Aretha Franklin sang about it back in 1967. Rodney Dangerfield couldn’t get any back in the 80’s. Webster (still the best dictionary on the web) defines it as “the condition of being esteemed or honored.” And the other day at South Miami United Methodist Church I found that it’s the only rule at their ministry called “Food for the Body and Food for the Soul.”
People from all walks of life come to eat there. I found guys that live in shelters being served by volunteers from the church, from the UM Wesley Foundation and elsewhere. I found that Chipotle meat tastes as good there as it does at the restaurant (Chipotle is an awesome partner in this venture). And I found intentionality on the part of South Miami, and their pastor Cathy Felber, about feeding the soul as well as the body. Obviously not everybody who eats there is going to stay for Bible Study. One of the guys that I ate with had to get back for a curfew downtown. Another simply wasn’t interested. But a variety of guys did stay, and found a place to pray, a place to learn, a place to belong.
As they circled up for prayer before the meal, Cathy gave announcements, and before the prayer she reminded everybody that there were no rules at dinner except one. And she asked everybody what it was, and in unison the group said “respect.”
Respect. Why respect? As I bowed for prayer, I searched the theological library of my head(with so few resources the search was quicker than Google) and the only better word I could think of was love. Jesus told us that that was the greatest word. But it wouldn’t get to the point of what these guys needed right there at the meal. They needed respect for the other guests. Respect for the volunteers, and the building, and the food. And then, as a result, respect for themselves.
Respect seems like a better word than, say, “tolerance.” As Christians we are to love, and respect moves us a lot closer to that than tolerance. And when you think about it, Webster’s “esteemed and honored” are pretty good qualifiers for love also.
We live in a world that depends on belittling others as the way to elevate oneself (brace for this, the elections are coming!). We live in a world where pundits grind up and chew out everything that they can get their hands on. Pointing the finger and laughing is a comedian’s way of life (let’s leave AVF out of this, I love that show). Some respect would go a long way in our society, and I found South Miami’s dictum to be a refreshing call to the civil, and more pleasing, way of living. Last Wednesday night’s meal not only reminded me of that, it demonstrated that. And Miami is all the better for it.
Please pray for this great ministry in our midst.
Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God
1 Peter 2:17