Next to love and freedom, respect is God’s biggest value! We can teach respect while we don’t think of teaching love because we think of love as a feeling. Actually love is more commitment (decision) than feeling, but it does usually include feeling–at least compassion.
How do I know this is so huge to God? I’ve believed it for years. But after finishing the book on God’s law ( Love’s Playbook 6, Exodus 24-Deuteronomy) I’ve had it confirmed for me. My favorite quote from the whole book is “If you love Me, My commandments will keep you,” which is a literal rendering of John 14:15 always translated, “If you love Me, keep my commandments.”
My husband and I were on a mission in Chile, and using our interlinear Greek and English New Testament (smaller and easier to travel with.) And for the first time I was focused on the emotion of the disciples while reading. Jesus has just told them one of them will betray him, told Peter he will deny him three times, and then says He is leaving them. They are a mess!
And chapter 14 begins with Him comforting them. So He is saying all these comforting words and then suddenly says, “If you love Me, keep My commandments”? That seemed so out of place, downright odd! It didn’t fit the context. And as I read the next line, He says, “And I will ask Abba and He will send you another comforter,” back to comforting them again. I thought It doesn’t fit! So I went to the interlinear side and sure enough, I read “If you love Me, My commandments will keep you.” That made sense. Why had no one ever seen this before?
I asked everyone I could for the next six months, and no one knew; it was just Greek syntax. Finally a friend of mine gave me an answer that made sense, “They couldn’t think like that.” Of course, the collective consciousness hadn’t evolved that far! They were all about religion being rules they had to keep. No one would ever have turned it around to be God’s rules keep us. And yet doesn’t that make more sense with everything you know about God and parenting? You give your kids rules to keep them safe, healthy, congenial, and happy. Yes, even happy. Bedtime protects their happiness as well as yours.
And that is exactly how God started teaching the Israelites who had been slaves with no choices for 100 years. He gave them His laws. When Moses says it in Deuteronomy, and David says it in Psalms, it’s as if they can’t believe that God would do such an awesome thing, “He gave them HIS LAWS!” As if it was a total condescension for God to give us His laws!
Every law of God is based on respect. And respect is the basic form of love. First respect for God, second parents, and then everyone else. Even His ordinances were all about respecting others. The plan was to make life easy and happy. Not that it is easy to go against your natural inclination and reaction. But it does make for easier, happier relationships.
I don’t remember being taught respect. I’m sure we were–all I can remember is “Chew with you mouth closed, don’t talk with your mouth full, because I said so,” etc. and to be sure my parents modeled some respect (they had been raised Mennonite), but I don’t know that I was taught respect except at school (especially in religion class).
But every place you are in touch with people, there are rules governing whatever you can do and can’t do. Driving is one of the most natural. If you’ve ever driven in a place like Haiti you understand: rules prevent chaos and death. It’s much more sane and pleasant to drive following the rules.
When you give slaves freedom what do they do? Either go crazy doing whatever they want, or sit still in fear, afraid to make choices and mistakes. So of course, God gave them rules.
There is a slight difference the way we use the words laws and rules. Laws are more likely to refer to natural law like gravity, and rules are more likely to adapt to organizations. Rules are more changeable than laws. Laws are just the way things work. If you defy natural laws, they break you; you can’t really break them. If you choose to jump off of a tall building you probably won’t succeed at defying gravity, unless someone has a net set up. Rules you can break, and maybe you will get away with it, and maybe not. The point is God gave laws and rules for protection and comfort and happiness.
When you have 2,000,000 people camping in the wilderness without bathrooms and running water and refrigeration, you’d better have some rules if you don’t want disease epidemics! That is so obvious to us now–but it wasn’t to them. It is so obvious to God that relationships require the same common-sense rules–but it isn’t to us. We think backwards because of the paradox of life on this planet: We were created to run on love, but we don’t anymore. It is not our first and most natural impulse or reaction. If you hit me, I want to hit you harder. If you hurt me, I want to hurt you more.
This weekend we are celebrating the biggest event of human history–besides creation. We are celebrating that Jesus lifted natural law for us by living as our “Do-Over”–the second Adam, or the second unbroken man–this one was successful at keeping God’s law. Then He gave us the choice to accept his death as our death to the law of sin and death–our ways, and choose His life, maintained by living His laws–His ways. We won’t do it perfectly. He of course has to teach us those. And He is happy to do that with our permission. Putting them into our desires (called “writing it on our hearts” in scripture).
I don’t think we can overestimate the importance of respect. Satan introduced our world to the law of sin and death–disrespect, or do as you please, that ends in death–also called the curse of sin and death. It all pivots on respect. Not that we have to worry about learning it, we just have to be willing to. As Paul says “From first to last it is the work of God.” Our work is choosing.
And teaching our children respect will make it easier for them to love.