"The high priest Ananias commanded those standing beside him to strike him on the mouth. Then Paul said to him, "God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! Do you sit to try me according to the Law, and in violation of the Law order me to be struck?" But the bystanders said, "Do you revile God's high priest?" And Paul said, "I was not aware, brethren, that he was high priest; for it is written, 'You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.'" (Acts 23:2-5).
Tennis star Serena Williams, rap artist Kanye West, and Representative Joe Wilson are not the only ones given to public outbursts. But the apostle's "flare-up" raises a deeper question: Should a Christian show respect toward authorities in other religions, whether the pope in Catholicism, the mullahs in Islam, the Dalai Lama in Buddhism, or in this case the high priest in Judaism whose time has passed? Three observations on showing public respect:
First, respect or honor should always be given to those in positions of God-ordained authority. Whether it's the higher-ups in the state or the family, we are to honor the king and parents alike. These are God-ordained institutions, not man-made inventions. To fail to respect them is to sin against the God who set them in place (Rom. 13:1; 1 Pet. 2:13-18). Paul's apology stems from the high priest being a political ruler, not his defunct religious function.
Second, respect, or at least courtesies, should be shown to all men created in the likeness of God. Love does not act unbecomingly (1 Cor. 13:5) which means it has manners, as we're called to be at peace with all men (Rom. 12:18). And it's hard to be peacemakers when we are dissing people publicly -- even when they dishonor us as Christians (1 Pet. 2:21ff.).
Lastly, while we're never called to disrespect anyone, there are times when outwardly showing respect is tantamount to siding with the enemy. While it's proper to respect a Muslim's freedom or his societal contribution, it isn't proper to respect his faith -- the very thing that's sending him to hell. There is no common ground here. To give "a greeting" (2 Jn. 10-11) or honor to any aspect of Islam is to fail at witnessing to its damning nature -- the very thing Pope Benedict XVI did in May during his visit to Jordan.
Feeding my Mormon neighbor when he's hungry is showing respect for my fellow man; but giving him a simple handshake in his official capacity as a missionary disrespects the gospel. Always give honor to whom honor is due -- just make sure it's due.