Terry R. Baughman
“Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine” (1 Timothy 5:17).
Respect for others seems to be a diminishing quality in contemporary society. Rude, caustic, and denigrating comments are commonly heard in public places and are abundantly evident in online forums and social media. This public behavior has become the trend with the rising popularity of radio and television talk shows where opposing debate becomes entertainment. Participants speak in animated tones and talk over their opposition with close-minded banter. The winner of such debate is not the one with the best ideas or most convincing viewpoints, but rather the one who can speak loudest and intimidate or belittle those of opposing opinions. From talkshows to political debate there is an increase in meaningless rhetoric and empty repetitious talking points.
Perhaps the greatest loss in cultural conduct is civility, respectful consideration of others. Paul, as an aging mentor, instructed the young man Timothy in areas of proper conduct and how others should be treated in the early church. He instructed Timothy, “Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, with all purity” (1 Timothy 5:1-2).
Elders should be teachers, mentors to those who are growing in understanding. The older women are to be mentors to the young. Paul valued their ability to teach younger women, “to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands” (Titus 2:4–5 NIV).
In reality, respect is revealed in loving one another and treating others the same way we would want to be treated. It is time for a renewal of respect, honoring elders and practicing courtesy to others. Some of the old and forgotten manners need to be taken from the back shelf, dusted off, and kept handy for all social interaction.
The Golden Rule is still a good practice. It actually comes from the Scripture, “And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise” (Luke 6:31). We all appreciate being treated with respect, hearing kind and affirming words, and seeing others practice good manners. While good etiquette may not be stressed in society or commanded by laws, proper behavior is taught in Scripture and illustrated in the practice of Christian disciplines. Paul taught that, “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil” (1 Corinthians 13:4–5).
Maturing in life and in Christian teachings should bring us to the place where we value the instruction of our parents, grandparents, and other elders who have helped shape our development. Honoring them is more than an annual obligation or a gift on a special day. It is a lifestyle of practicing respect for all, especially those who are mentors in our lives. In the middle of an adverse culture let us be those who seek to revive respect and honor our elders.
“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land” (Exodus 20:12).