we must forgive them and accept them back into our good graces. But does this mean we trust them? Well, yes, but with reservations. Gordon, I trust you completely, but I don’t trust you enough to bring you into a bar and to put a drink in front of you. That’s because I know your weaknesses and I don’t want to trip you up. Even so, when someone breaks our trust and they repent, then we know their weaknesses better. And we are able to take better care for them, by helping them avoid situations in which their weaknesses will be vulnerable.

That’s Romans 14. We don’t judge people because they hold different standards than us, but we don’t make them vulnerable to their weaknesses, either.

So trust unless you have reason not to.
Forgive and then take responsibility to help the trust breaker not to break trust again.

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