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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Fraudulent privilege

Respect missing for those on margins

Scripture and Lutheran tradition both encourage respect. Paul writes to the Romans: “Pay to all what is due them ... respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due” (Romans 13:7).

Similarly, Martin Luther writes about the commandment to honor one’s parents: “It is a much higher thing to honor than to love. ... Honor requires us not only to address them affectionately and with high esteem, but above all to show by our actions, both of heart and of body, that we respect them very highly and that next to God we give them the very highest place” (Kolb/Wengert, 401.106-7).

These words seem so self-evident and sensible. They’re consistent with what we know of God’s love, which is both respectful and compassionate. But think of how unsettling it is to read Acts 10:34, especially in the King James translation: “God is no respecter of persons.”

These jarring words distinguish two kinds of respect: a godly respect for others and a kind of respect that runs counter both to God’s promise in Jesus Christ and the Spirit’s liberating work.

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