Honor everyone. Love the brothers and sisters. Fear God. Honor the emperor. (1 Peter 2:17)
Pastor John’s Notes:
Peter instructed the church to honor the Roman emperor, but this must have been difficult for the early Christians to hear on many levels. Remember, it was the Romans who crucified Jesus Christ. The Roman government was oppressive and immoral. The emperor at the time of Peter’s writing was Nero, a young egomaniac who, soon after Peter’s writing blamed the Christians for the fire in Rome and put many innocent people to horrible deaths. Peter himself would later die by Nero’s command. Why would Peter give this instruction? Why mention the emperor at all?
Let’s first recall that Peter had just commanded us to honor everyone. Every person is worthy of our respect because every person is created in the image of God. It would be easy for us to point to the most evil person we know and say, “Here is the limit of our tolerance. Here is a person who is unworthy of our honor.” But Jesus commanded us to love even our enemies and do good to the people who hate us. Peter is echoing this teaching.
The culture in which we live is polarizing. Whether it be our former president, our current president, or a president yet to come, is it ever okay for us to say, “Here is the limit of my tolerance; here is a person I refuse to respect; here is a person worthy of my hatred?” The moment we begin setting limits on whom we will show respect, we can easily change those limits. Soon it will not be a single individual, but entire groups of people we feel entitled to hate. No, we must honor everyone, including those who rule over us, even those we don’t care for very much.
Lord Jesus Christ, you have commanded us to love our friends and enemies alike. You demonstrated this love throughout your earthly life. Show me how it is possible for me to love others in the same measure. Teach me to honor everyone, even those with whom I disagree.