Endless Respect

Karen Armstrong in her new book, Sacred Nature, notes that for St Paul, religion was not all about sound doctrine and right teaching but about kenosis (or self-emptying) and love. You might have faith that can move mountains, says Paul, but it is worth nothing if you don’t have love, which requires the constant transcendence of egotism. Instead of clinging desperately to our created identities or inflated sense of self, love is always making space and ‘is endlessly respectful of the other.’[1]

I love the challenge of being ‘endlessly respectful’. It is a habit that I think needs to be cultivated to become our default. I wonder what the ways are to help us practise honouring of the other- of all others- in our day to day interactions? How might we be mindful of every relational encounter so that instead of our lives adding to the clamour of reactivity in the world- like a noisy gong or clanging cymbal- we instead witness to the love at the heart of all things through the gentleness of the respect we offer? The ‘all others’ also invites us to include the animals and the earth itself in our practices of respectful interaction.

Jesus teaches us to give honour to all, even our enemies. This does not mean we have to have the feelings right all the time to offer respect in our speech and actions. It does mean we need to be mindful of where we are being driven by our desires and will to power, and how we might instead allow our desires to be transformed into the likeness of God’s dream for the world. Such a dream can only begin to live moment by moment, loving encounter by loving encounter.

May the Spirit give us the courage and discernment to be people of love, peace, and endless respect.

Grace and peace

[1] Karen Armstrong, Sacred Nature: How we can recover our bond with the natural world, (The Bodley Head, London:2022) p 108

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