On Reverence and Respect

If you are looking for a set of values that will give dignity to your life, that will connect you with the life of God, and that will work at a practical level, you need not look any further than these: reverence and respect.

Reverence is what is supposed to happen in our hearts when we are exposed to the power and majesty of God. Reverence (Latin, reverentia) means awe. Wonder. Esteem. Even fear. Reverence is the prophet saying “Woe to me… I am a man of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5). It is the newly-called disciple of Jesus saying “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” (Luke 5:8). It is the submissive apostle saying: “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!” (Romans 11:33).

The purpose of worship is for us to be awe-filled (different from aw-ful!) to the point that we are driven to submission to God. The main word for worship in the Greek New Testament means “to bend the knee.” So every act of worship: praise, prayer, offering, the reading and exposition of Scripture, baptism, the Lord’s Supper, are all most effective when they lead to awe. And that awe is not confined to a church building. We can, and must, stay bowed before God in the workplace, at school, in our families. Even a professional football quarterback may go down on one knee when he feels grateful to God for being able to his job well–even though the brief act of submission will bring derision and ridicule down on him. People just don’t get it. In our culture we like it when our leaders strut and brag. Reverence makes people uncomfortable.

And then we turn to the horizontal. Reverence (for God) leads to respect (for people).

The most important thing you can do for the people in your life–your family, your friends, your co-workers–is to treat them with respect. The reason we love is because we respect. We react to God’s greatness with reverence, and then we turn around and look at these amazing creatures God has made in his own image (in his own image!)–men and women, boys and girls–and we treat them with respect because they are made in God’s image. The alternative is unthinkable: to slap the image of God in the face is to slap God in the face.

One thing every person wants, is respect.

If we want people to grow–we will respect them. If we hope people will find security and confidence–we will respect them. If we long to see the people in our lives have a life-giving connection with God–we will respect them.

Respect is a choice we make. It does not come naturally to us. The easy thing is to use or abuse other people. After all, we’re busy, we have things to do, places to go, goals to achieve. How dare other people get in our way or make our lives complicated. The word “respect” literally means to take another look. “Re-spect”–to look again. That has to be intentional.

Given the coarseness of our culture, it is time to stop and take another look.

It is never too late for us to take another look. To say to God: give me a new vision of the people around me. Help me to see them as you see them.

It is the reason Jesus said the whole Law is summed up in one simple truth with two parts: “Love the Lord your God [reverence]… and love your neighbor as yourself [respect]” (Luke 10:27). Jesus said: “do this, and you will live.”

This does cost us a great deal. Looking at God with reverence takes away all our bragging rights (which we never had in the first place), and respecting people–taking another look–means our treatment of others will have to be more careful, more discerning, and more generous than we ever imagined.


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24 thoughts on “On Reverence and Respect

  1. You’ve hit the nail on the head. Thank you for succinctly addressing two very important issues. I plan to print out a few copies and hand out to our prayer group this morning. I thank the Lord for hearing His words through you this morning.

  2. YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY RIGHT
    IF PEOPLE WOULD JUST TAKE A LITTLE TIME FOR THAT OUR WORLD WOULD BE A MUCH NICER PLACE FOR ALL TO LIVE

  3. Wondful article , Mel. From my sermon last Sunday, I defined Worship is responding to God in a way that shows to God you are in awe of God.

    May God bless your ministry today.

  4. With Reverence and Respect I wish you a blessed and Happy New Year.Thanks God because you exist and give me such a spiritual food wich help me to raise up every day and remember that God is with me and I am not by my own ,but whole world is filled by people and The Glory of Lord!

  5. Thanks so much for this, Mel. Reverence and Respect – powerful disciplines. Thanks for the reminder and challenge. My prayer is that my life would exhibit both. Interesting to think how often conflict would be resolved if all parties displayed reverence and respect.

  6. The lack of respect for others is perhaps the biggest indicator in my book of a total lack of reverence for God. My husband’s total lack of respect & honor toward me finally ended our 33 year marriage, and surprisingly, it was God’s Holy Spirit who said, “Enough! You can leave this relationship. It is not healthy for you because it is tearing at your relationship with me.” I can’t tell you how much more relaxed I am; how much more I am connected to the Lord; how much more people tell me that my countenance has softened & even glows. I had biblical reason to leave the marriage 25 years ago, but I held on thinking that by being a Proverbs 31 wife would make an impact on my spouse’s actions & his own spiritual condition. It didn’t, unfortunately.

    So, thank you for your devotion. I may use it as a jumping off point in an e-mail ministry that I have to other women, if you don’t mind.

  7. What relevant and timely discourse on words that I need to improve upon implementing in my life choices. I have difficulty with the political climate and people associated with the current election cycle. The text of this message gave me a new light in viewing them. Thanks for your efforts and your ministry.

  8. Thanks, everybody, for the comments today. I was on the road traveling, and not able to respond specifically. I’m planning on doing more thinking on these two themes in the weeks to come.

  9. Thank you for the word. God is love and he always makes a way and means for us to get wisdom and the understanding Of his word. This is God thinking and I like it. Let’s share the good news people are hungry for this kind of knowledge. Hallelujah!

  10. I could not agree more! Respect is certainly missing even amongst Christians, for other brothers and sisters, and even their Pastor. It breaks my heart that we have come to this, and every church in the U.S. needs to hear this long over due message! Thank you,

  11. Excellent Pastor, just excellent. Oh, how I need to be reminded daily.

    With great respect for what you are doing here, may the Lord continue to bless you efforts Pastor.

  12. Insightful!!! honor and respect are relatives and one thing about both is that, For both the practising or not practising, both, tells us more about the practising /not practising individual than the person the one honor or respect was to be shown to….

  13. Praying for a new vision of the people around me–in my home, job, church & neighbor hood—to re-inspect them & love more. Thanks for your words of encouragement .

  14. Great job Mel!!!! Right on the mark for times likes these and what needs not only to be said but written and heard by people in our day.

  15. This is an eye opener, in the way it sums up life in two basic points, covering all the bases with God and with my neighbour. It calls for humility too. I will add it to my prayers for myself: Lord, help me to grow in reverence of You, as You lead me to understand more of You. Help me to grow in respect for my fellow humans too, not just the believers but all people. Each one is made in Your image and You have a message for them through me, since You are in me. In Jesus’ name I ask. Amen.