This is for you, Silver Toyota. Our time on the highway together convinced me that this would be an appropriate topic for the week.
I’m all for freedom of speech and self-expression. I would also like to drive with my children and not have to explain what the inappropriate hand signal on your bumper sticker means. When you threw litter out and it went underneath my vehicle, that seemed uncool. As you weaved dangerously between cars and your adult passenger leaned out the window acting like some kind of matador, I decided, like Julius Caesar on the eve of war, to cry “alea iacta est” — “the die is cast,” and go to battle for respect.
This isn’t just for you though, Silver Toyota. Unfortunately, many people in my faith tradition also struggle in this area. Just ask a waiter or waitress to tell you when the worst “tippers” come into their establishment. They’ll almost definitely say that it is on Sunday afternoons or evenings just after church lets out.
Some of the rudest driving I have witnessed has been perpetrated by vehicles with a “Jesus fish” on the back. And what about religious T-shirts these days? Apart from being masters of unoriginality, I mean parody, many are just flat out abrasive.
As I read my Bible, it seems clear that respecting others is pretty important. Simply consider the words of Jesus: “The most important (commandment),” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31, TNIV)
Jesus is actually referring to two passages here, Deuteronomy 6:4-5, known as the Shema (sheh-mah), and Leviticus 19:18. For Jesus and His people, the Jews, these verses made up the epicenter of their life and practice.
Most people who practice the Jewish faith today have one or both of these passages attached to their bodies or in the doorways throughout their homes as a reminder of their key tenets of faith. Many recite these verses in the morning, evening, and during the most important events of their lives. What makes these commandments so important? It has nothing to do with religion — it’s all about love and respect.
If we don’t learn to love and honor God with every part of our being, we will never truly be able to love ourselves, the unique self that God has made each of us to be. If we don’t learn to love ourselves, we can’t truly love others. I mean sure, we can show some love to those who love us back. But this is about every one of our fellow human beings. If we don’t learn to fully love and respect God, we will not truly respect ourselves or others — and the whole system will break down.
I am confident that God wants us to treat others not only as good as we treat ourselves, but with as much respect as we show Him. I do not mean to say that we should treat other people like gods, or that we should worship them. I am saying quite the opposite, in fact.
Jesus points out clearly, that the Lord God of Israel is the only being that His followers are to worship.
Love and respect for God is intimately connected to love and respect for others because our complete love of God will ultimately determine how we respect ourselves and how we respect others.
So, if you find yourself growing in affection toward God but treating others worse by the minute — something is out of balance. And no one is buying it.
You can’t truly love God in the way He expects if you do not love others. Respect for others is respect for God because He is quite proud of each person He has made.
Respect doesn’t always have to mean reliance, however. Some people need to be confronted; others need to be avoided. Each of these scenarios can be played out while showing respect, however, and each of us ought to take this responsibility seriously.
Silver Toyota, you have a lot to learn. I do, too. As do all of us.
So be a good tipper, let people in when you’re driving, and don’t wear a T-shirt that accomplishes the exact opposite of what it advertises.
Why should we give God so much love and respect? Because He deserves it. Why should we show the same kind of respect to other people? Because apparently God thinks they deserve it, too.
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