Randy Haapala | The Voice of Zion May 2022 - Home and Family Article --
When I consider the topic of respect, many thoughts come to my mind, especially in this present time. Respect is an especially important trait that we should have for one another and which we should teach our children. Exodus 2:25 tells us about God having respect upon the children of Israel. “God looked upon the children of Israel, and God had respect unto them.” In like manner, we as children of God desire to have respect, one to another.
In the times we are living, it seems respect for others has become diminished, particularly when we note how language is used on the internet. Respect, one to another, includes love for one another and love is shown in how we speak to and about others. God’s Word teaches much about love for one another; in fact, God’s Word reminds us that love is the first fruit of the spirit when one is believing: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith” (Gal. 5:22). If we look at these fruits of the Spirit, we could say they all go along with this topic of respect.
Today’s society is self-centered and often there is little accountability for what we say and do. This too can become an obstacle for us, burdening our conscience. It is easy to use words that break love, whether it be visiting with someone in person or through posting on social media. The songwriter teaches, “Our tongue is one, it is quite small, yet what it does surpasses all: A little word can be so great and cause such pain, unrest, and hate” (SHZ 463). So, whether we verbalize hurtful words or type them, they are both just as damaging to the one hearing or reading them.
Paul to Galatians admonishes, “if we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (5:25). This is God’s Spirit we own in our hearts and God is Love. We want to remember Jesus’ words, “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.”
A question we need to ask ourselves and keep in the forefront of our minds is this: Is my opinion always correct and are other opinions always wrong? Or is my opinion so important that it’s worth breaking the love over it? It is important that we have a heart and mind to listen and to be considerate of what others are saying. Even if one’s opinion does not necessarily agree with what another opinion is, it does not mean that it is wrong because we do not agree with what they are saying. We do not want to become that kind of person that is so close-minded that we do not want to hear or acknowledge that there could be another perspective on a situation at hand. Luther in the Small Catechism reminds us to “think and speak well of him and put the best construction on all he does.” When reminded and rebuked for what we have said or written that has not shown respect, may we have the heart to hear the rebuke and correct our way.
We as parents, elders, grandparents, brothers, or sisters need to pause around this topic of respect. Questions to ask ourselves are such: Am I instructing my children at home to respect one another? Am I teaching respect for authority in my home? Am I teaching respect for government leaders in my home? Have I been a good example on social media showing respect for leaders in our lands? These are all important questions, especially when we see a lack of respect today. God’s Word reminds us: “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. There is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God” (Rom. 13:1). May we always remember this and strive to teach this kind of respect for each other and for our leaders to our children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews. This is God’s will for us even today – that we have respect and love for our fellow humans.
We all battle our own corruption in this area. In these times, God has taught me especially that what my carnal mind may think and desire does not matter one iota but He has reminded me through His precious Word to, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10). We are such fortunate people when we can own faith in our hearts, and we can put our full trust in God. He is almighty! He is omnipotent! He is in total control! We have no need to worry! May He give us hearts and minds to obey His Word and to teach respect and love which is according to His Word. Jesus says, “For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you” (John 13:15).
Multicultural Experiences Teach Respect for Others
Simon and Colleen Tauriainen | The Voice of Zion May 2022 - Home and Family Article --
Navigating multicultural life experiences and relationships can be challenging and confusing – but so rewarding. Since we became a couple, we have come to appreciate the many ways in which our lives have been impacted by the three nationalities that exist within our marriage. Some effects have been positive, some challenging.
We met in Finland, arriving at Reisjärvi Opisto from what seemed like similar North American cultures – Ontario and Minnesota. As our relationship deepened through many discussions, we realized that we had differences in background despite having lived within a day’s travel of each other. Our faith was the same, yet our congregation lives varied and our family dynamics were curiously different. Even the way that we experienced Finland’s traditions, culture, and lifestyle differed, Simon having been born and raised in Finland for seven years, and Colleen having only visited Finland once.
Being submersed in another culture changed both of us. For Colleen, it was many little things, like learning how to open Finnish doors and windows, tasting mämmi and porokeitto, and deciphering language and Finnish political opinions, all things that instilled a newfound curiosity, openness, and sensitivity. For Simon, it was more of a rediscovering of his roots and a sense of patriotism for the country of his birth.
That said, we both retained our North American foundations, realizing that fact while in discussion with Finns on varied subjects, from style, food choices, sports and much more. Sometimes we felt like complete foreigners, and at other times, not so different at all.
We learned quickly that it doesn’t matter how different the opinions or ways of living life – there is no one country that is better, the reason being that different systems and customs are in place to serve the people who live there. We all respected differences in order to live together peaceably at opisto.
Indeed, we are allowed to be different. Our countries follow God’s good plans, not our own reason or agenda. Living in Finland, separate from family and North American daily life, promoted personal growth and respect for others’ traditions and contrasting ways of life.
Opisto even gave us the opportunity to get to know each other so well that we married the next fall, ultimately beginning our life as newlyweds in White Rock, British Columbia, where Simon was able to secure a job.
Living away from congregation life and friends and family is lonely and isolating, yet we also see just how much we value the homes we have around the world, different as they are. We love them, no matter their imperfections, because each country holds memories for us.
God has given us the blessing of a believing spouse, which has carried us. Having learned to cope with differences of background and opinion, we are each other’s closest supporter in faith – listening and learning from each other and forgiving often. Communication and forgiveness are intensely crucial in all relationships, at home and far away. When those two things are our continually maintained foundation, respect and love blossom, and many blessings overshadow the trials and hardships.
Letter to a Friend
Eric Mattila | The Voice of Zion May 2022 - Home and Family Article --
Dear friend in faith,
We conversed recently about respect for our neighbors and those in positions of leadership. I wish to continue our conversation with a few thoughts.
We certainly live during a time when the concerns of the world come close. The heated debates and mockery of government officials and those with a different opinion than our own have taken their toll. It is close to us to get caught up in the blowing doctrines and opinions of the world. The first fruit – love – is easily broken and cast aside in order to defend our position. Is this right for a believer, we could ask?
James especially addresses this matter when he writes, “Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell…But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?” (3:5–11)
Of course, we agree that we live in a country where we as individuals and as a society in general have been given ways to address things we feel are wrong. We have the right to vote for those who we think best, we can certainly write and visit with our representatives, and we can run for office or school boards or other governing bodies. In a democracy these are rights; let us remember to use our rights responsibly, in a way that doesn’t offend our conscience or other believers. It is important that we also pray about these matters of governance.
As believers we understand that we are members of two kingdoms, or as Luther called it, two realms. One is spiritual and one is earthly. We believe as did Luther that both are ordained, maintained and under God’s control. Luther stated, “God is the righteous judge of Nations. World powers are in his hand. He permits powers that oppose him to grow to a predetermined boundary. Then God allows judgment. God does not look at matters through his fingers. Justice is confirmed as he rules the world.” In addition, we can consider the wisdom from the 21st chapter of Proverbs: “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.” Because we understand and believe that God rules all things, we children of God can be at peace and respectful even when we have different points of view on policy.
In the book By Faith, we find this passage: “Maintenance of the order of law has been entrusted by God to the State. All of what the State needs to maintain order of law and life which builds the fatherland is included in the word, government. Thus, government consists of earthly and spiritual administrations with many different names, beginning with the leader of the country. The Word of God instructs us to honor order, justice and the inviolability of every person as well as to resist disorder and violence. The citizen has responsibilities which he has to fulfill. One must be subject to the government and pray, appeal and praise on its behalf.”
Luther teaches in the same way: “However great the treasure is which we possess in Christ and however truly we are masters even of the devil, it is nonetheless God’s will that we humble ourselves before those who are something in this world, namely, government authorities and officials, even though we were as holy as Jacob. God certainly wants government, princes, and lords to exist, no matter who they are and how they are. And we are not to ask whether they have and occupy the rulership and government justly or unjustly. One must only consider power and government as such; these are good, for they are ordained and established by God. You dare not berate government when you are oppressed at times by princes and tyrants and because they misuse the power which they have of God. They will certainly have to give an account of their actions. The misuse of a thing that is in itself good does not make it bad. A golden necklace is good and does not become worse because some harlot is wearing it about her neck. Or should I blame the necklace if someone were to ruin one of my eyes with it? Certainly not. So we must also bear the power of the prince. If he misuses his power, I should for this reason not bear him ill will or avenge the misuse on him or actually punish it. One must obey him for God’s sake, for he stands in the place of God. No matter how intolerably they may tax, they are to be obeyed, and everything is to be borne for God’s sake. Whether they are doing right or wrong will no doubt appear in due time. Therefore if the government takes your possessions, your life and limb, and whatever you have, say: I gladly give it to you. I recognize you as my masters. I shall gladly obey you. See whether you are using well or ill the power which God has given you. Even if the government does injustice, as did the king in Babylon to the children of Israel. God nevertheless would have it obeyed without treachery.”
In Apostle Peter’s second epistle he warns us about false prophets and their teachings. One of the things he warns us about is this: “But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, self-willed, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities” (2:10).
Luther has also written in his Small Catechism under the heading “Of Civil Government”: “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation” (Rom. 13:1,2).
Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek.” Sometimes this thought of meekness gets confused for weakness. It is not so. We are not meek because we live in fear or don’t understand the situation. We are meek because that is how Jesus instructed us to be by His teaching and examples. We in no way are weak if any man including those in high places would try to compel us to do sin, something contrary to God’s Word. We in that case obey God rather than man. We can firmly trust that if ever we face that situation, God will give us strength to stand firm. Regardless of the time period, the understanding of the believers has remained consistent. It is for this reason: it is founded on God’s Word and the teaching of the Holy Spirit.
So, I leave you with this thought, to avoid the extremes and endeavor to remain in the center of the flock. “Hold that fast which thy hast, that no man take thy crown.”
God’s peace, your friend Eric Mattila
Questions for Discussion:
Define respect in your own words. Then check the dictionary definition. What would you add to your initial definition?
Explain how respect is tied to humility.
How do we show respect for others at school? At work? At services?
How can we model respect for authorities before our children? What will this look and sound like?
How do we show respect for God and for God’s Word at services?
What experiences in your life have helped you learn the value of respecting others? When have you felt respected?
What can others learn about me based on how I speak of others?