Romans 13:7–8 (HCSB)
7 Pay your obligations to everyone: taxes to those you owe taxes, tolls to those you owe tolls, respect to those you owe respect, and honor to those you owe honor.
8 Do not owe anyone anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.
Do you have any outstanding debts of honor that you need to pay? I there someone that you know that you need to respect, but aren’t?
Working with teenagers I find that I am often teaching about respecting people and almost universally I get some variation of this, “I’ll respect them when they respect me!” or the “I’ll respect them when they act like they deserve respect.” What I try to teach them is that their actions don’t change your debt. Their actions don’t change your responsibility to respect them. They are creations of God and as such deserve a certain measure of respect. On top of that if they are someone who is in a position of authority over you then they deserve even more of your respect.
The key isn’t to think of it as giving your honor to them. That isn’t who you owe. You owe your honor and respect to God and He has commanded that you pay that respect by honoring those who He has created and who He has placed in authority over you. That is why you honor and respect them, even if they aren’t worthy of your respect.