Respect, Week 1
Faith of the Roman Commander
Show respect to God because He's in charge of everything.
When Jesus taught the crowds, He didn’t drone on and on like some teachers of the law. Instead, Jesus spoke with conviction and authority. Soon, it wasn’t just Jewish people paying attention to Jesus. Even some of the ruling Romans were captured by what He had to say.
One such man was a Roman military commander who lived in Capernaum. This man, who we’ll call Atticus, was in charge of around 100 soldiers. The moment he spoke, they all jumped to attention and followed his commands without hesitation.
Atticus had a servant who he loved deeply, perhaps like a son. We’ll call him Julius.
“Tell me, Julius,” Atticus began one day. “Why are all these people crowding into town?”
“It’s Jesus, sir!” Julius exclaimed.
“Jesus, the Teacher?” Atticus asked in surprise. “He’s here?”
Julius nodded. “They say He healed a man with leprosy . . . just like that!”
“I’ve heard the stories,” Atticus agreed. “People flock to Him everywhere He goes. Let’s go see what He’s like! Bring my cloak.”
“Yes, yes, of course . . .” Julius began. But as he turned, the room seemed to spin. His knees crumpled as he staggered and fell against the wall.
Atticus was quick to catch him. “Julius! What’s wrong?”
Perhaps it was some bad fish he’d eaten for dinner or too much time in the blazing sun, but Julius had become sick. So sick, in fact, he had to lie down because he was shaking so fiercely. Soon, he couldn’t even move.
Atticus paced the room. “You’ll get better,” he announced. “You’ve got to. There must be something I can do…”
His eyes traveled to the window. Outside, he could hear feet tramping the streets, all heading in one direction.
“Jesus! I’ll find Jesus!” Atticus decided.
He grabbed his cloak and hurried through the crowded streets until he reached the place where Jesus was teaching. Hundreds of people surrounded Jesus, shoving to get near. But the crowds parted as Atticus marched through, tall and commanding.
“Jesus! I must see Jesus!” he cried out.
As the last few people stepped aside, Atticus found himself facing Someone he knew at once was Jesus. The Man’s face read both compassion and strength.
Atticus, always in control, suddenly found it hard to speak. “Lord . . . My servant lies at home and can’t move. He is suffering terribly.”
Jesus looked directly into the commander’s face. “Shall I come and heal him?” Jesus asked.
Atticus imagined Jesus stepping through the doors of his house. He knew that Jewish law would forbid Jesus from entering the home of a Roman. But Jesus wasn’t just any man.
“Lord,” Atticus spoke at last. “I am not good enough to have you come into my house. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed.”
Atticus thought of the way his soldiers obeyed every command instantly, without question. He continued, “I myself am a man under authority. And I have soldiers who obey my orders. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes. I tell that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
The crowd was silent, intensely curious to hear what Jesus would say to this important Roman. But instead of answering Atticus, Jesus turned to the others around Him. “What I’m about to tell you is true,” Jesus said. “In Israel I have not found anyone whose faith is so strong.”
Atticus could hardly breathe. He was grateful that Jesus had seen such faith in him, an outsider. But he still desperately wished for his servant to be made well.
Jesus turned back to Atticus and smiled. “Go! It will be done just as you believed it would.”
Atticus felt as though a great weight had been lifted from his shoulders. “Thank You, Lord. Thank You!”
Turning, he rushed back through the crowds and retraced his steps home. As he stepped through the courtyard gates, he heard running footsteps.
Then, Julius burst from the house, talking a mile a minute. “Did you find Jesus? I can move again! I’m well. It happened just like that!”
Laughing, Atticus greeted Julius. “Yes. Yes! Yes, to all of it. I saw Jesus. And there is no one like Him.”
Though Atticus was an important man himself, he had seen that Jesus, God’s Son, was more powerful still—and worthy of his complete respect.
Each of you share one person you respect—maybe a family member or small group leader or teacher.
Now, share the things you do to show that you respect that person. Here’s the thing— while we’re called to respect everyone, the most important Person to respect is God! He made everyone and everything and holds the whole universe together. Brainstorm together some ways that you can show respect for God, like reading what He’s said to us in His Word or thanking Him for the things that you have. Choose one specific way that you each want to show respect to God this week—and don’t forget to remind each other about it! Together, ask God to help you show respect to Him and to all the people around you this week.
Respect, Week 2
Don't Show Favoritism
James 2:1-4, 8-9
You respect God when you respect the people God made.
Leo spent many Saturdays volunteering with an organization that built houses for families who needed a place to live. While Leo wasn’t an expert builder, he could hammer nails and haul stacks of shingles as well as anyone.
But Leo was super excited when he was asked to be in charge of volunteers for their next project—a home for a family who had lost their house in a fire. He was sure he could organize people just as well as building supplies.
First thing the next Saturday, he showed a lengthy checklist to his friend Zeke. “See, we’ll get started with orientation right at 8,” he explained. “Then, I’ll find out what everyone is good at and assign teams.”
“Sounds like a plan, my man,” Zeke agreed.
“It’s gonna be a good day!” Leo declared.
“Yeah, this is the day the Lord God made,” Zeke dropped a few rhymes. “So live it up, don’t let the joy fade.”
“Is that a Bible verse?” Leo asked.
“Kinda,” Zeke said.
Leo shook his head, grinning. “You’ve got a verse for everything.”
As volunteers in work clothes began to filter in, Leo set up chairs and Zeke made coffee. Precisely at 8, Leo got started.
“Thanks for coming out!” he told everyone. “Help yourself to snacks while I go over the ground rules.”
Leo laid out the plan for the day as the chairs filled up. He was just getting ready to divide the group into teams when another volunteer walked in.
“Hey, sorry I’m late,” the man offered. “I’m Reese.”
Reese was tall with curly dark hair. His straight white teeth gleamed when he smiled, and he wore a brand-new flannel shirt and expensive work boots. His leather work belt carried enough shiny tools to stock an entire construction crew.
Leo gawked, impressed. “Oh, um, hi!” he stammered. “You know, it looks like all the seats are taken . . . let me just put out a chair for you.”
Quickly, Leo popped up another chair and put it the best spot, right up front. He looked up, trying to spot Zeke. “Hey, bring Reese coffee from the snack table. Wait—scratch that.”
Reese probably never drank generic coffee. The stuff Zeke had made just wasn’t good enough. Leo turned to another volunteer, Cara. “Can you run across the street to the coffee shop and get Reese a latte?”
Cara looked surprised, but nodded. “Extra shot of espresso, extra whip,” Reese called after her as he settled into his seat.
Leo cleared his throat and tried to figure out what he’d been saying. “Now we were just dividing into work crews,” he explained. “Reese, you want to be in charge of framing? That’s the most important job today.”
Before Reese could reply, Leo spotted another volunteer arriving late. This man’s graying beard was scraggly, and he wore frayed jeans and ratty work boots. The lone hammer in his tool belt was dusty and scarred.
“We started at 8,” Leo snapped.
The man nodded apologetically. “I’m Alvin. Real sorry.”
Leo pointed to the back of the room. “You can stand there.”
When Leo finished handing out assignments, he realized he still hadn’t given Alvin a job. “The porta-potty’s getting kind of gross,” he recalled. “You can clean it up.”
As the volunteers dispersed and began work, Leo tapped his checklist and grinned at Zeke. “I think that went well!” he announced.
Zeke nodded, but didn’t say anything.
“I don’t know why Cara isn’t back yet with that latte for Reese,” Leo huffed. He looked around for Reese, expecting to find him shouting out orders. Instead, he saw Reese leaning against a beam, checking something on his phone.
“That must be really important work he’s doing,” Leo decided.
Zeke craned his neck to see. “Actually, I think he’s looking at cat videos.”
Leo blinked, surprised. “But . . . I thought he’d be our best volunteer! I mean, he looks way more important than, say . . . Alvin.”
He nodded to the side, where Alvin scrubbed the door of the porta-potty, the sole of one of his work boots flapping.
Zeke raised an eyebrow. “So . . . you let looks change how you treated ’em both.”
“Well, yeah,” Leo agreed.
“Yeah,” Zeke said.
“Don’t tell me,” Leo prodded. “You’ve got some Bible verse about this.”
“I wasn’t gonna say anything, man,” Zeke protested.
Leo sighed. “Just tell me.”
Zeke pulled up the Bible app on his phone and handed it off to Leo. “A guy named James wrote this,” he explained.
Leo studied the screen for a moment, and then read aloud: “Treat everyone the same. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes. And suppose a poor man in dirty old clothes also comes in. Would you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes? Would you say, ‘Here’s a good seat for you’? Would you say to the poor man, ‘You stand there’? . . . If you would, aren’t you treating some people better than others? . . . The royal law is found in Scripture. It says, ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ If you really keep this law, you are doing what is right. But you sin if you don’t treat everyone the same.”
Leo handed the phone back to Zeke. “Guess I’m better at carrying shingles than organizing people,” he admitted.
“Hey, man,” Zeke encouraged. “You always got a chance to start over.”
Leo poured a fresh cup of coffee and grabbed a pastry from the snack table. He headed over to Alvin. “Thirsty?” he asked.
“I can always use some caffeine,” Alvin admitted.
“You ever framed up a house before?” Leo wondered.
Alvin took a drink of coffee and thought about it. “Oh . . . ’bout 60 or 70 of ’em.”
“Would you go over and take charge of the framing crew?” Leo asked. “I think you’d do an amazing job.”
Alvin held up his scrub brush. “I’ll just finish up with the porta-potty, first.”
“Nah. I got that.” Leo took the scrub brush and raised his voice so the rest of the crew could hear.
“Ladies and gents! Alvin here is going to be in charge. Listen to what he tells you.”
Alvin grinned a snaggle-toothed smile. “We’ll have these beams up in no time.”
As Alvin sprang into action, even Reese paid attention and started making use of his shiny new tools. Leo was grateful he’d been given a chance to treat them both with the same respect before the entire day was lost.
No matter who you are or where you live, there are probably some people in your life who are kind of like you—and easy to get along with.
And there are probably other people who are different from you—and take a lot more work to relate to. Share with each other one person you know who’s kind of like you, and one person who’s really different. It’s super easy to treat people like us, or people who seem important, as being extra special . . . while it’s just as easy to ignore or look down on the people who are different from us. But God says that everyone is important and worthy of our respect—because He made them. Help each other think of at least one way you can show respect this week to that person who is different from you, and keep from playing favorites. Then together, ask God to help you follow through.
Respect, Week 3
Honor Your Parents
Ephesians 6:1-3 / Deuteronomy 5:16
You respect God when you respect your parents.
Madison had dreamed of being a veterinarian since she got her first hamster when she was four. So she was pretty excited when she won a scholarship to the new private middle school that specialized in teaching science and math.
On the morning of her first day, Madison bounded down the stairs to the kitchen. But all she found on the table were the usual boxes of cereal.
“Don’t I get a special breakfast?” she demanded.
Madison’s mom looked up from trying to pour coffee and zip up her laptop computer at the same time. “Sorry, sweetie,” her mom said. “We’re both trying to get out the door early this morning.”
“But I need brain food!” Madison protested. “Eggs and bacon and protein and stuff.”
“There’s protein in the milk, I promise,” Mom responded.
Madison thumped down, shaking her head as she poured flakes into a bowl. “You just don’t get it. My new school is a really big deal.”
Mom raised an eyebrow and handed Madison her lunch box. “I know it is. And that’s why I’ve packed plenty of brain food in here.”
Madison pried open the lid and examined the contents of each small compartment.
“Mo-om!” she groaned.
“What, you don’t want lunch?” Mom asked dryly.
“You cut my sandwich in shapes,” Madison pointed out. “I’m in middle school now. That is totally embarrassing!”
“If I make you a new sandwich, you’ll miss the bus. So I think you can handle a butterfly sandwich for one day.”
Frowning, Madison jammed her lunch box shut. “Oh, I can’t take the bus home this afternoon ’cause I’ve got a meeting about volunteering with the humane society.”
Mom took a deep breath. “I’m happy you want to volunteer. But why am I just hearing about the meeting now?”
“You’ll have to pick me up at 4:30,” Madison said.
“I’m already scheduled to be on a conference call at 4:30,” Mom explained.
Madison shoved aside her half-empty cereal bowl and grabbed her backpack. “So just do your call in the car!” she said. “What’s the big deal?”
Mom’s eyes flashed. “Young lady—” she began.
“You’re gonna make me miss the bus,” groused Madison, and flounced out the door, slamming it behind her.
The bad mood followed Madison all the way to school, but she forgot her irritation in the excitement of finding her locker and making her way to new classes, like biology.
Madison’s teacher, Ms. Rice, was in her mid-twenties and wore her waist-length blonde hair in a braid. She punctuated everything she said with her hands as she rattled through the list of things they would study that year.
“We’ll also do a whole behavioral sciences unit in the spring,” she noted, and Madison’s hand shot up.
“Madison?” Ms. Rice pointed to her.
“Will that cover animals?” Madison wondered. “I want to be a vet.”
Ms. Rice smiled. “Absolutely. In fact, this is one of my favorite subjects. You can discover so much when you study how animals interact. Like, oh, just take wolf packs. Often they can get really big, but it only works because the pups are taught to respect their parents and the other adults as they grow older. It’s fascinating to see how it plays out.”
“Oh. Wow,” Madison said and settled back in her seat as Ms. Rice continued to introduce what they’d be learning. She tried to imagine what it might be like to be part of a wolf pack, out in the wilderness. No packed lunches there, for sure.
After class, she approached Ms. Rice at the desk. “What happens if the wolf pups, well, don’t respect their parents?” she asked.
“They get kicked out of the pack,” Ms. Rice explained.
“Seems kinda harsh!” Madison protested.
Ms. Rice smiled as she straightened papers on her desk. “I know, right? Good thing our parents don’t do the same.”
“Yeah, I guess so . . .” Madison agreed. “But they’re just . . . frustrating sometimes. I mean,my mom…”
Ms. Rice stopped and studied Madison. “You know, respecting your parents doesn’t have to do with how you feel about them. Some things are just right.”
Madison frowned. “Like how?”
“I don’t know if you read the Bible at all, but there’s a great verse about this,” Ms. Rice noted. “Something like: ‘Children, obey your parents . . . because it’s the right thing to do.’ Scripture says, ‘Honor your father and mother.’ . . . ‘Then things will go well with you. You will live a long time on the earth.’”
Madison knew she’d heard that somewhere before. “Is it one of the Ten Commandments?”
“Sure is,” Ms. Rice said. “Wolf packs work that way by instinct. But people have to make a choice about how they treat their parents.”
Slowly, Madison nodded. A warning bell sounded in the hallway.
“Hey, you better get to your next class!” Ms. Rice told her.
“Yeah. Thank you!” Madison said, heading for the door. But she couldn’t get her mind off the wolf pack for the rest of the day. Or the things she’d said that morning. After all, her mom spent a lot of time making meals. And cleaning the house. And getting Madison to practices and friends’ houses. And just plain listening.
Madison was silent in the car on the way home as her mother wrapped up the conference call. “Okay, that’s done,” she said at last. “How was school, sweetie? How was your meeting?”
“Good,” Madison said. “Great! And, um . . . so was my lunch. A lot of kids had to buy theirs. What you make is way better.”
Mom glanced over in surprise as she pulled into their driveway. “I’m glad you think so.”
“And thanks for picking me up,” Madison added. “I’m really sorry I didn’t ask sooner.”
Mom smiled. “Gotta say, I’m liking this new school. What are they teaching you, anyway?”
Madison grinned back as she grabbed her backpack and hopped out of the car. “All about wolf packs!” she exclaimed.
Madison knew she’d probably get frustrated with her parents all over again, soon enough. But next time, she’d think first and choose to act with respect, no matter how she felt.
Okay, parents—your turn first. When you were in elementary school, did you find it easy to respect and obey your parents?
Share some things that you did as a kid to show respect to your parents. Now, kids—do you find it easy to always obey and respect your mom and dad, or whoever you live with? Truth is, obeying and respecting your parents is not an automatic thing. But it’s something God tells us to do, even when we don’t feel like it. And get this—He also says that when we do show that kind of respect, our lives will just plain go more smoothly. Tell your mom or dad one way you want to do a better job of obeying and showing respect this week. Then, parents, pray for your child, that God will give them a heart that desires to respect those God has placed in charge.
Respect, Week 4
David Spares Saul
1 Samuel 24
You respect God when you respect the people He's put in charge.
God had instructed the prophet Samuel to anoint David as the next king of Israel. But for the time, Saul was still king. David soon became close friends with Saul’s son Jonathan, and even turned into a popular hero, too, as he fought and won many battles.
Through it all, though, Saul became more and more jealous of David and plotted to kill him. “What have I done?” pleaded David. “What crime have I committed?”
David fled from Saul into the wilderness, where several hundred men joined him. But even this didn’t stop Saul.
“Hunt him down and prepare to attack!” Saul cried out.
Over and over, Saul led soldiers against David and his men. On one occasion, Saul and his men marched around one side of the mountain, trying to catch up to David on the other side! But just as Saul’s soldiers closed in, Saul received word the Philistines were attacking. He called his soldiers away to fight the new enemy, and once more, David escaped.
This time, David and his men hid out in a wild place called En Gedi. “Don’t get too comfortable,” David warned. “You really think Saul’s giving up?”
Sure enough, as soon as Saul returned from chasing the Philistines, he gathered his best soldiers to track down David again. “He’s coming!” David’s men warned. “He’s got three thousand soldiers!”
“Quick! We’ll hide in here,” David declared as he led his men into a nearby cave that ran deep inside the cliff. As the marching footsteps of Saul’s men grew louder, the fugitives huddled into the darkest part of the cave, all the way at the back.
Just as the sounds of Saul’s army grew loudest, though, the army stopped—right outside the cave.
Saul’s eyes searched the rugged landscape. He turned to his servant. “I find myself in need of, ah, relief,” he said. “Perhaps a. . . er, the facilities?”
“The what, Your Majesty?” the servant asked. “Oh! You mean a royal throne!”
“In a manner of speaking,” Saul agreed.
“There isn’t one,” the servant pointed out. “Use that cave.”
Saul stepped into the dim light of the cave, completely unaware that David and his men were hiding in the back.
David’s men stared in amazement. “It’s Saul! All alone. This is your opportunity to take him out. Your number one chance!”
David could see Saul, outlined in light from the cave’s entrance. If he chose, he could get rid of Saul right then and there—and become king himself.
“What are you waiting for?” his men whispered.
Silently, David crept forward. As he approached Saul, he whipped out a knife.
His hand shook.
David slashed off a corner of Saul’s robe!
As Saul turned to leave the cave, David returned to his men.
“You’re letting him go!” they moaned.
“I cut off a piece of his robe,” David pointed out. “Even this was too much! May the Lord keep me from doing a thing like that again to my master. He is the Lord’s anointed king. So I promise that I will never lay my hand on him.”
They could all see Saul at the mouth of the cave now, ready to step out into the light.
“Okay, fine, we’ll take him out!” one of David’s men announced.
“No. Don’t touch him!” David ordered.
As Saul left the cave, David ran after. When he burst from the dark cave into the bright sunlight, he called after Saul.
“King Saul! My master!”
Saul turned in surprise. David bowed low with his face to the ground. “Why do you listen when men say, ‘David is trying to harm you’? This day you have seen with your own eyes how the Lord handed you over to me in the cave. Some of my men begged me to kill you. But I didn’t. I said, ‘I will never lay my hand on my master. He is the Lord’s anointed king.’”
David held up the cloth he’d slashed from Saul’s robe. “Look at this! I cut off the corner of your robe. But I didn’t kill you. . . . I haven’t done anything to harm you. But you are hunting me down. You want to kill me. May the Lord judge between you and me. And may the Lord pay you back because of the wrong things you have done to me. But I won’t do anything to hurt you.”
Through it all, Saul stood stunned as the truth of David’s words sunk in. At last, he even wept.
“You are a better person than I am,” Saul wailed. “The Lord handed me over to you, but you didn’t kill me. Suppose a man finds his enemy. He doesn’t let him get away without harming him. May the Lord reward you….I know for sure that you will be king. Just promise me you won’t hurt anyone in my family.”
“I promise,” David told him.
From the mouth of the cave, David’s men looked on. “He’s just throwing away his shot,” they sighed. “Flushed it right down the drain.”
After this, Saul and his soldiers returned home . . . while David led his own men to their usual safe place.
Have you ever heard it said that someone needs to “earn” your respect?
While we don’t need to say that everything anyone does is okay, we actually are called to respect everyone—whether they’ve earned it or not—simply because God made them in His own image. This is especially true for people God has placed in authority, whether that’s a parent, a teacher, or the leader of a nation. Together, brainstorm as many people as you can think of in your life who are leaders. How can you show those people respect, even if you don’t always like or agree with them? Together, ask God to give you a heart to show respect for all the leaders in your life.
(Note for parents: Make it clear to your child that if they are ever in a situation where someone in
authority is hurting them or making them feel uncomfortable, they should immediately tell an
adult they trust. Showing respect does not mean staying in a harmful situation.)