The Sense of Respect

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A few days before I was scheduled for jury duty, I slipped in the shower and broke two toes. I called the courthouse to tell my sad story but couldn’t get through. An answering machine didn’t even offer me the chance to leave a message. I was sweating; I respected our justice system too much to no-show. The Internet had an email address for the court clerk. She might not read my message until next month, but at least she would have a timed record of my attempt to explain my predicament.

Two hours later my telephone rang. The clerk couldn’t have been nicer. I told her I didn’t want the court to interpret my failure to appear as lack of respect. She didn’t ask for a doctor’s note to document my infirmity. She not only excused me from duty but wished me speedy healing.

The apostle Paul advises us to respect and honor those to whom it is due (Rom. 13:7). I would put the judge and the clerk of the court in that category. Furthermore, I expect consequences if I fail to show them respect. Apparently Michael Jackson disagrees with me.

Yesterday the self-proclaimed “King of Pop” arrived at court 21 minutes late for arraignment on the serious charge of child molestation. The judge told him, “I will not put up with that. It's an insult to the court.” After the hearing, Jackson moonwalked on top of his SUV and invited fans to a party at the alleged scene of the crime.

Jesus taught about a society that lost its sense of respect (Matt. 21:33-41). A landowner planted a vineyard. When harvest time came, he sent servants to collect what was due him. The tenants beat one servant, stoned another, and killed a third. Then the landowner sent someone he thought they would respect. They didn’t. They killed the vineyard owner’s son and heir.

The religious leaders listening to Jesus knew he was talking about them because Isaiah used a similar parable to warn their forefathers about their behavior (Isa. 5:1-7). Jesus asked what they thought the owner of the vineyard would do with the disrespectful tenants. The answer seemed obvious to his listeners. “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time” (Matt. 21:41).

As a result of my treating the Supreme Court of Connecticut with respect, they treated me in the manner I would hope to be treated. I welcome the reminder through Jesus to earn the respect of the Righteous Judge, his Father in Heaven.

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