Have you ever thought about the respect and dignity Christ showed to individuals? Think about the woman who was caught in adultery, tax collectors who were known for swindling, children who were clamoring for His attention, Pilate who questioned Him, religious leaders who despised Him, close friends who abandoned Him, and even the soldiers who killed Him . . .
Christ was able to interact respectfully with these individuals because of who He was. He never allowed the negative behavior of someone else to change who He was. He didn’t act disrespectfully because someone was unworthy of respect—even when He was mistreated and despised. Quite honestly, the dignity He gave to them was a direct reflection of His impeccable character.
The same is true for us. The respect or disrespect we give to others is an outward expression of our inner character. This is seen most clearly in the relationships closest to us—especially the relationship with our spouse.
It is quite embarrassing to admit, but there have been times when I have been disrespectful to my husband Mike. I even found myself thinking, When my husband starts acting in a way that I think is more respect-worthy, I’ll show him respect. But I was actually saying, He is not living up to my expectations and I will make sure he knows it. . . . This attitude never improved anything; it only made our relationship more strained.
I came to understand that my disrespectful attitudes had less to do with Mike and more to do with my own character flaws. My lack of respect revealed that I was self-centered, impatient, critical, discontent, judgmental, unkind, and demanding. All of these “attractive” qualities revealed my immaturity and lack of Christlike character.
When we find ourselves being disrespectful or unkind to our husband, we should ask ourselves what is at the center of our behavior. Are we focused on ourselves? Or are we allowing the Holy Spirit to fill us, change us, and flow through our lives? Galatians 5 tells us that when we allow the Holy Spirit to lead us, Christ’s character will be seen in our behavior. Our lives will be marked with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
You see, when we are self-focused (thinking of only our needs) or self-reliant (relying on our own strengths and abilities) we will struggle to be respectful and kind. But when we submissively allow God to fill and lead our lives, Christ will be seen in us. We will be able to respect others and offer dignity to every one—not because they’ve earned it, but because of who we are in Christ!