Some say the greatest source of tension in the world develops either when someone wants you to do something you do not want to do, or you want someone to do something they do not want to do.

I think it’s true. It seems as though we human beings can overcome just about any obstacle, but the suffering caused by one person or group demanding that others conform to their wishes has caused more human dissatisfaction and division than any other single issue.

Most groups tend to do this. Those who agree are included and given benefits, while outsiders are excluded, shunned, punished, humiliated, and sometimes put to death for their lack of compliance.

Political groups, married couples, kids on a playground, young men and women deciding the pecking order in their group can cause immense grief.

We should never minimize the power of respect. In my younger days as a pastor, I thought about how delightful it would be to have a Sunday morning worship service with only those in attendance who wanted to be there. I envisioned that no one would be there simply because of family pressure, religious guilt, shame, or obligation. So I decided to try the experiment of respecting people’s choices about their own church attendance. Gayle and I decided many years ago that we would not use any of the popular techniques to get people to come to church. We decided that we would simply have a believers’ meeting and respect the decisions of others as to whether or not they wanted to join with us.

We have made a fundamental decision to respect the choices others make for themselves. And of course, we appreciate it when others are respectful toward us. It leads to a more peaceful existence for all—one more conducive to respectful dialogue in the marketplace of ideas as opposed to hostile division.

I remember when congress was controlled by the Democrat Party for 40 consecutive years, while having a variety of Republican and Democrat presidents. During those years Democrats and Republicans dined, golfed, worshipped, and negotiated together. Even in the midst of significant conflict, decorum, respect, and a fundamental understanding that the other guy was elected too, provided a fundamental foundation for our Republic to flourish.

We as Americans want our politicians to be statesmen, not just advocates. We want them to represent us, use wisdom, have manners, and when necessary lead us responsibly. We trust them with power, but that power is rooted in the dignity of the citizenry. So we want them to give their best arguments in a respectful way, and move our country forward.

We don’t want them to be such strong advocates for their positions that they demean, embarrass, or dehumanize those elected representatives who differ from them. Instead, they should debate, vote, accept the results, and go to dinner or play golf together. Disrespect prevents that from happening. If there is trickery, deception, blame, or embarrassment, then we human beings tend to get bitter, align only with those who sympathize with our view, and we stop thinking and begin to hurt one another. I believe that is what has been happening in Washington, but it’s time for it to stop.

Our mid-term elections count. The various branches of government need to respect each other. If mutual respect is not upheld, then the power struggle begins again with our politicians simply positioning themselves for elections in two years.

Many have paid a high price so that we don’t have a monarchy, a dictatorship, or one party rule. I believe that elected representatives are generally thoughtful people and are elected by the people because of their political philosophy and attractive demeanor that’s conducive to representation. Even if their political philosophies differ, if they will honestly work with those whose views differ from theirs, they could be heralded model public servants. But if our representatives continue mocking, blaming, and accusing one another and igniting like behavior in their constituents, then history might not laud our republican experiment.

When President Trump was elected, the majority in both houses of Congress shared his philosophy of government. According to the most recent mid-term elections, the majority of voters limited his power to some degree by changing the leadership of the lower house of Congress. Now the Lower House, the Senate, and the White House will have to respect, listen, advocate and negotiate, if they expect any success.

If those in the White House will respect the decisions we, the people, have made, we can move forward. That is a two way street though. Those in Congress need a touch of humility as well, recognizing that the states elected President Trump and the people elected a Republican Senate. We Americans don’t mind strong leaders, but strong leaders need to have a touch of humility so our nation can laud the work of public servants instead of being bombarded by screaming radical advocates positioning themselves to conquer those on the other side.

Our founding fathers designed our government to keep any one person or group from exercising unilateral power over others. So if our public servants forget they are elected to serve and instead insist on conquering those whose ideologies differ from theirs, then we’ll fire them by voting them out. We the people, after all, enjoy the rights and opportunities we have to replace representatives we dislike or feel do not represent our views.

  • When Democrat President Bill Clinton was president, the Democrats lost 54 House seats and 9 seats in the Senate in his first mid-term election.
  • When Republican George W. Bush was president, the Republicans gained 8  House seats and 1 seat in the Senate in his first mid-term election.
  • When Democrat Barak Obama was president, the Democrats lost 63 House seats and 9 seats in the Senate in his first mid-term election.
  • And though the count isn’t finalized for Republican President Donald Trumps first mid-term election, Republicans have lost 26 House seats and gained 3 seats in the Senate.

We the people know how to remove and replace people in government when we need to.  Checks and balances work. If our representatives think that the people are not watching their manners as well as their actions, they are gravely mistaken. If they think checks and balances are insignificant, decorum and dignity are inconsequential, and that brute force will prevail, we will replace them. 

So what do we expect? Honorable people who have some manners, are reasonable, effective, and respectful. 

We can all show more respect. We in the Church need to be respectful of those we may never persuade and protect them as we would protect our own. Christians should ensure that Jews and Muslims feel safe in our communities, and the opposite should be demonstrated as well. Atheists need to be respectful of those with faith, and vise versa. We should demand that all of our representatives be statesmen, and should they choose to be partisan advocates, let them, but not from an elected governing position. As citizens of our constitutional republic, we are ultimately responsible to ensure that our society is civil. Let’s begin by upholding the value of mutual respect.

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