OceanSide church of Christ
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RESPECT FOR GOD
Victor M. Eskew
No one reading this page would disagree with the statement, “God is to be highly respected.” In other words, all would agree that God is to be regarded highly, viewed with awe, feared, venerated, admired, and esteemed. The question that causes controversy is: “How do we show respect for God?”
Some answers to this question have universal acceptance. We show respect to God when we obey his divine will. We honor Him when we refuse to use His name in vain. We highly esteem Him when we worship Him in spirit and in truth. We reverence Him when our Christian example shines brightly among the lost in this world.
Other answers cause more controversy among brethren. Some would say that using terms such as “daddy” or “old man” in reference to God is disrespectful. Others would disagree. Some would say that one’s manner of dress in worship is a matter of respect or disrespect. Others would challenge such a statement. They do not believe that one’s dress has anything to do with one’s respect for God. Some believe that the noise level in the auditorium before worship services can be a measure of respect or lack thereof. Others would say that our talking and laughing before the services has nothing to do with respect.
Due to the controversial areas regarding respect for God, one does not hear much preaching on the subject. Many would charge the preacher with teaching his opinions rather than preaching the gospel if he made too much application in the area of respect for God. These controversial areas make it difficult for elders in overseeing the flock. They must ask themselves whether they should address certain issues, such as the manner of dress among members, or leave it alone, because, they, too, would be accused of binding human opinions.
Many have tried to approach these matters through common sense reasoning. Let us give one illustration. When a relative dies, a funeral is held. Friends, family, and the community assemble to “pay their respect.” Most of the time individuals dress extremely well on these occasions. The men often wear suits. The ladies adorn themselves in a modest dress. Rarely will one ever witness blue jeans, shorts, flip-flops, t-shirts, etc. being worn due to respect for the dead.
Many preachers have used this example, then applied it to the worship of God. Upon the first day of the week, we assemble around the Lord’s Table in commemoration of His death. In essence, we “pay our respect” to Him. What is our manner of dress on this occasion? For many, it is extremely casual. They dress in the same attire in which they would play a game of baseball. This being the case, the preacher asks: “Why do members do this? Why would they show more respect for a dead man than for the crucified Savior?
This common sense approach in respect for God has angered many brethren. They see the point. It seems that we give more honor to men than to our risen Lord. However, many will not accept this line of argumentation. They ask for a book, chapter, and verse that says that one must “dress up” for worship to show respect for God. This is where the subject of proper respect gets difficult. Surely our actions and words constitute either respect for God or disrespect toward Him. Who, however, is going to determine where that line is drawn? Who is going to legislate that this is or is not respectful? Each person has a line, but each person’s line is different. Therefore, to draw a line appears to cause division among brethren and no one wants to be accused of causing such division.
However, if no one ever speaks about respect for God and never makes any application, respect seems to take a backseat. Individuals begin to believe that nothing they do is disrespectful. Slowly, the atmosphere in a congregation changes. The fact that we assemble in the presence of an all-powerful, holy, majestic God is almost forgotten. Personal comforts and extreme casualness become more important than respect for God. This should not be!
Before we continue, let us be reminded that God is to be highly revered. Many verses could be produced to this end. Psalm 89:7 is one of the most pointed, however. “God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be had in reverence of all them that are about him.” Hebrews 12:28-29 expresses a similar thought. “Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God with reverence and godly fear: for our God is a consuming fire.” Even the Lord Himself asks: “Fear ye not me? Saith the Lord: will ye not tremble at my presence…” (Jer. 5:22).
There is no disagreement that our respect for God begins in the heart. The question is: “Does respect stop there?” The Scriptures do no teach that it does. Proverbs 4:23 states that the issues of life flow from the heart. And in Proverbs 23:7, we learn that as a man thinks in his heart, “so is he.” Our outward actions reveal much about who we are on the inside. What we manifest to others enables them to know much about our thinking. Most of the time the outward displays of a man or woman are an accurate measure of the inner man.
In order to help us to examine ourselves, some questions are in order:
1. What do others think of my respect for God when they hear me speak or act?
2. When others seem me participating in worship, do they believe that I have a deep reverence for God?
3. Does the attire that I wear in worship really display the respect for God that I have in my heart?
4. When God sees me, is He pleased with how I display my respect for Him? Would He be able to say: “Here is an individual who truly respects me and demonstrates that respect before others?”
5. Does the way I conduct myself teach others how to properly respect the Almighty God?
6. Do my words, actions, dress, and attitude border on the line of disrespect?
In Psalm 147:11, the poet writes: “The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him…”
This verse should encourage all of us to try to develop a deep respect for God. To do this brings Him great pleasure. To become lax in his area can be very dangerous. We can reduce God to the level of finite man. In fact, we can give Him less reverence that we do to humans. Let us always conduct ourselves in such a way that it can be said of us at OceanSide that God is had “in reverence of all them that are about him.”