Disrespect gets my vote for the “Ugliest Sin” award! You may disagree, of course, but please bear with me for a moment as I plead my case. For starters, while I hate to be a name-dropper, the fact is that God doesn’t think very highly of disrespectfulness. Neither do those closest to Him. Jesus said that anyone who uses insulting terms to describe his brother is in danger of the judgment and hell-fire. James pointed out the hypocrisy of blessing God and cursing those He made in His own image, and Paul declared that we ought to regard others as better than ourselves.
But disrespect is the ugliest sin, not just because it insults God, and not merely because what is said is in itself so evil, but mainly because of what disrespect says about the contemptuous. And what it says is that the person who disrespects others is in direct opposition to both the character and the eternal purpose of God.
As far as character is concerned, contempt for others reflects arrogance. Jesus once told a parable for the benefit of those “who considered themselves righteous and despised others.” Arrogance, then, is first of all a case of mistaken identity. Arrogance is pride void of justification. It says, like the Pharisee, “I am not like other men.” It keeps us from identifying with others, and breeds insensitivity to their needs.
Jesus, on the other hand, demonstrated humility and compassion when He laid His glory down in order to be like us. He deliberately made Himself to “be like other men!” He identified with us so that He could fulfill God’s eternal purpose, which is to break down all the arbitrary, prideful barriers to human fellowship—all the class and racial and intellectual and gender distinctions sin has created—and to unite us all in Himself.
The false pride that is so opposed to the character and purpose of God is expressed in disrespect for human life and feelings. It is reflected in racism, spousal and child abuse, in the exploitation of the weak and the ignorant, in contempt for divinely delegated authority, in discourteous and inconsiderate language and attitudes. It is reflected in any depreciation of the worth of another person, and especially in the presumption that they are somehow inferior to us. In whatever form it takes, such disrespect is pathetically ugly, when you consider how inappropriate it is for sinners like ourselves to hold anyone in contempt!
From Guest Editorial VI
By R. Dean Catlett
Minister of the Church of Christ in Bend, OR