Respect for authority and respect for individuals over the past 50 years has markedly declined and I would suggest there’s a strong correlation between the numbers of people attending Christian church services and the obvious lack of respect today which is particularly evident in the younger generation, of course with exceptions. This equates to the fact that the average age of church attendees has risen to its highest peak while churchgoing has fallen to its lowest. (http://www.whychurch.org.uk/trends.php)
Although many in the swinging-sixties who attended such services were nominal Christians, they at least received instruction in the biblical principle of ‘Love thy neighbour’; likewise they would have been familiar with the commandment, ‘Honour thy father and mother’ - a fundamental tenet of respect. Even for those unfamiliar with this commandment most would have been aware of The Golden Rule to ‘Treat others as you would have them treat you,’ (See Luke 6:31) and of course they would have appreciated such respect, but today abuse and disrespect are increasingly becoming the norm, particularly in deprived and rundown areas of the UK where crime, drug-taking, gang feuds, gun and knife carrying, graffiti and litter make their impact.
When I was a boy it was drummed into me by my parents that I should respect the elderly and those in authority; likewise I was to respect all females, and if travelling on public transport I was to offer them a seat if none were available while I was occupying one. My teachers insisted I should doff my school cap when meeting the parents of other children or when encountering teachers on the street. This latter act of greeting was a formal sign of respect. Teachers were to be addressed as ‘Sir’, ‘Miss’ or ‘Madam’ as appropriate. Such behaviour would seem formal today when some teachers allow their pupils to address them by their forenames and visa-versa. My teachers always addressed me by my surname, with the exception of one who adopted me as his favourite student.
The onus for instilling respect lies squarely upon parents; they should not expect teachers to take on the role which should start at the cradle. Simple things like insisting their children should say, “Please” and “Thank you”, “May I?” and “Will it be all right?” can help show the relationship of respect they should have for their parents and others. Without such respect there comes a break-up of relationships which weakens social structures to bring about the demise of law and order. Without law and order there is no stability, neither is there justice. It becomes a free-for-all, the law of the jungle, where only the fittest survive, and for what? - The loss of dignity and the loss of self-respect which is the heart of all respect for others, because the person who cannot have respect for himself cannot have respect for others. He who throws used gum onto a pavement, drops litter, spits in the street or sneezes without using a handkerchief shows a lack of respect, not only for others but for himself.
The Apostle Peter wrote the words, ‘Honour all people,’ (1 Peter 2:17) within the context of those endowed with authority, both civil and Church authority. The Greek meaning of the word ‘honour’ is to highly esteem, i.e., respect. Perhaps we should get back to basics and learn from our forefathers, better still, learn from the word of God?