The operational definition of deference is “limiting my freedom in order not to offend the tastes of those God has called me to serve.” Everyone you are called to serve—your parents, siblings, neighbors, church family—has preferences. Maybe your mom wants a specific cleaner used on a certain type of surface. Possibly you are asked to load the dishwasher a precise way. Perhaps you share a bedroom with your sister, and she would like to paint it a certain color or organize it a different way. Maybe a neighbor needs assistance with a project and prefers that you come at a specific time. A person’s preferences may or may not seem important to you. However, by setting aside what you think is best or most efficient and honoring their choice or desire, you are demonstrating deference. Deference communicates Christ’s love as you give preference to others above yourself in order to be a blessing to them. “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another” (Romans 12:10).
The opposite of deference is rudeness. A rude person is unpleasant to be around because he only seems to think about himself. Such a person is inconsiderate. He will turn on a light when someone else is trying to sleep. When someone is on the phone, he impolitely continues to talk loudly. He thoughtlessly plows ahead with his own schedule, ideas, and preferences without consulting others or being willing to change his plans for them. His coarse words and actions are hurtful and offensive. His rude behavior is in stark contrast to Paul’s prayer in Philippians 1:9–10: “And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; That ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ.”
- Am I motivated by genuine love for others, and do I seek their good above my own?
- Do I pay attention to my surroundings so that I can avoid causing an offense?
- What in my home might cause family members or visitors to stumble spiritually?
- Is the music in my home uplifting and spiritually encouraging to my family?
- Do I justify my music or activities that may offend or weaken fellow Christians?
- Do my words, actions, or attire create difficulties or cause hindrances for others?
- Do I honor others even when it is inconvenient?
- When a decision needs to be made, do I ask others what their preferences or thoughts are?
- Am I more interested in debating and proving my point than in understanding another’s perspective?
- Do I often find myself in the middle of a conflict, or do I look for ways to be a peacemaker?
More About Deference
God enables me to:
Respect the preferences of others.
Refrain from causing offense.
Use music to edify others.
Be constrained by His love.
Notice those around me.
Avoid using disrespectful language.
Know that my attire conveys a message.
Steer clear of arguments about differences.
Be a good example.
Seek resolution of conflicts.
Deference in Scripture
Paul Supports Himself While Preaching
Revealed in Nature
Biblical Character Illustrated Curriculum
View the Deference booklet sample:
Free Resources for Deference
Enjoy these selections from the Biblical Character Illustrated Curriculum that are fun and memorable!