When Respect Fails

bowing I (Nathan) grew up in Japan where respect and even reverence affect relationships, overtly. In Japan, people bow to show their respect. A nod of the head provides casual acknowledgment of another person. When meeting someone of a higher social status, the lower status person commonly bows up to 90 degrees at the waist. The longer one holds the bow, the more one shows respect. A greeting that takes place on a traditional tatami (rice straw) mat, involves getting on one’s knees and bowing all the way to the floor. Failure to show proper respect disgraces the offender and his or her family. When a person loses too much respect in Japan, suicide offers the only honorable other choice.

First Chronicles 13:9-10 describes the concept of respect and reverence at the time of King David. David wanted to move the Ark of the Covenant from Kiriath Jearim to Jerusalem. Along the way, “Uzzah reached out his hand to steady the ark, because the oxen stumbled. The Lord’s anger burned against Uzzah, and he struck him down because he had put his hand on the ark. So he died there before God.”

The Ark was not simply another object that King David wanted to move from one location to another. The Ark represented God’s holiness— 2 Samuel 6:2 says that God is enthroned between the two cherubim on the Ark. Possibly, God killed Uzzah because he failed to respect what the Ark represented (God’s presence and holiness). A proper respect of God and His holiness would recognize that God did not need Uzzah’s help to protect His Ark, or to protect Himself. That is, Uzzah seemed to value the security of the Ark (an object) above his reverence/respect of God and His holiness. Like Uzzah, some Christians fail to develop a biblical concept of respect; instead, they value security, power, recognition, acceptance, or earthly possessions more than a respect for God. Like modern secular people who value objects more than a relationship, Uzzah honored/revered the Ark more than God. When we place these other values above respect (or fear) of God, we risk the same fate as Uzzah.

However, a New Testament concept of respect amplifies the Old Testament respect demanded of Uzzah. Jesus directs me not only to love (respect) God, but He expands the definition of loving my neighbor, and myself. So I am also directed to respect all humans, highly, even above myself. Compared to Christians in other cultures, North Americans may struggle to understand the broad concept of respect. North American culture promotes the axiom that “all humans are created equal.” Because of this belief system, some tend to respect others no more than they respect themselves. But Romans 12:10 directs believers, “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” Because some North American Christians merely value others equally, they may neglect to notice the phrase, “above yourselves.” When we see others as our equal, not deserving honor/respect above ourselves, we neglect to act as a servant. The New Testament concept of respect invites me to act as a servant not only to God, but to all of humankind. In Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan, the Samaritan demonstrated much more than equality, he served (acted as a servant).

The story of Uzzah is a picture of how God values respect and honor toward Him. The story of the Good Samaritan amplifies the picture to show how God values respect and honor between humankind.

In January 2017, a report from Oxfam showed that eight people in the world possess between them more wealth than one half the world population. Jim Willis, editor of Sojourner’s magazine explains:

Let’s make it clear. Eight people own more wealth than 3.6 billion people. That is simply grotesque. And it is this type of fact that needs to break through the complacency and routine of our daily lives…to spur us to demand effective collective action to change course.

It is easy to point a finger at these eight people. However, I encourage you to avoid using judgment. The Good Samaritan story shows us that what we do with our time and money is more important than our financial worth. Take a few moments to identify some ways in which a lack of respect affects yourself and the Christians in your culture? The following are some examples:

  • I lack respect for others when I judge someone.
  • I lack respect for others when I fail to seek their input.
  • I lack respect for others when I fail to listen.
  • I lack respect for others when I promote myself more than others.
  • I lack respect for others when I…(insert something relevant to yourself)

The following equation expresses the relationship between the factors of respect:

Respect = A times B times C**

A = how much I esteem the differences in others

B = how much I trust someone else

C = how much I value the relationship more than either tangible or intangible possessions

**Note: This is not an actual equation, but it helps to understand the likelihood of respect. If any of the factors A, B or C = 0 (Zero), then respect probably equals zero.

Uzzah failed to esteem God’s holiness and to trust that He could take care of the Ark. It also appears that he valued the Ark more than his relationship with God. In contrast, the Good Samaritan esteemed a man considered unclean, trusted him, and valued him over time and possessions.

Factors A and C are a choice. That is, I can choose to esteem the differences in others and I can choose to value a relationship with them. Unlike A and C, however, factor B (trust) is earned. God has earned our trust by demonstrating His faithfulness in Scripture and in our lives. When we meet a complete stranger, however, we may feel unable to trust him or her until trustworthiness is demonstrated to us personally, or to someone else whom we trust. So our ability to feel respect may require time for him or her to demonstrate trustworthiness. For instance, when a spouse fails morally, those affected may feel unable to respect the offender until he or she has earned trustworthiness again. This equation works equally well for family members, church members, clergy, and political candidates alike.

Consider the ministers and politicians who you fail to respect. Which of the factors: A, B, or C keep you from respecting them? If they violated your trust, you may never regain the ability to respect them unless you let them know that they violated your trust. More importantly, consider those who may no longer trust you. If you fail to demonstrate trustworthiness in a way that they can recognize, you may never again earn their respect. Develop a plan to earn their trust through tangible actions and deeds.

Respect is further discussed in our book, Transforming Conflict: Relationship Skills for Ministers, available at www.amazon.com/dp/153004989X/

Claim Your Time in the Sun

Integratedspirituality (2)By Beth Davis, D.Min.

Adam and Eve spent their days working in the garden. And, for the next several centuries, men hunted and women gathered—out of doors. If you are reading this, chances are that you are living in an industrialized nation where the majority of people work indoors. I would guess that you have a difficult time receiving the natural effects of sunshine. Pollution and cloudy winter weather also block rays of sun from providing adequate supplies of serotonin to the brain.

Serotonin is important because it transmits signals between all the brain neurons. Without an adequate amount of this necessary chemical, the brain slows down. The Bible calls this a downcast spirit. The medical profession refers to it as depression. Fortunately, bright light stimulates the brain to produce serotonin. Although a daily dose of vitamin D provides an essential chemical for skin health and for other purposes, it does not substitute for the need for sunlight. So, how do we intentionally find enough sun to ensure vitality and contentment? Surprisingly, as little as 30 minutes of direct sunlight triggers the brain to begin its production.

You do not need full exposure to the sun to receive its benefits. Actually, it is the pupil of the eye that requires about 30 minutes of exposure. However, if you sun-burn easily or are susceptible to skin cancer, make sure that you protect yourself with proper clothing and sun-block. The following tips are some ways to incorporate a healthy dose of sunshine into your daily lifestyle.

 * Walk outside in the morning, if possible. Morning sun is the most beneficial.

* Spend some time out of doors during lunch or afternoon break.

* Remove your sunglasses for at least 30 minutes each day so that the eye’s pupil will receive sun rays. (Avoid directly staring at the sun).

* Abandon the car for short errands, and choose to walk.

* Take the dog for a walk.

* Play out of doors: tennis, golf, basketball, bike riding. Especially on your Sabbath day, make sure that you incorporate some type of recreation.

* Enjoy some time in the garden…working and walking with your Creator.

* Purchase a light box. If you live in a northern climate where winters are dark with little sun, you may need additional light exposure. Light boxes are available for purchase online and will provide the necessary 10,000 lux, which is equivalent to the sun’s output. For individuals who suffer from seasonal-onset depression, this is especially important.

Next week marks the first day of spring. And, soon after that we will celebrate Resurrection Sunday. Take time to enjoy and appreciate the Sonshine!

Lessons from My Father

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My father contracted Parkinson’s disease and struggled with it for the last eleven years of his life. The disease progressively attacked his short-term memory. So sometime in the fourth year of his struggle, he found himself unable to preach or teach because he couldn’t focus on any thought for more than a few minutes. He felt distraught beyond words. He loved to preach and teach so much that he happily flew thousands of miles to teach a class of only five or six students. But after four years of Parkinson’s disease, he exclaimed, “I am now useless. If I cannot preach or teach anymore, what good am I to the Kingdom of God? I cannot do ministry.”

Thus, he needed to refute what I call the secular “Lie of Productivity.” This lie states that our value results from what we can produce. One day, however, I asked him if a newborn child has value even though he cannot produce anything — I pointed out that a newborn child produces little else than poop. But the parents and grandparents will argue to their death about the value of that child, especially to the Kingdom of God. Like my father, I find that some retirement age ministers also struggle with the same secular lie of productivity.

Many ministers believe the secular lie that productivity produces meaningfulness. In their search to increase their productivity, these ministers focus on more teaching, more preaching, bigger and newer churches, winning more lost souls, and raising more money. Like my father found, everyone eventually reaches a point when they can no longer keep producing more and more. Sometimes a physical illness gets in the way and sometimes a simple administrative change gets in the way. Regardless, productivity is fleeting. Evangelical ministers in particular can easily spend their entire lives chasing the secular lie that their value is based on their productivity. A focus on productivity produces more productivity. When we mistakenly believe that it also produces meaningfulness, we base our identity on a secular lie. Indeed, productivity produces meaningfulness, but only to secular humans and only temporarily. As Christians, we base our identity and meaningfulness on something much more permanent than productivity.

When ministers base their identity on productivity, they grow co-dependent and sometimes even abusive. Co-dependence happens when our self-value (our identity) depends on being able to accomplish a task. Unlike secular people, a minister may pursue tasks that help someone else. But when that minister bases his/her self-worth on accomplishing those tasks, he/she grows co-dependent on positive feedback from his/her efforts. As we adopt this lie, we let others determine our self-worth, not God. Almost every minister understands that his/her self-worth is determined by God’s sacrifice, not manmade efforts. Yet we sometimes let a secular lie determine our worth. So the secular culture can sometimes insidiously distort how we value the self.

Consider this self-assessment for co-dependency: when rejected, do you feel emotionally hurt or do you feel grief? Those who feel hurt may suffer from co-dependency. That is, they sometimes feel hurt because their self-value is based on positive feedback from others. Jesus was rejected, but expressed grief, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing” (Matt 23:37). So His self-value was based on The Father, not on positive feedback from others.

In search for more productivity, some people can even justify trashing a relationship if it will help them to teach more, preach more, build a church, get a ministry position, build more status, or raise more money. In contrast, Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt 22:37-40 NIV).  So for Christians in particular, relationships with God, self, and others form the basis for all meaningfulness—not productivity. And our value is determined by His sacrifice—not our productivity.

Try this exercise:

  1. Name the five wealthiest people in the world in 1950.
  2. Name the last five winners of the Miss Universe pageant.
  3. Name the Academy Award winner for best producer in 1950, 1960, 1970, etc.

Although everyone on the above lists succeeded with productivity, at some point their value by others probably faded. Regardless, their productivity had value in the secular world, even if only temporarily. However, their productivity never affected their value to God, and so it never produces true self-worth or meaningfulness.

When asked what makes their lives most meaningful, most people first refer to their interpersonal relationships (Fehr, 4), not their productivity. Relationships represent the only earthly possession that we can take with us to heaven. Sadly, some ministers may arrive at heaven with lots of church buildings to their credit but few souls who know them personally. When I get to heaven, my first priority after meeting Jesus is to reconnect with my father and grand-parents. How about you? What is your priority?

Reference—Fehr, Beverley. Friendship Processes. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 1996.

For those wanting to sharpen their relationship skills, we recommend Transforming Conflict: Relationship Skills for Ministers, available at http://www.amazon.com/dp/1475231350/. This book helps ministers learn:

  • How to prevent and eliminate relationship obstacles
  • How to cultivate research-proven relationship skills
  • How to adapt each relationship skill to their ministry
  • How to develop interdependence instead of co-dependence