This article is about whether respect must be earned or given. The author also discusses authority and obedience.

Source: Reformed Perspective, 1993. 1 pages.

Respect – Earned or Given?

It is said that teachers must earn the respect of the students. And it is true, teachers who have that respect have a lot easier time in class than those who don't. A teacher earns the students' respect when he gets along well with them, understands them, can communicate with them, has the ability to explain difficult concepts in a clear manner. Most readers know examples of teachers who have or have not earned the respect of students. For the latter, life in the classroom is a constant struggle. Whatever he or she does is not accepted; often it is treated with scorn.

Most readers recognize the above scenario. Imagine that respect for those in authority always must be earned, though. Would that also mean that obedience depends on earned respect? One should think twice before answering this question in the affirmative.

There are more aspects that should be considered after the teacher example. Do parents, too, have to earn the respect of their children? Do ministers and other office bearers have to earn it? Are we allowed to behave disrespectfully toward them if they do not carry out their office according to our standards? Similar questions can be asked about our attitude toward other authority bearers. Political leaders may behave in ways which are unacceptable to Christians and therefore lose our respect. Do we then stop to pray for them, or to obey them?

Are you still with me? Undoubtedly, it is much easier to obey authority figures who have earned our respect by their words and actions than those who have not. And teachers, office bearers, parents, must do everything in their power to earn the respect of those whom they serve. That requires much wisdom and prayer. Being in a position of authority means to love, to serve, to be patient, to forgive, to be a proper model, to be a sincere Christian. At the same time we are called to obey and respect all those whom the Lord has put in authority over us. As adults we must practice that and teach it to the following generation. In the present world we should put emphasis on obedience. The LORD demands it. That obedience must be given regardless of earned respect. It is not: earn respect first and on that basis we obey.

I leave you with a final thought: Those who argue that obedience is given as result of earned respect may end up applying the same principle to the LORD. We obey Him after He has earned our respect. You do not want to go that far, do you?

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