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What the Bible Says About Respect

Rev. Margaret Minnicks is an ordained Bible teacher. She writes many articles that are Bible lessons.


Respect: Definition

According to the dictionary, the word "respect" refers to a feeling of deep admiration for someone because of their abilities, qualities, achievements, and leadership position. The result of respect is the way someone is treated. People in authority are usually respected for what they do in their position, such as parents, teachers, bosses, and pastors. At one time older people were respected because of their age, and teachers and preachers were respected because of their professions. Unfortunately, none of those people get the respect they enjoyed in the past.

Most people know what the late Aretha Franklin sang about "respect." She made the word famous in her signature song by the same name where she spells out the word and says what it meant to her. The Queen of Soul died at the age of 76 on August 16, 2018. Every time people hear the song, they automatically think about her and her contribution to the music industry.

Ways to Show Respect

Respect is not shown in the same way in every country. Make sure you are familiar with the courtesies before you visit a new country because you might think you are respecting people when you might be inadvertently disrespecting them.

Respect is not shown in the same way in different parts of the United States either. People in the southern states say and do things that people in the northern states were not taught to do to show respect. People who grew up in the south were taught to address everyone with a title of kinship whether they were related or not. Most older people were addressed by "Cousin Lou" or "Uncle George." Younger people would say, "Yes, Ma'am" and "No, Sir." That doesn't happen today with the younger generations.

In most of the United States, respect is shown with words and phrases such as "Thank you," "Excuse me," and "I'm sorry." Respect can also be shown with some simple physical gestures such as bowing slightly, a smile, a handshake, or making direct eye contact.

In Japan, people of higher social status are respected with a bow. It is considered disrespectful if someone with a lower social status doesn't bow to someone higher.

In Islamic cultures, it is customary to kiss the hands of parents, grandparents, and teachers and give them a smile. Those gestures are believed to bring happiness to those who show respect that way.

In some African and West Indian communities. respect is displayed with fist bumps similar to that gesture in the United States.

China has a lot of rules when it comes to respecting others. For instance, older people are respected even if they are only a few months older. It is rude to call people by their first name if you don't know them. People address each other by their titles in the workplace. At home, each person is addressed by a nickname or by a term that indicates their kinship.

Younger Chinese people are expected to defer to older people by allowing them to speak first, to sit down first, and never to be contradicted. The older a person is in China, the more respect the person should be given. Younger people who do not respect their older parents might even face legal action.


Showing Proper Respect

The late Aretha Franklin's song Respect became famous, but the Bible talked about it first. According to 1 Peter 2:17, we should show the proper respect to everyone,

In modern times, we can show the proper respect to everyone we come in contact with. We should follow in the footsteps of David who respected Saul even though Saul tried to kill him. David respected Saul's position as King of Israel and did not kill him when he had a chance to do so. David respected Saul because God had placed him in his position. David reasoned if he didn't respect Saul, others wouldn't respect him when he became king.

We are to respect the position and roles of those whom God has given authority. Because God is our highest authority, we should respect the leaders He has placed in leadership positions. Admittedly, it is hard to show respect to some people in leadership positions, but the Bible says we should. If we are obedient to other parts of the Bible, we should obey God's command to respect others.


Leaders are not the only ones who deserve respect. Everyone deserves respect. No one deserves disrespect and rudeness. Besides, God sees all and hears all. When you pray your prayers, God might bring it back to your remembrance that you disrespected what He has created. When you sing praises to God, don't think it is strange if the rudeness you displayed to someone flashes in your mind.

It has often been said that "God doesn't like ugly." Disrespecting His people is a good example of ugliness. Use the Golden Rule and do unto others as you would have them do unto you (Matthew 7:12). If you don't want to be disrespected, then don't disrespect others. After all, God commands us to "Show proper respect to everyone" (1 Peter 2:17).

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