In Philippians Paul tells the early Christians that they are citizens of heaven. This means that if we are citizens of heaven then our lives and thoughts are conformed to a different way of thinking.
Despite this we are easily seduced by the thinking that prevails around us. I was struck again this week by the insidious nature of the saying that “respect has to be earned”. It is a saying that many of us use.
This saying could suggest that my starting point with other human beings should be one of disrespect. When I looked up the meaning of respect this would mean that I would not honour or give deference to another person. I would not esteem them or be polite to them.
But God’s gift to us in Jesus reverses this saying. God’s decision is to honour us, to give esteem to us in our brokenness, to give deference to us and lift us into feeling truly human by treating us with respect. All this even though we have not earned it for as human beings we have so often lived without respect for God, for one another and for God’s creation.
God’s choice to respect us as people in Jesus does not earn God respect and love back it actually results in Jesus on the cross. We need to not deceive ourselves into thinking that in showing others respect this will be reciprocated – this was not Jesus experience.
The way of following Jesus challenges us to reflect on whether our engagement with those around us will be dictated by the morays of a secular society which says “respect must be earned” or, on the other hand, whether we will live respecting others and so as witnesses to our citizenship in the kingdom.
If we are to be people who live our lives in God’s time then approaching all people with respect and regard would appear to be part of our shared purpose in Jesus ministry, even when that respect is not reciprocated nor even earned. When we can do this we witness truly to God’s unconditional love for us and God’s grace.