Teaching our children to respect others

I want to spend some more time considering qualities to instill in our children. It is crucial for us as parents to notice when teachable moments arise and seize upon them to instill valuable life lessons in our children. It is so easy to get into auto pilot and let these opportunities pass by unnoticed. So, I hope these simple thought provoking reminders are helpful.
We need to help our children learn to see the value in everyone and treat them with respect and dignity. This quality was one of the cornerstones of Jesus’ life. In fact, it was this quality that landed Him in conflict with the religious leaders of His day. So, if we are going to be Christlike and pass that on to our children, this must be a big part of our lives as well.
Jesus understood that every human is of great value in the eyes of God. It is here on Earth that people become de-valued by other people for a variety of reasons. Before we get into the nuts and bolts of how we should embrace this truth, let’s refresh our memory about how Jesus demonstrated this by reviewing a few stories.
In Luke 5, Jesus calls one of the most hated people in all of Israel to join His inner circle…
a tax collector …Matthew. Tax collectors were considered to be traitors who made their living helping the Romans oppress the people of Israel. To make matters worse, tax collectors were not paid by the Romans, they made their living by extracting extra taxes which they kept for themselves. They became rich by taking from their countrymen. Jesus saw value in Matthew.
In Luke 7, Jesus was invited to have supper at the house of a religious leader and a woman who had lived a sinful life in the city came and washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and dried his feet with her hair. Then she rubbed a very expensive perfumed oil on His feet. The religious leader was indignant that Jesus would allow such a sinful woman to touch Him. Yet, Jesus treated the woman with dignity and forgave her sins. Her life was changed forever.
In John 8, the religious leaders dragged a woman to Jesus who had been caught in the act of adultery and they wanted to stone her to death. Jesus had mercy on the woman, explained that each of the rock throwers were also guilty of some sin which saved the woman’s life, and then He told her to leave her life of sin. He valued her greatly and changed her life.
These are just a few examples that can help refresh our memories concerning the way Jesus saw and treated the people that were regarded as throw aways by the people of the world. Today, we have a lot of confusion about all of this. On one side, there is a tendency to de-value, mistreat, and disrespect certain people based on their lifestyle choices, outward appearance, social or financial status, educational level, ethnic origin, or other criteria. On the other hand, we are pressured to applaud and approve of anything and everything that people do in the name of love and tolerance. There is a lot of confusion concerning this simple topic. I hope we can unravel it so we can be free to be more Christlike. I think a good starting point is to accept the fact that all people are valuable to God. When God created everything, He created humans as the highest order of creation. I know there is some confusion about this today, but let’s stand firm on the reality that God created humans to be the crowning glory of creation. We are more special and valuable than the animals and fish or the earth or the plants. God placed His image in humans alone. That means He gave us some of His attributes like: the ability to reason, the ability to communicate verbally, the ability to build and create, the ability to recognize and appreciate His creation, and the ability to worship and know Him. So, let’s get it straight. People are more valuable than whales, dolphins, birds, and other animals. All created beings are valuable to God, but humans are the most valuable. In fact, Jesus made this explicitly clear in Matthew 6. He pointed out that since God takes care of the birds, we should not worry because we are of much greater value than the birds. Then, He went on to reassure us that we are also much more valuable than the flowers and plants which God also takes care of.
There are many today who are willing to de-value and even kill or hurt people while taking a passionate stand to protect animals and the environment. God certainly loves his entire creation, but He makes it clear that humans are the most highly valued of His Earthly creations. In fact, He loves humanity so much that He was willing to send His very own Son, Jesus, to the Earth to live a sinless life and die a substitutionary death to take upon Himself the guilt of all people in order that we might be forgiven and restored to a right relationship with God as His sons and daughters. This was done exclusively for humans.
This truth applies to all people. We have a tendency to value and approve of people who fit into our mold of acceptability. We categorize people in lots of ways: size, skin color, financial status, communication ability, employment status, age, values, and a host of other ways. We tend to respect those who fit into our approval mold and we tend to disrespect those who don’t fit. We need to embrace the truth that God loves all people and longs for them to come to Him regardless of how the world has categorized them. Think about it a minute. God is omnipresent. So, He has been watching over every person on Earth throughout their lives. He has seen every hurt and disappointment and longed for them to turn to Him. He has been working to reveal Himself to them and draw them to Himself their whole life. As His sons and daughters, we should join in on His effort not spoil it by treating them as less valuable. So, let’s be like Jesus and show respect to all others. Let’s teach our children to do the same.
We often have trouble knowing how to treat those that are entrenched in a lifestyle of sin. Some insist that we need to abandon the idea of right vs wrong or sin vs righteousness and simply approve of everyone’s lifestyle choices. In fact this is a theme that is heavily promoted to our children. They need our help to unravel this thinking. On the other hand, some would pressure us to be like the Pharisee in Luke 18:10 who went to God in prayer thank ing God that he was better than other men because he was not a robber, evildoer, or adulterer. Then he went on to give God a list of all his good works like tithing and fasting. There was a tax collector there also who humbled himself, sought forgiveness for his sins and asked for God’s mercy. Jesus pointed out that the tax collector was the one who was approved by God.
The simple truth found here is that every person is guilty of sin in God’s eyes according to Romans 3:23. The Bible further teaches us that all sin brings destruction, pain, and death into our lives. It is true that the consequences of some sins are greater than others, however all sin is toxic to our lives. It is also true that all sin interrupts our fellowship with God. There is no one righteous or innocent on their own before God. God sent His Son Jesus to die on the cross to take our guilt on Himself so we can be forgiven and have His righteousness applied to us…but we have to ask for it personally.
As we go through life, we will come into contact with people who are involved in many different sinful practices…so how should we treat them? If we approve of the sin and encourage them to continue on that path, we are playing a destructive role in their lives. It’s not really love to encourage someone caught in drug addiction to continue. It is no different with other sins. When we approve of the sin that is taking over someone’s life, we are adding to the deception that will eventually ruin them. When we point a finger of scorn in their face and declare their guilt and seek to shame them we are simply pushing them away from the Savior that they so desperately need.
Jesus had a great way of showing love to people while standing firm on their need to turn from sin. Jesus treated the sinful woman who washed His feet with her tears with love and respect. He saw past her reputation and her lifestyle and focused on her core value as a person. She left her life of sin and took a prominent place in the Biblical account of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus’ actions regarding the woman caught in the act of adultery saved her life. He saw her as a woman who is valuable to the Father. He also acknowledged that sinful choices had been ruining her life. Jesus offered her forgiveness and told her to leave her life of sin. He did not point a finger of accusation and scorn in her face. He also did not approve of nor did He make excuses for her sin. He responded to everyone the same way. He showed love. He extended mercy and forgiveness. Then, He pointed the way out. That’s the pattern for us.
So far, we have established the fact that humans are of special value to God and when we see people that way, it helps us treat them with more value and respect. We have thought about how Jesus saw people enslaved by sin and how He loved the person while hating the sinful actions. This is the pattern for us.
There are a couple of ideas that trip us up that I want to briefly address. First, we wonder if all sin is really destructive. We wonder if sin is really that big of a deal. Second, we wonder if God can really change a person. We say things like, “Past behavior predicts future behavior.” This statement is true of humans without Jesus, but when Jesus comes into a person’s life – complete changes are the norm!
Let’s think about the first idea that trips us up, sin is not really that big of a deal is it? The truth is that sin is the most destructive force on the planet. Ever since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, sin has been filling lives with pain, heartache, and death. The goal of sin is to take over and control a person’s life and run it into the ground and then drag that tortured soul into Hell to be tormented forever. Sin is so serious that God sent His only Son Jesus to the Earth to pay the penalty in full for our sins so we could be free from the effects and consequences of sin and be guaranteed to escape Hell and spend eternity in Heaven instead. If sin is not that big of a deal – then I can promise you that God would not have paid such a high price to secure our forgiveness. We tend to categorize sins and deceive ourselves into thinking that God cares more about some sins and less about others. The truth is that all sin destroys and brings death whether it is one we consider to be big like murder or adultery or whether it is one we consider to be small like gossip or lust. Sin is dangerous and destructive.
Another false idea that trips us up in the way we treat others is our belief that people can’t be changed. We see someone who is trapped in alcoholism or some other addiction or a person who is down in life and we tend to write them off thinking that they will never change. This is how we begin to see people as throwaways in life. One of the core principles of the Gospel is that faith in Jesus can transform any life. Faith in Christ can set anyone free from any sin. Faith in Christ can deliver the alcoholic or addict to a place of sobriety and trustworthiness. Faith in Christ can heal any marriage, set people free from immorality, or replace hate and violence with love and compassion. Faith in Jesus has transformed multitudes of people through the ages from evil to good. So, because of that, no one is a throwaway.
If you are feeling the sting of sin … call out to Jesus and He will forgive you and lead you to freedom and a new start in life.
If you are confident of your own righteousness and look down on those who are struggling – ask God today and He will change your heart.
Another important fact to keep in mind as we encounter people daily is that everyone has a story. Keeping this in mind helps us treat people with value and dignity. I once knew a man named Evander. He lived in a mobile home park where the church I pastored did outreach. That’s how I met Evander. He was a sad sight regarded by most as a throwaway. He was thin and frail. Alcohol was obviously taking a heavy toll on his body. He lived in a roach infested mobile home that had the doors and windows broken out. Not a single window or door in tact. He lived like a hoarder under a mountain of trash and junk. Yet, there was a gentleness and a kindness in him that was unexpected. I began to send the church van to his house every Sunday to pick him up for church. He was unusually excited about being welcomed into church and was on the back row nearly every Sunday with a big smile. One Sunday morning, an usher came to me and told me that a man who was drunk was there and wanted to know if I wanted him to call the police to have the man removed. He pointed to Evander. I told him that I only wished that we could get more drunks into church on Sunday mornings! I prayed with Evander nearly every Sunday morning as he sought to get free from alcohol and get his life back on track. You see, Evander had been a pastor of a good church. His wife had become ill and died. Grief overwhelmed him and soon the church fired him because he was unable to perform his duties to their satisfaction. Along with his paycheck, he lost his home, the church parsonage. That is how he wound up in this torn up mobile home. He had lost his wife, his position as pastor, his home, his friends and family, and now he was alone, broke, and depressed. This is the point that he turned to alcohol. My staff and I began to reach out to him. We fumigated and cleaned up his mobile home and I started making arrangements to get him a better place to live. Sadly, just before our big surprise, Evander was found dead one morning.
Evander taught me so many valuable lessons. Anyone of us can have a terrible unexpected turn of events in life and you don’t know how you will handle it until it happens. No one is a throwaway to God. Jesus wants to reach out to the Evanders of the world through you and me – that can’t happen until we see them as God sees them. It is important to sow mercy and kindness to the Evanders that come into your path…someday you might need a return on those seeds.
Ask God to help you see people through His eyes! This will launch you on an incredible journey filled with amazing stories!
Before we go, I want to recommend I Still Do, A Guide for the Marriage Journey. This marriage devotional was created to help strengthen your marriage with biblical principles and practical suggestions. Order yours today at nolareallife.org or at I Still Do on Facebook… You’ll be glad you did!

Leave a Reply