One complaint that is shared by many fathers is that they are not respected. Some fathers think that family life would be better if they were shown a little more respect. However, respect is not a personal entitlement!
It is true that God’s people are commanded to respect those that God has placed in authority over them. Fathers meet that qualification. But there is also another component of respect. Respect is best won by action. Hear what Hebrews says about respecting fathers:
Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! Hebrews 12:9
This tells us that fathers were respected because they were faithful to discipline their children. Therefore, respect should be given by those holding a particular office. Also respect can be won by faithfully administering that office. Note, however, that here is no basis for one to demand respect because of his performance.
What should a father do when he believes he is disrespected? Consider these two principles – respect is not a personal entitlement and respect can be won.
The first basis for respect is the command of God to respect the office or position of being a father. You, as a father, did nothing commendable to earn the respect due to your position. God is the one who placed you in this position. This is humbling. This means that when you are disrespected, you should not complain or be bitter because of personal offense. Is it possible the disrespect is because you have not been faithful to lead as God commanded? This is a question humility demands that you ask. Only after asking and answering this question are you ready to deal with disrespect that may be the fault of those under your authority.
This leads to the second point about gaining respect. Respect can be won, but it can’t be demanded. The writer of the Hebrews notes that earthly fathers disciplined their children and they were respected for doing so. So in this case respect comes from following and doing what God has commanded. In this sense, respect is not a personal entitlement. Serving God faithfully as a father (including following his instruction not to exasperate you children) and husband, will lead to respect. If you perceive a lack of respect, it would be a good to think carefully about whether you are serving yourself or God. Raising children in the fear and discipline of the Lord requires total humility before God. Fathers must teach children to follow God’s ways and his methodology, not their own set of personal preferences.
If you find yourself despairing about a lack of respect and honor shown to you, look first to see how you can serve your heavenly father more faithfully, rather than being concerned about how others are not honoring you. Remember, Christ suffered more disrespect than any one who has ever lived on earth. His response – not my will, but yours.