Each year, Living for the King, New Life’s discipleship course, asks participants to write a sermon to themselves regarding a prevalent root sin in their lives. The following is one sermon.
Peter, we need to talk about respect. Respect is something that the Scriptures require of us as we consider others, particularly those who are in authority over us (Romans 13:7; 1 Thess 5:12). For us to show respect to others honors them.
But to seek the respect of others is never a biblical calling. In terms of our behavior and attire, we are to be respect-able, but none of that seeks honor for oneself, but instead represents Christ in us. You are a “respect-seeker”. You are concerned that others see your contribution, your talents, your giftedness, you “wonderfulness”. You aren’t always concerned about whether people are emotionally effusive towards you, but their affirmation of what you bring to the table, or how you live your life – these are the things you love to hear. Hearing it third-hand is even better.
Peter, you are misguided in this. For one thing, God offers far more than respect ever can. He calls you “son”, speaks to you warmly and intimately, gets down and dirty with you rather than admiring you from afar. Respect is a poor substitute for the affirmation He gives you through Jesus Christ. You don’t need to impress Him, “wow” Him and convince Him to take action on your behalf. He is already doing that – as everything He does is for your good and for your relationship with Him.
What can others add to that? Would you settle for less than that by seeking respect from others? Would you keep one eye on yourself as you go through your daily paces, making sure that you work hard, keeping all the balls in the air, proving your gifted-ness, all for the point of winning a few words of praise in front of human beings? Is that the reward you want? To receive the love of the Father through the fully satisfying work of the Son provides the only worthy affirmation you want.
And seeking respect has many negative by-products. Besides watching yourself (which is a crazy form of pride and self-focus), when you don’t receive the respect you want, it can lead you to workaholism, or to anxiety. To be either disrespected, or to be ignored leads you down the path of disappointment, which often leads to anger and bitterness. “Why don’t people notice me? Don’t they know what I have to offer?” Or maybe you believe that people have it out for you? They are intentionally slighting you, or pushing you away for some mysterious and malevolent motive that you force on them.
This poisons your relationship of love to them, and pollutes the love of service. Peter, you will spend an eternity with the Father due to Jesus. Why would you place so much value on these fleeting mortal years? Why not rather be a contented servant in the house of the Lord than a hero in the world that all see now, but is of no consequence on the day of the Lord? (Psalm 84:10)
Love God. Love others. Jesus has won your salvation for this – and there is nothing of more importance, or as satisfying. Do you not believe the promises He gives to sons and servants? Take your eyes off yourself and look to Him. Seek His affirmation, His love and the intimacy that He wants for you. Receive Him and you will honor Him and will forget about your own honor.