“Show proper respect to everyone;”
In a chapter titled “Why We Aren’t So Popular Anymore,” author Richard Stearns mourns the steady decline of evangelical influence in our society. Citing Barna research he notes that in 1996, 85% of non-Christians had a favorable view of Christianity. 10 years later in 2006, only 16% held that opinion. Evangelicals took an even greater beating with a 3% approval rating.
What can be done to improve our witness? This writer’s two cents comes from the book of 1 Peter where the apostle tells his audience to “show proper respect to everyone.” And I think hemeanteveryone. Not everyone, but non-Christians. Or everyone but those that disagree with me politically. Or everyone but those that think well of me. It means that democrat or republican… that surly co-worker… that Hindu or that Muslim. Now how does one pull that off? By treating them with the same level of respect we would give a friend or family member… giving them at times the benefit of the doubt, a hand when they are in need, and a smile… for goodness sake!
We never will know how much that can do for someone. Tony Campolo shares the story of Desmond Tutu from South Africa:
“Desmond Tutu was once asked why he became an Anglican rather than joining some other denomination. He replied that in the days of apartheid, when a black person and a white person met while walking on a footpath, the black person was expected to step into the gutter to allow the white person to pass and nod their head as a gesture of respect. “One day” Tutu says, “when I was just a little boy, my mother and I were walking down the street when a tall white man, dressed in a black suit, came toward us. Before my mother and I could step off the sidewalk, as was expected of us, this man stepped off the sidewalk and, as my mother and I passed, tipped his hat in a gesture of respect to her! I was more than surprised at what had happened and I asked my mother, ‘Why did that white man do that?’ My mother explained, ‘He’s an Anglican priest. He’s a man of God, that’s why he did it.’ When she told me that he was an Anglican priest I decided there and then that I wanted to be an Anglican priest too. And what is more, I wanted to be a man of God.”
A tip of the hat to that minister… and to all who would dare to share Christ’s love in that manner.