Treat people the way you want to be treated. Respect is earned, not given.When this recently popped up on my Facebook news feed, it had almost 1,000 “likes.” It’s an easy-to-like saying that sounds wise, and I’m sure the intent is to discourage people from demanding respect, which almost always backfires.

But my first thought was that, for Christians, the character of a rich life is never about earning, it’s about the ability to give freely without the need for payback and without feeling cheated.

First, the command to love our neighbors as ourselves is really about respect rather than affection. Thank goodness, we don’t have to like people to respect them. Second, respect is a form of love, and love never demands; yet it never earns, either. Respect is also a form of grace; and grace is always given, never earned.

Common Wages

When it comes to giving and receiving, I think we tend to see it as obligation on the one hand, entitlement on the other. We live in a world where everybody owes and everyone pays. I call it wages mentality—in a word, earning.

The problem with my earning your respect is that I become dependent on you paying me what I’ve earned, what I’m entitled to. If you don’t pay, I’ll quickly see you as the “problem” and will become angry or frustrated. Then you’re in control of me rather than me being in control of myself.

When my satisfaction depends on you, I’ll go after you to collect what you owe, be it respect, an apology, whatever. And once I’m in that frame of mind, any love, grace, or respect evaporates like raindrops on hot summer pavement.

This is where the great lessons on grace come in. (more…)

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