Sometimes I feel like I spend most of my days trying to instill respectfulness in my kids. In a society that increasingly seems to mock respect, it can seem to be an uphill battle. Let’s go back to basics. What does God’s Word say about respect? How can we model that for our kids? Read these articles and be reminded that respect hasn’t gone out of style for God and his people.
Sometimes I feel like that old comedian who after every joke tugged at his collar and whined, “I tell ya’, I get no respect.”
My boys don’t always show respect. And that’s a problem—not just with me, but with God who commands, “Honor your father and your mother . . . ” (Exodus 20:12) and “Each of you must respect your mother and father” (Leviticus 19:3).
So, if I’m going to be a faithful and loving parent, I’m going to have to teach my kids to show me respect. But that’s hard, because my sinful anger gets in the way whenever I feel disrespected. So before I consider my relationship with my kids, I need to consider my relationship to God. How well do I respect him?
If I’m honest, I have to admit that I disrespect God every time I sin—even when that sin is prompted by my boys’ disrespect. In essence I say to God what my boys say to me, “What I want is more important than what you want. I choose to make myself the authority instead of you.”
How does God handle it? He doesn’t allow me to talk back to him without consequences. He teaches me that it’s not okay to do things my way instead of his way in love. “The Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son” (Hebrews 12:6).
So I won’t allow my boys to talk back to me without consequences. I will discipline them (with a struggle for great patience and careful instruction) when they are disrespectful.
But that’s not all God does. He doesn’t just discipline me with his law. He also earns my respect and—even more—my love by his gospel. He sent his own Son to face the disrespect and torture of sinful men, to be crucified on a cross for me. And now I am completely forgiven for my disrespectful attitude and for every sin that has resulted from it. This moves me to love and respect God and want to live for him.
So too I will try to earn my boys’ respect—and their love—by showing my love for them. I will try to motivate my boys to show respect by showing them how much God loves them in Christ. And with his help, using his law and his gospel, I will learn to better respect God, and my boys will better learn to respect me—all out of love for God.
To read an expanded version of this article, visit forwardinchrist.net/get-no-respect.
Rob Guenther and his wife, Becky, have four sons ages 11 and under.
People want respect, and yet it looks different for different people. We think we deserve respect, and yet Jesus, who truly deserves our respect, never demanded respect from anyone. I am realizing that I use the word respect often without much thought to what it really means.
Some very wise women in my circle of friends describe respect this way:
“I believe that respect is attached to value. If you can understand that someone is valuable, whether you agree with them or not, you hold them in high enough regard to allow them to be who they are.”
“Fearless submission. Honoring others above one’s self. Knowing you do not have to protect and defend your ‘self’ but rather live outrageously free in your relationship with others because God is on his throne. Respect is not trying to control the outcome but rather letting it unfold.”
“Respect is love in plain clothes.”
“Recognizing the value God placed on another person because of his Son’s life and sacrifice (Jesus died for that person) and deferring to them because of their value to God.”
“I think respect grows from the seed of humility that you plant in his light and care for lovingly.”
Pretty profound if you ask me.
So how do we teach these concepts to our children? Follow Jesus’ example. Model giving respect to others. Jesus showed respect to those he encountered—from the woman at the well to doubting Thomas.
Paul tells us, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21). What does submitting have to do with respect? Re-read the answers my lovely friends shared about what respect means. It is submitting. It is putting others ahead of ourselves. It is not demanding. It is loving.
Show your children what respect is by respecting them, by respecting your spouse, by respecting your leaders, by respecting the referees at your children’s games. Showing your children how to respect others melds into showing them how to love—even the unlovable, even our enemies, even if we think it’s not deserved, even people with whom we disagree and even those who disagree with us. Respect can and does go a long way.
Jenni Schubring and her husband, Tad, have three sons and a daughter.
“Each of you must respect your mother and father” (Leviticus 19:3). This is a direct command from God. The explanation to the Fourth Commandment says, “We should fear and love God that we do not dishonor or anger our parents and others in authority but honor, serve, and obey them and give them love and respect.” Unfortunately, we are born into the world with a sinful nature, and showing respect does not come naturally. As parents, this means that we have to learn respect and then teach our children how to show respect.
We don’t have to look far to find examples of disrespect. How often are grade-school gyms filled with parents and coaches who show disrespect for authority by disagreeing with every call made by the official? And what about political campaigns? Respect is replaced with mudslinging, lies, and rudeness.
How easy it is to think that we have the right to talk poorly about coworkers, second-guess our bosses, lash out at a nearby driver, be short-tempered with the waitress who isn’t meeting our expectations, put devices before a child or spouse, or speak rudely to that person who just can’t see things from our perspective. Unfortunately, these examples all came to mind because at one time or another, I was guilty of them myself.
The reality is that our children are watching. I was stopped dead in my tracks one night at our family campfire. While making s’mores, the inevitable happened. My five-year-old son dropped his marshmallow into the fire. With great disgust he shouted, “C’mon! You’ve got to be kidding me!” My wife’s jaw dropped. Sadly, this didn’t sound odd to me. I had shouted the exact same words with the exact same emotion at the TV while watching a college game about an hour earlier.
More important than pointing out examples of disrespectful behavior, we can joyfully model for our children how to respect others. A great way to begin teaching the lifelong habit of respect is to teach proper manners. We can also teach our children how to respect our country and those who make it great. We should also expect our children to respect their pastors and teachers. We can help foster this by praying for them, speaking well of them, never questioning them in front of our children, and expecting that our children listen to them the first time.
Learning respect will not happen without a few bumps in the road. When a child shows disrespect, it is our opportunity to show love to them by holding them accountable.
Be sure to spend time with your children in his Word. Remind them of God’s love for all people. One of our family’s favorite songs states, “Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world!” When we show respect to all of God’s creation, we show honor to him.
Aaron Bauer and his wife, Sarah, have 4 children.
Looking for more Christian parenting insights? Watch the monthly webcasts with Heart to heart authors available at forwardinchrist.net/webcasts.
Do you have a manuscript, idea, or story from your own life you’d like to share for use in Forward in Christ or on wels.net? Use our online form to share it to our editorial office for consideration.
Get inspirational stories, spiritual help, and synod news from Forward in Christ every month. Print and digital subscriptions are available from Northwestern Publishing House.
Volume 103, Number 2
Issue: February 2016
Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us