A Clarification: Do We Stick It Where It Suits Us?, Part 2

Exterior building wall covered with bubble gum of all colors

This article is a follow up to my previous post called Do We Stick It Where It Suits Us?  It’s a response mostly to alleviate my own rookie blogger mistake.  I failed to anticipate the amount of emotions generated by an article that includes the word ‘President.’  For some of you, this was perfectly fine, but it colored the message for others.

[NOTE: This post and it's initiating post from 10/6/17 has been rewritten into 3 new posts beginning with this one.]

So, allow me first to apologize.  To keep the article just a little longer than a reasonable word count, I chose not to round out a couple points even though my gut told me they needed more explanation.  My points were biblically based, but I did not consider that emotionally charged words like ‘president’ or ‘government’ can compete with what I was trying to communicate.  In hindsight, I should have split the post into two articles.  I'm sorry for missing this important reality.

I will try to resolve that issue here.  Let’s start with some assumptions and general comments.
  • My intended audience is Christians who care about their relationship with the one true and eternal God.  (Of course, I hope others will find my blog helpful as well.)
  • The Bible is an organized collection of God’s inspired words to mankind, whom He created and whom He loves.
  • I wrote about godly ideals, but, on a practical level, I am sometimes guilty of disrespect.  I fail at it often, but my heart urges me to give it up to God.
  • Christians ascribe to a variety of political viewpoints and values.  This is, in part, because it is sometimes difficult to apply God’s truth to the governance of a nation and to our everyday experiences.
  • This article, as well as the previous related article, is not political.  I do not intend to influence my readers toward any particular political agenda or bias.  In fact, I don’t find much value in speaking for or against any political issue in my blog posts.  I try to keep my points biblically based, not politically based.  (Though they sometimes look the same.)

That last bullet makes a great first point...

1.  My posts about honor and respect are not political.  If you read my previous post, Do We Stick It Where It Suits Us?, you may have felt a political charge.  Please understand that this was not my intent.  When I say we should respect our President, I am not suggesting we should always agree with the President’s political platform, and I am not saying we should never oppose the President’s agenda.  Also, when it comes to respect, who we favor in any presidential election is entirely irrelevant.  In fact, when you see the word ‘president’ in my previous post (which appears only once), you can replace that word with any superior or authority in your life:  boss, father, mother, Pastor, Bible study leader, TSA agent, flight attendant, front desk agent, teacher, crossing guard, and flag person at a construction site.  These are all authority figures, some whom we love and enjoy, and some whom we may not care for very much.

So, when I write about honor and respect and use the terms ‘president’ and ‘government,’ I am not being political.  I am, however, being personal.  For the most part, we don’t get to choose our authorities.  Furthermore, many of them are very integrated into our lives and those relationships can get deeply personal.  They can excite us, but they can also discourage and even threaten us.  During those times, we must maintain respect for everyone involved, including our equals and subordinates.  And we must continue to respect, even when it is undeserved...

2.  Respecting those who don’t seem to deserve it is not the same as defending them.  Respecting them is honoring them for their roles in our lives and honoring God for His sovereign choice to appoint them into those roles.  I have worked for bosses who have spoken out of both sides of their mouths and who have peppered their work with questionable ethics.  Some of their decisions and actions were wrong, but that never changed their positions as my superiors.  I didn’t have perfect respect for them, but when I was responding well, I took their direction, I worked through issues with a common goal in mind, and I didn’t speak badly about them behind their backs. 

Our superiors make mistakes just like we do.  Should we expect more from them?  I think so, since they are given a greater responsibility and they are examples for the rest of us.  But we can also expect them to falter and to fall short of the expectations we have for them in the positions we are to esteem.  Our superiors will fall short.  We can’t justify their wrongs, but we shouldn’t respond with disdain for them or for their positions.  We also shouldn’t brush our own wrongs under the rug while pointing out their mistakes.

To make matters worse for our superiors, the higher they are in the ladder of authority, the more they are scrutinized, and the more apparent their flaws.  We might also forget they are people just like us.  And, like us, some of them have great integrity, and some have much less.  This disparity exists everywhere in the pecking order.  How do we maintain respect for those who fall short?

We should honor God when we relate to our superiors and as we respond to our circumstances, and we should do so with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:8-15).  Why?  Because the way we conduct ourselves really does matter.  It matters to us.  It matters to God.  It matters to our superiors, and to everyone else who gets caught in the crossfire.

Does it matter when we rail insults at the President, even when the vast majority of our colleagues are doing the same?  Yes.  It matters because we are a reflection of Jesus Christ to everyone we encounter, even to those whom we don't know personally or who only see us on social media.  If we say or do something that counters what God cares about, we undermine and fight against God.  I don’t think I can make a bigger statement than that.  If we don’t think about whether we are hurting our witness for Jesus Christ, or giving Him a bad name, we need to rethink our priorities.  We are to imitate Jesus, and some of His key priorities are love, gentleness, and respect for authority.  (See 1 John 2:4-6, John 13:1-17, 1 Corinthians 10:31-11:2, Ephesians 5:1-2, and Matthew 11:28-30.)  Sometimes we can influence our circumstances, sometimes we can’t, and sometimes the situation is unbearable...

3.  It’s okay to get out of a bad situation.  We just need to retreat in an honorable way.  Friends, we face real issues and I know sometimes we find ourselves so steeped in problems that escape seems to be our only option.  If you read my previous post, I hope you understood that we don’t always need to remain in a bad situation.  Sometimes our circumstances are detrimental and counter God’s plan for us.  Sometimes they are even life-threatening.

As I write, I am praying for those of you in situations like that.  God is faithful and sees your suffering and tears.  He has reasons for this phase in your life, and as you rely on Him in faith, He promises relief.  He will renew you and lead you along safe and God-honoring paths.  There will be greener grass when you follow Him through dark times.  (Psalm 23)  This is the God we love and serve.

David escaped.  He didn’t stand still to receive Saul’s deadly blows.  He dodged, he battled , and he fled.  But he didn’t retaliate.  He honored King Saul and remained in his subordinate position until he, with the help of his dear friend Jonathan, was certain that Saul changed his mind about him.  He didn’t flee until he was sure Saul considered him his enemy instead of his favored musician.  David stayed in and around Saul’s palace in the hopes that things would work out, but eventually he realized that to honor God and His plan, he needed to flee.  (See 1 Samuel 20.)

Every situation has its nuances, so I can’t offer a checklist that indicates if and when to escape.  But I do know that every step includes choices – choices to honor God and the relationships He’s ordained for us, or to ignore Him.  If we get out, we need to honor God in the process.  Our relationship with Him matters...

4.  Our relationship with God remains a priority, regardless of our circumstances.  Our situations do not give us permission to disregard God’s commands and the fact that we reflect Him in all we say and do.  We reflect God, regardless.  Those who watch us are confused because Christians lack harmony in so many areas:  love, hospitality, truth, worship, conviction, values, commitment; education, ethics, environment, politics; family dynamics, responsibility to community, entertainment choices, lifestyle.  God directs us in all areas of life.  How do our choices and viewpoints match up with God’s commands?

When it comes to respect, we can’t allow our personal passions to determine whether we honor someone or discard him/her – whether we embrace, or whether we trample.  More times than I can remember, I have allowed my anger to explode in rants that belittle and step on people – real people with real lives – because things happened that just shouldn’t have happened.  Usually, when things don’t go my way, I’m okay with that.  But when things get atrocious, I am more likely to shamefully and scandalously erupt with bombastic accusations of injustice.  I say “scandalously” because I am a proclaimed follower of Christ, yet a response like that is entirely un-Christlike.  It is wrong and it lacks any thread of gratitude to God or respect for fellow man.

I hope this clarifies some of the gaps in my previous post.  Dear brothers and sisters, we have received so many blessings from our gracious and merciful God.  We probably live decent, respectful lives and contribute to a better society, but by God’s standards, we are undeserving of everything He gave and continues to give us.  Consider Isaiah 64:4-9 (NIV):

Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived,
no eye has seen any God besides you,
who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.
You come to the help of those who gladly do right, who remember your ways.
But when we continued to sin against them, you were angry.
How then can we be saved?
All of us have become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;
we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.
No one calls on your name or strives to lay hold of you;
for you have hidden your face from us and have given us over to our sins.
Yet you, Lord, are our Father.
We are the clay, you are the potter;
we are all the work of your hand.
Do not be angry beyond measure, Lord;
do not remember our sins forever.
Oh, look on us, we pray, for we are all your people.

Such grace and mercy we have received!  Having an open rant, or even a hidden agenda, is not a proper response to our authorities when they step out of our favor, and we give up our identities in Christ when we do so.  We are called to be holy in every aspect of our lives, so we walk in faith, and continually improve our faith, not for the benefit of ourselves, but for the benefit of others who need the Gospel, knowing that God is in full control.  (See 1 Peter 1:3-16.)

So, can we make the sacrifice?  Can we respect and honor those whom God placed in our lives?  By honoring them, we honor God and we bear the name of Jesus to those who do not know Him.  Isn’t this what matters most?

If you have questions about honor and respect, or if you want to know more about living for Jesus and what it means to be a child of God, please email me at authordlv@attnet.com.

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