“Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other.” – 1 Thess. 5:12-13
As Christians we are called to be respectful of each other and more so those who instruct us in the faith.
Where there is lack of respect, there will be corrosive behavior which will lead to chaos strife and no peace. Respect should be given to everyone even if we have a disagreement with them. The true character of a Christian is tested when in the face of disagreement or opposition, one can still be respectful of the other party. The Bible Class instructor is in a position of authority and as he leads the class, they must be respected and there is a level a decorum that is expected especially of the student of faith. No matter the instructor’s height, weight, size, age, gender, educational background, speech impediments, physical disability, the instructor should be shown respect when they are speaking as the oracles of God (1 Tim 4:12).
“Show respect even to people who you think don’t deserve it: Not as a reflection of their character, but a reflection of yours.”
We can become disrespectful in Bible Class when:
1. We don’t guard our tone of expression
“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” – Col. 4:6
We can become passionate about a point however we must be careful we don’t raise our voices in a manner that can be disrespectful to the instructor and others in attendance.
We must be careful about not being sarcastic or cheeky as we speak to the instructor. We should not speak in a condescending manner as if we know it all, implying that the instructor cannot instruct us. We must also ensure we do not speak to insult or ridicule. When we come to Bible Class, we must remember that we are all here to learn and build up each other (1 Thess. 5:11, Heb. 10: 24-25).
Those that lead in our Bible Classes are serving in a position of authority. This position must be respected. If we are not careful with our tone, we can become disrespectful. We find examples of this in the early churches where Paul wrote to Timothy instructing him to ensure that some do not usurp authority. (1 Tim. 2:12).
Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. Hebrews 13:17
2. We are constantly contrary and not a good listener
“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness.” – James 3:9
Let us pause here for a moment of introspection. Let us ask ourselves the following questions.
- Esteem certain bible class leaders over others via my speech, attention and body language?
- Concentrate more on the speaker’s style of delivery than the speaker’s message?
- Prolong discussions in order to get the last word?
- Disagree for the sake of disagreement?
- Find that my contributions to the Class tend to be only to offer points of criticism?
We must be careful to not stir up contention or become a constant current of opposition in our bible classes. Scripture instructs that, “We must be quick to listen and slow to speak” (James 1:19).
How can we ensure that we manifest these Biblical traits?
- Listen to the speaker’s point without cutting in.
- Seek clarity when you are unsure of the exact meaning of the point being made.
- Concentrate on the known facts and specifics.
- Re-state your understanding of the speaker’s point. This is to ensure we are all on the same page. For example, you just said X however I read in the Bible where it says Y. Can you clarify your position on X?
- Be open to listening to any points of clarification from the speaker on his position.
- Respectfully state your point, striving to align this point with Biblical truths.
- Be open to tabling the discussion to allow for more research, privacy and/or time, if deemed necessary by the Bible Class leader.
Head-butting is not for the Lord’s congregation. It could be that someone comes to bible classes with unresolved issues that produce a negative attitude and contrary spirit during the Class. Those unresolved issues might be as a result of something said or done by the speaker or some perception about him. However, it is important to put aside distractions and ensure that the speaker’s message is what is evaluated and judged – not the speaker!
Romans 12:18 “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” This is further reinforced in Hebrews 12:14 says “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy”.
Paul instructs us in Romans 14:19 “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.”
3. We go off into our own private conversations while the Bible Class is being led
“Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another” – Romans 12:10
Let us always remember that there is one class. Not only is it disrespectful to the Bible Class leader, but it is also disruptive to other attendees to engage in side conversations during the class.
“Let all things be done decently and in order.” – 1 Cor. 14:40
In conclusion, we all must be aware of the behaviour and example we set for visitors and new converts who are in attendance. Let us ensure that when we come together, it is to provoke one another to love and not dissension (Heb 10:24)