On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; whereas our more respectable members do not need this. (1 Corinthians 12:22-24a)
As is true with many Greek words and concepts, our English translations leave much to be desired. One such concept, rich and textured in Greek, is a word we translate “respect.” Often, we think of respect as a formality, being tactful and kind to someone in a position of power or prestige. We may be told to “respect our elders,” but we hear “be nice.” Perhaps today, more than ever, we need to recover a much deeper and broader understanding of respect.
Respect is a central feature of many world religions, especially Hinduism and Buddhism. It is said that children in Buddhist households learn respect before they learn any tenet or teaching of their faith. Respect for elders, ancestors, and traditions are of paramount important in Hinduism. And this was also true historically in Judaism and Christianity. So, what has happened?
True respect, like grace and love, is unearned, undeserved in many cases. In our faith tradition, what we reduce to respect actually holds meaning that includes reverence, adoration, homage, value, honor, and admiration. To respect, biblically speaking, is to raise to glorious heights. To respect one another is to recognize the God and Christ in each person, and to treat that person the way you would treat Jesus in the flesh. Our goal should be to honor, admire, and even adore others – whether they deserve it or not. How might our country, church, and world be different if respect were the foundation upon which we built every relationship? How might we be transformed? And how might this glorify and please our Creator God who gave us to one another to love and respect?
Let us pray: In each of us, O Lord, is the divine seed of your creation. We exist in your image, gathered through our baptism to be the very body of Christ on earth. Help us to treat each other with sacred and blessed respect, seeing Jesus in everyone we meet. We praise you and glorify and ask your blessing in Jesus’ name. Amen.
May this devotion provide you with a moment of faithful reflection and care. You are involved in ministries of justice and witness, in ministries of standing up and standing with people working to create better systems and communities, in ministries of learning and searching and researching to become more aware and awakened, more technologically savvy and proficient, more virtually and personally present in your churches and communities and world. Each of us who serve as members of your Wisconsin Cabinet write these devotions in grateful prayer for you – for sustenance and buoyancy, for strength and courage, for safety and just actions, and for faith and love to be full and fulfilled in your daily lives. God’s grace and blessings, God’s challenge and healthy discomfort, God’s Spirit and energy be with you, in the hope Christ offers us all.
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung has served as resident bishop of the Wisconsin Annual Conference since September of 2012. Prior to leading the Wisconsin Conference UMC, Bishop Jung served eight years as bishop of the Northern Illinois Conference (Chicago area).