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Respect for people?
- Jacob Ninan
Not all of us are in the habit of checking out for ourselves what we hear or read. Many of us trust the person who speaks or writes because of his fame and receive his words as truth. But blessed is the man who checks for himself if what he has heard is really true and trustworthy (Ac.17:11). Why is it that many don't have this practice? It's less troublesome to just believe. Sometimes the thought also occurs to them, "Who am I to question such famous people with so much education, experience and gifts?"
Among many things to be admired in the apostle Paul is his boldness as a newbie in questioning the well-recognised leader of the twelve apostles, Peter, when he felt that Peter was not acting true to the doctrine (Ga.2:11,12). What would we have done? Would we have thought, "Question Peter? He is the chief of the apostles and who am I? Wouldn't it be rebellion on my part to disagree with such giants?" If we thought so, we would have joined a group of Jews who were behaving in hypocrisy (v.13)! Fortunately for Christianity, Paul was able to rise above such feelings and proclaim the truth in words and deed.
'Truth' should have such a high regard in our mind that we would not put anyone above that. When Jesus said that we should 'hate' father, mother and every such human relationship when it came to loving and following Him, isn't this principle also illustrated there (Lk.14:26)? But what we usually find is that a misplaced sense of respect for great people and a fear to rebel against authority tempt us to neglect the truth in order to avoid questioning them or even disagreeing with them. Leaders themselves try to scare us by warning us not to 'touch the Lord's anointed' (a misquoted scripture which actually refers to God's chosen people Israel as the anointed ones and not just their leaders - Ps.105:11-15).
If Martin Luther had feared the authority of the Pope and submitted to whatever he said--without thinking for himself, checking with the Scriptures and deciding to disagree with the system and stand for the truth--where would Christianity be today? But reformation is an ongoing process (even for so-called Protestants), where we have to keep coming out from error to the truth, facing opposition from existing systems and 'authorities', but coming closer to the Lord and His truth in understanding and practice.
Do we love the truth that much? Sometimes it looks easier to convince ourselves that we should just lead simple lives, not get into complications and let others alone. Even though there is some truth there, that is not the whole truth. Agreed we are not all called to be Luthers, but we still are the salt and light to the people in our circle. If we compromise it is not only that we fail in our witness. We may also end up hindering our own spiritual development by rejecting the truth in some part because it would cost us something to stand for it.
Surely we must respect the great ones, but not at the cost of truth.