Bread – Respect

September 20, 2013


Readings for Friday, September 20, 2013, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: 2 Kings 1:2-17; 1 Cor. 3:16-23; Matt. 5:11-16; Psalms 69,73

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In our readings today, respect for God appears to be foremost. In 2 Kings, we are given an example of respect for God’s representatives on earth. In 1 Corinthians, we are given an order to respect God’s temple, our bodies. And in Matthew, we are directed have respect for God’s works in us and in the world by being salt and light.

In 2 Kings, the king sends three troops of men (a captain and 50 men) to Elijah, one group at a time, to get him to come down from the top of the hill and go to the king. The first two groups tried to accomplish this task by ordering Elijah to come down, and the fire of God consumed them. The third captain showed respect for Elijah and, really, to God, by kneeling down and asking for mercy. In response to this showing of obedience, this demonstration of respect for God’s representative (Elijah) and God’s power, Elijah came off the hill and went with the captain to see the king. Respect for God’s authority, for the people appointed by Him, is something that is often missing in our relationships with others. Respect for authority (all authority is appointed by God for His purpose) would result in greater respect by children for their parents, greater respect of the citizenry for police, greater respect of students for their teachers, greater respect for elected officials who attempt to govern, and even greater respect by us for the institutional church.

In 1 Corinthians, Paul is telling the church about God’s temple, by pointing out that it no longer existed in bricks and mortar or in the tent of meeting, but within each of His followers – “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” 1 Cor. 3:16. If you have respect for God’s holy place, His temple, then you will have respect for yourself, your body. Respect for God’s temple would, if we exercised it, result in eating well, exposing ourselves to less danger, exercising more, and exercising our mind through reading and discussion with others as opposed to passively watching television or engaging the computer or video games. One side effect of having respect for God’s temple is that we would be better at creating good boundaries between ourselves and others, recognizing that by setting good boundaries we are showing respect for ourselves, God’s temple. If we had respect for ourselves as God’s temple, we would be more careful about what we listen to, what we watch, what we read, what we learn, and what we do.

In Matthew, the respect element is a little more hidden because, in Matthew today, we are charged by Christ to be salt and light in the world. What has this to do with respect? Everything. If we believe that our works are really God’s works in us and through us into the world, don’t we disrespect God’s works by refusing to do them, thinking that they are not what people need? If we are not salt and light, aren’t we really saying that we don’t believe that God can do any good work in us and through us? Is this disrespect for His works and His sovereignty and power? If we do not shine in a dark world, is it because God’s battery is dead or because we have so little respect for His power that we cover the flashlight for fear that the light will be too dim? Or, equally, do we so disrespect the power of God through us that we cover the flashlight because of what it will reveal in the world and others, which will then compel us to even more Godly involvement with our neighbor? In a very real sense, by our failure to be God’s ambassadors 24-7, by our failure to be salt and light, we are showing the ultimate lack of respect for everyone – for the people who would be benefitted by God through us, for ourselves as persons who are privileged to be called children of God, and for God Himself, thinking in our hearts that He is not big enough, great enough, loving enough, powerful enough, merciful enough, gracious enough to deal with the consequences?

Respect is an element which is missing in much of today’s doings and discourse. Perhaps in thinking about this, we should meditate on the consequences of lack of respect to the first two captains and their fifty men each when they ordered Elijah off the hill. What happened? God destroyed them in fire.

We can disrespect God all day long and maybe, just maybe, at that particular moment God will choose to stay His hand. This does not mean that there are not consequences, just because something doesn’t happen immediately. Indeed, for those people who disrespect Him by rejecting His son Jesus Christ, there is the same fate which occurred to the two disrespectful captains – death by fire.

Or we can begin to respect the Creator and the Savior and, in so doing, respect ourselves and others, letting our light shine in the world today before all people, to God’s glory and His alone.

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© 2013 GBF

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