Teaching respect might seem simple. Everyone knows what respect is, right? It doesn’t demand much. If a 10-year old talks back, but not loudly, he shows respect. If a 16-year old resists the urge to throw a plate when told to wash dishes, she’s respectful enough. When a 7-year old wears what Mom orders, but with a pout, that’s respect. Or is it?
Teaching respect is common, but even in Christian schools, teachers present the world’s concept of respect rather than the Christian concept.
Christian respect is uniquely Christian. Teaching respect as a Christian character trait requires that we craft a definition based on God’s Word.
Teaching respect as a Christian trait requires at least seven facts.
- Respect is owed God for Who He is
- God created all things
- God said His creations are good
- Respect is owed to all God created
- Everything God created has value
- Respect recognizes value
- Respect is exercised by conscious choice
Let’s look at each one more closely.
1. Respect Is Owed God for Who He Is
Christians teaching respect begin with God – with His attributes. They explain that God is eternal, holy, unchanging, all-powerful, etc. Students learn that only God is worthy of full respect.
We respect God for who He is. Such respect is pictured in Matthew 21:37 – “They will respect my son.” They will respect because he’s the son.
2. God Created All Things
Teaching respect requires understanding that God created all things. We aren’t here by chance. You’re teaching respect for things and persons that God purposefully created.
3. God Said His Creations Are Good
Not only did God create, but He said that His creations are good. This is important in teaching respect. If everything, as God created it, is good, we must think highly of created things.
4. Respect Is Owed to All God Created
Since God created everything and pronounced everything good, we owe respect to what He made. This is a big difference in teaching respect and teaching Christian respect.
If a famous artist draws something, others respect it because of who drew it. A rough sketch on wood Michelangelo used to stretch his canvas is respected because Michelangelo created it.
Teaching respect must include the fact that respect is owed to what God created – simply because it was God Who created it.
5. Everything God Created Has Value
A fifth truth we include in teaching respect is that everything God created has value. Young people act the opposite, devaluing others by making fun.
Teaching respect must help students understand that every part of Creation has value. We can respect only when we know someone has value.
6. Respect Recognizes Value
When teaching respect, we teach students to value other people, animals, etc.
Respect toward parents recognizes parents’ value. Respect toward teachers recognizes teachers’ value.
Display a picture of a valuable car. Ask how they would treat that if it was theirs. Would they take care of it or abuse it?
When we value objects, we treat them well. When we value people, we treat them well. Respect recognizes value, and gives appropriate treatment.
7. Respect is Exercised by Conscious Choice
We consciously choose to exercise respect or disrespect. It is a choice.
It is unbiblical to believe others must earn respect. I Peter 2:18 says servants are to exercise respect, even to masters who don’t earn it. “Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable.”
A lecture should never be the entirety of teaching respect. Reinforce lessons with repetition and activities. Here are a few ideas.
- Stories: Use purpose-written stories that teach this Christian character trait. Such stories may or may not refer to the Bible, but will be true to the Bible. Georgey Giraffe’s Giant Respect is such a story for ages 3 through 8.
- Service Activities: Service activities give hands-on reinforcement of lessons teaching respect. They can help them develop a better understanding of the ways in which respect can be exercised.
- Skits: Students can write and perform skits that illustrate respect. Challenge them to reach beyond the usual areas of respect and include those not normally considered.
- Crafts: Crafts are especially good when teaching respect to young children. Cater crafts for the age group you are teaching.
Teaching Christian respect is a challenge that requires thought, effort, time, and prayer. The good parent or teacher will invest all four.