Grandson Devin was visiting with in our home and on the phone with one of his friends, Tiara Strait. Tiara has been part of the Covenant Family since she was a child.
Devin handed me his phone and it was FaceTime. Tiara asked me what I was doing. I shared my intent to write a Pastor's Heart letter. Then it occurred to me to ask Tiara what I should write about.
"Respect," she replied without hesitating. Devin agreed.
Two 17 year-old teenagers asking a pastor to write about "Respect." I was impressed.
The word "respect" comes from vocabulary meaning good things. A person cares about a good name and lives to protect it. A person lives to gain trust and social acceptance.
My early years were chronicled around the theme of respect.
...Respect your elders.
...Do not wear a hat inside a house.
...Never interrupt an older person.
...Never chew gum in church.
...Bow your head for prayer.
...Dress properly for church.
...Stand to salute the national flag.
...With hand over heart say Pledge of Allegiance.
...Answer teachers with Mr. or Mrs---as appropriate (no other genders).
---Hold a door for ladies to enter first.
The character of persons in years past was mostly determined by how they respected others. How brilliant they were or how much money they had were of lower value than civility that earned respect. Respect was the modicum that determined whether a person's presence was desired by good people.
The Bible is replete with instructions about respect. The first five Commandments are about respecting God the Creator. The second five Commandments are about respecting others. There is a plethora of scriptures that reference respect.
Matthew 7:12 is the Golden Rule: Do to others as you would have them do to you.
Romans 12:10 Honor others above self.
Philippians 2:3 Avoid vanity and conceit...value others above self.
Titus 2:7 Show integrity, seriousness.
I Peter 2:17 Respect everyone, i.e., church family, God, leaders.
John 13:34-35 Love one another.
Romans 13:1-7 Respect authority.
Hebrews 13:7-8 Honor spiritual leaders.
Honoring an earthly father and mother brings favor of God even to a person living longer.
A young man who grew up in Covenant Church applied for a coveted scholarship to one of the most elite colleges in the Eastern United States. There were many applications. The final candidates were invited to the college for a personal interview. The young man referenced in this paragraph entered the room in dress slacks, dress shirt, necktie and sport coat.
The interviewing professors noted that he was the only one to appear dressed with respect to the quality of the expectation. He was awarded the scholarship.
Ours is a day that even the church world is challenged to dumb down dress and make people to feel comfortable. Oddly, when traveling in many remote areas of the world missionaries are expected semi-formal. I have been asked in jungle areas with temperatures 100F to wear a white shirt and necktie/sport coat to show respect to the people.
Respect is a delicate balance. Others have expectations of us. If we are leaders others hold us in esteem because of position. Who we are as a person is secondary to the office we fill. However, respect for the office is directly relational to the character of our person, which is why God holds leaders to higher accountability.
Respect ultimately is the measure of how character is defined. Respect builds reputation that communicates a public persona. It takes a lot of effort to gain respect that finally builds a house of character others admire. It takes little disrespect to tear a house down.
Once I became frustrated with a life task that it seemed would never come to a close. I shared with Laila my intention to drop the matter. She responded: "I really had a higher opinion of you!" Her words were painful and drove me to finish the task.
Covenant Church has carefully charted a course to build respect. We have not followed any fads, fashions, or "stars"/personalities. We do not chase esoteric religious public relations gimmicks. Our focus has been to follow Jesus. We have sought with diligence to serve with a spirit of humility, to forgive those who have erred or who have been spiteful against us or the Church. In a proverbial sense we just "Keep on picking them up (feet) and putting them down---steady, onward."
Tithing has been the backbone of our financial operation. Missions is our passion. Caring for those less fortunate is part of our DNA. We have never sought to be "race horses" or rush to public applause. We never close our doors and teach, preach and minister as we think Christ did and wants us to do. We love people. We serve.
Say "Covenant Church" in our community and it is a name respected. We are glad.
By the grace of God we will pursue with all diligence protecting our good name and build the future that will insure our character is ever founded upon the Rock Christ Jesus.
May it be so that each of us lives knowing that as a Body our individual deeds, actions and behaviors are added to the sum total of our personal public character and the corporate character of Covenant Church.
Thank you, Tiara and Devin, for challenging me to write about respect.
Special Notes: March 3, Sunday AM we will provide markers for persons to write their favorite scripture(s) on the floor of the new lobby. On our knees we will inscribe promises of God that will be a permanent part of the foundation! March 8-10 will be our Mission Conference.
Proverbs 22:22 A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favor rather than silver and gold.