No, I won’t sing it for you now (although, if we were in person, I probably would break out into song), but I do want to talk about what respect means to all of us these days. I hear the word respect used a lot. Professional athletes talk about having respect for their opponents who play well. Respecting boundaries is an important topic for both kids and adults. Students are asked to respect one another in the classroom and on the playground. Most of these instances involve respecting people we come in direct contact with on a day-to-day basis. It is much easier to teach a child to respect someone they interact with often because they are able to practice what they learn immediately. This kind of respect is very tangible and real to them. When we talk about respecting leaders with our children, things get a little fuzzier. They have leaders in their everyday life, such as parents, teachers, coaches, and pastors. This is one level they can relate with because of the real-life interaction, but what about the levels above that? Leaders such as the superintendent, mayor, governor, congressmen, and the president should be respected by our children, but what does that look like for them when they may never even meet these people? I mention this level of respect for leaders as a gray area because of two reasons:
- Children may find it hard to understand the concept of respecting someone they do not know.
- Children are more likely to hear adults disrespecting this type of leader in our culture than they are to hear these leaders being honored.
In this age of social media, people are voicing their unfiltered opinions about any and every leader without having to back-up their accusations and without consequence. A quick way to get attention online is to say something controversial about a politician or other highly influential person. Our children are growing up in this volatile culture and taking notes. I want to see my children stand up for what is right, but with respect because that is how God wants us to conduct our lives.
Respect everyone, and love your Christian brothers and sisters. Fear God, and respect the king. -1 Peter 2:17
We will not always agree with our leaders, but God has commanded us to respect them and pray for them. This is where I want to start with my kids.
I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. -1 Timothy 2:1-2
Because respect starts in the heart and only God can change hearts, I pray that my children will listen to His Word and the commands He has given regarding leadership. It is not our job to promote those leaders we disagree with or even be happy about their appointment, but it is our command to pray for them and respect them. God allows leaders to rise and fall as He chooses. We must choose respect and trust in Him.
Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. Romans 13:1
I pray for my children to respect our leaders, but my job is also to model this for them. My example is my most powerful teaching tool. If I talk to them about respecting leaders, yet my children hear me talking rudely about a politician or community leader, I have lost my witness. I will not lie and praise a leader who is not worthy of such words, but I can choose to not say anything, especially around my children. Honest discussion is important when leaders show their flaws, but respect can still be exercised in these conversations. When these moments arise, take the opportunity to pray for the leader instead of bashing them.
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. -Ephesians 4:29
The Bible, prayer and your example are the key elements in teaching your children to respect leaders. These lessons are more important than ever as our voices—negative or positive—can be heard via social media across the world. As families who love Jesus, let’s be the ones to take the road less traveled—the one paved with respect.
How are you teaching your children to respect leaders and how are you modeling respect for them?