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|Whatever happened to respect?|
A popular American comic poses as a man who "gets no respect." As a child, he says, he complained, "Dad, everybody hates me!" His father replied: "Don't be silly. Everybody doesn't know you yet."
Nearly everybody today, it seems can relate to this comedian's mock frustration at "getting no respect." In these days of rapid change in world affairs, in technology and in social patterns, little is deemed sacred. Things are valued more than human relationships. And people who can humorously voice our frustrations are admired.
Whatever happened to respect----in families, in school, at work? And how can you create more of an atmosphere or respect in your own home? On the first day of school a couple of years ago, I watched as a new kindergartner screamed and whined upon being left by his mother. As a young teacher tried to comfort the crying boy, he kicked her as hard as he could, then ran out of the school playground and tried to jump in his mother's car as she drove drove away!
Where was the child's respect for the teacher? Where was his trust that Mother had his interests at heart? Where was his concern for how he made his mother look? He had not learned respect at home!
Psychology Today reported that "the traits of U.S. parents want to see in their children have changed dramatically during the last one hundred years.... In the 1920's parents emphasized obedience, conformity and respect for home and church. Today, parents are more likely to want their youngsters to think for themselves, accept responsibility, show initiative and be tolerant of opposing views."
Why this change from respect for other people and institutions to more self-interest and less concern about what is genuinely right or wrong? Anne Remley (author of From Obedience to Independence) quotes sociologist Duane Altwin, who says: "It's an increasingly complex world. Parents want their kids to succeed in it, to survive in it. They know that good jobs require being able to think for yourself."
Working mothers and single parents force children to be more self-reliant. At the same time entertainment media designate the traditional family and present authority figures as unlikable and idiotic, while making rebellion and nonconformity look exciting and profitable. And, the decline of religion as a driving force in personal behavior is a factor. Respect for elders and for authority is less emphasized today. Child-rearing problems have multiplied.
One toddler's mother says: "I've treated Alexis as if she had a mind of her own ever since she was a baby. When she was 6 months old, I used to ask her what she wanted to do next, what she wanted to eat or to wear. "But now that she's 4, sometimes I really want her to obey me. The other day I told her, 'Alexis, you're going to do this right now because I say so!' She looked up at me astounded----as if to say, 'What's going on here? You're changing the rules!' "
Author Remley worries: "Some people fear that... enchantment with autonomy may go too far. Parents may be inadvertently creating a generation of aggressive, competitive, cutthroat adults.... Carried to excess, individualism can lead to isolation and alienation."
Lack of respect, in other words, breeds lack of respect. How much antisocial behavior can be traced to the failure to learn, at the earliest ages, proper respect for others! When children grow up where honor and respect are taught and practised in the family, at school and on the job, the society will find itself on a much surer foundation.
Jesus said, "Whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them" (Matt. 7:12, New King James throughout, expect where noted). This teaching, which is widely known as the Golden Rule, provides the guiding law, of a happy society. It implies respect shown toward every member of the society by every other member. But that Golden Rule is little practiced today!
The apostle Paul enlarged upon the principle of Christ's Golden Rule in the book of Ephesians. chapters 4 through 6. This passage ought to be read as one unit (the chapter-and-verse divisions ere not added until centuries after).
A lot of men focus in on and use Ephesians 5:22 ("Wives, submit to your own husbands") as a club to beat women over the head. Some grab Ephesians 6:1 ("Children obey your parents") and use it for the same purpose on children. But this section of Scripture must be considered as a whole. It is a blueprint for a happy society based on respect and concern for fellowman! All that Paul says in this section grows from his opening statement in Ephesians 4:1-3:
"I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to have a walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, and longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."
A respectful society must be based, first, on acknowledging and worshiping God as the Creator and Ruler of all things, and on obeying God's laws, which point the way to pleasant, positive improving lives.
In Ephesians 4:17-19, Paul contrasts the "walk" he introduced in verses 1 through 3 with the walk out of which his readers have been called: "This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God... who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to licentiousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.
Notice it! Those whose lives are based on the way of greed----those who truly respect neither themselves nor others----stand in contrast to those who walk in the way of "the life of God." Paul goes on in Ephesians 5: "Therefore be followers of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us.... See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise.... submitting to one another [respecting one another!] in the fear of God" (verses 1-2 15,21).
Paul, before he goes on to advise specific groups, tells every member of the society to respect every other member. All his following statements are based on each person "submitting to one another in the fear of God." In verses 22 t0 24, he tells wives to submit to their husbands.
This section is not a giant thumb to deprive women of a full, enjoyable role in the world, but follows naturally from all Paul has already said. Respect would produce an environment in which each could exercise personal rights and have freedom to grow. Nor does Paul address women alone. For in verse 25 he says, "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it."
This tremendous love----tremendous respect! It means the husband is willing to lay down his life for the wife. Then, in Ephesians 6:1-3, Paul spotlights the positive effect that children's obedience to parents would have. He holds out to children the promise "that it may be well with you and you may live long on earth."
But Paul turns around to caution parents, fathers in particular: 'And, ye fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord" (Authorized Version). This means parents should be consistent in communication, encouragement and discipline, and the whole family should always be pointed towards God.
Ruling your children only through their fear of being punished will discourage them. Trying to be their "buddy"---abandoning your position of authority----creates chaos. Every office or station in the family is not equal!
Paul then speaks to servants (employees) and masters (employers) in verses 5 to 9. Chapters 5 and 6 of Ephesians outline a system by which respect could be learned and exercised by everyone, starting with respect for God and extending down through the family and out to society.
In short, when we reject sin ---- the breaking of God's law of love----and avoid "fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness" (Eph. 5:11), then we walk "circumspectly" (verse 15). This will promote respect at all levels of the family----wives to husbands, husbands to wives, children to parents and vice versa.
This will promote respect of employers to employees----and finally the whole society will be armored against the evil wiles of Satan the devil. Paul describes this armor in verses 10 to 18 of Ephesians 6.
People need a solid foundation from which to climb upward toward perfection. The Bible provides that foundation. And its all based on respect! Why not start living this way, to the greatest extent that you can, in your own life?