R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me…

Yes, I love all kinds of music.  Pretty much everything under the sun with two exceptions.  I’m not much on the angry rap or the extra twangy country…  Otherwise, I generally love whatever is playing.  Well, mostly love.  I should have included ‘pop’ as it were.  I find this entire genre of music utterly forgettable.  Nearly all of it matters a whopping zero within just 20 months of a track’s release.  In case you don’t believe me, ask yourself if you can remember at least three, just three, of somebody like Janet Jackson’s or Whitney Houston’s songs.  Anyone could argue they are extremely well known pop stars, but without using google for help I’d wager you can’t even hum three of either of those artist’s tunes of the dozens and dozens that topped the charts…  So in that narrow regard, I’m a music snob.  It isn’t uncommon to walk in my shop and hear Tool playing something like “Vicarious” and then hear it followed by “Dream a Little Dream of Me” sung by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, only to be backed up with “Sundown” by Gordon Lightfoot and the “Flower Duet” sung by Joan Sutherland and Jane Berbie backed by the Monte Carlo National Orchestra…  So yeah, I’m into music.

But I strayed from the purpose of my post.  I was wrestling with a conversation I held the other day with two gentlemen and the volley surrounded, or at least ended up surrounding, the issue of ‘respect’ which lead me to the obvious title.  Thank you Aretha Franklin, though – what a voice!

The conversation didn’t initially include me.  In point of fact it was meant to either.  Me being me, I stuck my nose in.  I was able to do so with a bit of tact, so knowing my shortcomings, I licked my metaphysical finger and scored one for Michael on my imaginary chalkboard.  You’d have to know me better to grasp just how important the act of integrating a conversation without swinging a sledge hammer is significant as it pertains to daily ‘Michael life’…  Those of you who know me just smirked…

Anywho, these two folks I know relatively well were discussing the comments of a local pastor and applying them to the churches they attended.  Or at least it initially appeared that way.  Upon further people watching I learned one of the two didn’t attend church and the other had attended sporadically locally in a completely different church and recently left that congregation to go elsewhere.  They both seemed to take issue with what a local pastor had allegedly said about some of the other local churches.  The comments weren’t inappropriate in my opinion and mostly pointed out some simple scripture and also coupled some of the acts of various churches, baptism being the subject of the discussion.

The pastor had shown some apparent disregard for baptisms that didn’t include immersion in water.  Granted, the word “baptism” is derived from the Greek word “baptizo” which literally means to immerse.  There’s no mention of sprinkling or pouring in the word “baptizo”…  LOL…

After much research it would be easy to cite scripture for my purposes.  John 3:23, Mark 1:5, Acts 8:36-39, etc.  But there’s the matter of two things for me.  One, and obviously the most important, is that I follow the written word of the Good Book.  After all, that’s our worldly grasp on the Word of God, is it not?  What other written guide do we have?  Secondly, I’m a sucker for tradition.  I can picture John the Baptist and the others walking slowly down into the water and performing baptisms.  I can build in my mind a bit of what that may have looked like to be lowered into water and pulled out the same way Jesus, himself was, and I really value the ability to engage in the very same act in the very same way.

That said, I think I understand how sprinkling came into play.  Many places around the globe water was rare and in some times in history water was tainted and wasn’t safe.  If you came to be born again through the acceptance of Christ and were void of enough water to be baptized, would you be any less Christian?  I’m finding it hard to believe Jesus would cast you out for being located outside proximity of water.  I’ll have to noodle on that one a bit more thoroughly, but for the purposes of our thought today, that was neither the case for the men who were shucking and jiving about it, nor is it often the case for anyone with the resources to read this blog…

Clyde was miffed because the comments were made from the perspective of one local church towards another.  Kevin was miffed because they were made at all.  I thought about that for a bit and slowly entered the discussion.  Essentially Clyde purported that it was disrespectful to criticize another church in close proximity for their proclivities towards sprinkling baptisms.  Kevin believed it was bad form to critique another at all.  He was under the impression you can worship any way you want and the end game is the same.  “Whatever floats your boat” was his idea of what Christianity should be.

This was troubling to me.  Both of these fellows are pretty darned good men.  They work hard.  They provide for their families.  They volunteer in their communities.  They’re the first people to show up to help out when a friend, and sometimes, to the aid of a stranger.  But…  I took issue with some of the flaws in the premises they held.

I asked Clyde, “So your issue is that of proximity?  If these raw comments were made towards a church that was 500 miles away, would they have any more or less validity?”  Of course, he said no.  I asked Kevin, “And if the Westboro Baptist Church set up shop across the street, should they not garnish some scrutiny in their message?”  He responded rhetorically as well.

Kevin then interjected and said it just didn’t seem respectful of a local pastor to criticize another’s practice.  He went on to say that wasn’t very Christian.  He was hooked on the word “respect” throughout his extrapolation of feelings, so I decided it was a good idea to use his word in the same light in which he intended it.

“So this issue boils down to respect, guys?” I asked them both, to which I received a resounding “YES!”

My response?  “And just who is it we’re duty bound to respect in this equation?”

Let that sink in for a bit.  We’re busy being butt hurt about a comment and criticism of a religious practice as it pertains to our worship of God.  We’re all worked up about things like logistics, hurt feelings, avoiding scrutiny, etc.  We use words like “respect” or the lack thereof to describe our thoughts.  But, in all this bantering, did we ask ourselves who is really deserving of “respect”???  Nope.  We missed the mark again.

I’d submit that while we’re busy finding reasons to justify not liking a thing we’re unfamiliar with, don’t grasp, or didn’t experience ourselves, that the RESPECT is to be shown to God and we completely skipped it.  If we can’t manage to stop the truck, back up, and take a look at this from a better perspective, then what are we doing here to begin with?

Don’t we owe God respect?  Instead of worrying about whether we disrespected one another with the questioning of baptism procedures, we forgot to ask which act respects Him.  We managed to make something special in our relationship with Jesus all about ourselves, and we completely skipped the reasons why it was sacred.

So I ask you.  Who is the person in the description above you’re actually seeking to respect first and foremost?

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