Aretha Franklin said that all she needs, is a little respect. Don’t we all know how that feels! Many times I’ve spoken with childrens ministry workers about this topic of respect. Sometimes it starts with “Well, when I was a kid, we would have never……” (This is usually followed, after a few minutes of conversation, with a story of walking uphill both directions to school or church.) Other times they start with “Kids nowadays…” , followed by stories of disrespectful young people who have adversely affected their Sunday school program, church, or even their favorite flower bed at home. It seems that we have dropped the ball on teaching respect to our young people.
Larry Fowler, in Raising a Modern Day Joseph, identifies five “Master Life Threads” essential to raising godly young people. The first is respect. Joseph, when dealing with Potiphar’s wife, demonstrated respect that he must have learned many years before. He respected Potiphar, who had entrusted Joseph with all but his wife. He respected the institution of marriage and he respected that some things were right, and some things were wrong. Adultery was wrong. Most importantly, Joseph respected God Himself.
Respect is closely related to self-control and submission to authority. In order to be respectful, we must agree with God about what is right and wrong, and do the right thing, especially when no one is looking. Joseph knew that sleeping with Potiphar’s wife was wrong. He did the right thing, even though no one was there to hold him to account. He submitted his life to God’s teachings when no one was looking. He showed respect for Potiphar, Mrs. Potiphar, and ultimately for God.
Teaching respect must begin with an understanding of God and who He is. His authority is to be respected, because it is right to do so, and it is in our best interests. But how do we teach respect to our children? I think it is easier to describe how we undermine respectfulness in our kid’s lives. When we behave as though the “rules” don’t apply to us, our children loose their moorings. They have been taught to obey authority and follow the rules. Then they see us disobeying, usually because we won’t get caught, and they are confused. When given the choice, kids will more often learn from what we do than from what we say. If you want to teach your children to be respectful, lead a life that is consistent. Dr. Greg Carlson often says “Train up a child in the way he should go, and walk there yourself once in a while.”
I attend a wonderful church. It is downtown, across from a free parking garage. We are so grateful for free covered parking during the long, wet Oregon winters. Each week when we come or go from church, the street is full of people, young and old, families with young children, grandparents and teens, jaywalking to the parking garage. The crosswalk is about 75 feet away, but it doesn’t seem to matter. Jaywalking is a small thing. Or is it? Every little child being escorted across the street learns something about respect every Sunday.
By the way, if you’re out there, I have a message for the lady who lived down the street from us in Loyalton. I’m really sorry about the flowers I pulled up from your flower bed when I was six. They really were a present for my Mom. I’ve learned a lot since then.