I have spent the better part of the last decade being Catholic in the public eye. Also privately, thanks be to God, but it’s the public part that helped me learn about the concept of “human respect.” Treating other humans with respect is a good thing, of course. But there is also a concept in moral theology known as human respect, which is an excessive regard for the opinions or esteem of others. The Dictionary of Moral Theology explains it beautifully, saying that human respect, “seeks honor rather than the works worthy of honor.”
It can be tempting to make decisions based on human respect. “Popular” opinions can get one liked and shared and celebrated, and unpopular truths or even mindful silence can get one criticized or “cancelled.”
One of the great things about Jesus is that He went to a dinner party full of jerks two thousand years ago to give us an example of how to avoid falling into the trap of human respect (see Luke 14:1-6).
Jesus saw a man who needed His help. He could have chosen to do nothing; after all, the man didn’t actually ask anything of Him. Jesus could have told him to come to Him privately, when it wouldn’t have meant facing criticism. Jesus could have publicly chastised him. For that, the Pharisees would have celebrated Him for his piety. Instead, Jesus put aside human respect, and did what is right in the eyes of God. He challenged the Pharisees to face their own hypocrisy, and He healed a sick man.
The desire for human respect can work for good if I’m around friends who are going to esteem me for making morally correct choices. It can be a danger if I’ve surrounded myself with people who don’t have their own priorities right. I can, like Jesus, choose to spend time as a missionary in the wilds of fancy dinner parties and online comments, around people who have the wrong idea of what to admire. But I always have to remember that wherever I am, I’m there to impress God, not humans.
Pray about whose respect you are desiring today.Human Respect and a Dinner Party Full of Jerks // Kendra Tierney Click To Tweet
Thank you for being here.
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