Pastor Tom’s Note
Peter’s words, “Honor everyone, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the emperor [literally ‘king’]” (1 Peter 2:17), seem impossible to follow. What do you mean, honor everyone?!? Even the emperor?!?. How could Peter say that? After all he himself would die at the hand of Emperor Nero’s persecutions of Christians in A.D. 64.
In our culture where the virtue of honor ( ‘great worth,’ ‘respect’) seems in short supply, what does that mean to “honor everyone”? Peter puts it this way: we are able to honor everyone when we have come to first honor Christ as holy in our hearts (1 Peter 3:15). We won’t ever be able to truly honor others until we have learned to honor Christ who alone has all “dominion” over all human authorities, including the emperor’s. We entrust all justice and judgment to a “faithful creator” (1 Peter 4:19). In other words, we know that any dishonorable behavior will be held to account by God who judges impartially. We’re leaving that part to God, which then frees us to give honor to whom honor is due. Jesus paves the way for us: when “he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23). This sort of attitude takes tremendous self-restraint. “Be sober-minded,” “abstain from the passions [cravings] of the flesh” (1 Peter 4:7; 2:11) Peter tells us even if (and perhaps especially when) we are treated unfairly by our spouses, bosses, the king. David provides a powerful example of how to honor the king in 1 Samuel 24.
Why honor everyone? Also because people are watching. “Keep your conduct honorable so that when [people] speak of you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” A self-restrained (“holy”) and honorable conduct becomes the window others can peer into and see what it means to follow Christ. But lest we start bragging how awesome our good deeds are, we also remember that everyone (including yours truly) comes into this lifestyle of good works as sinners (aka hypocrites) who are beggars for His grace, forgiveness and mercy. As Paul puts it, a person is saved by grace through faith in Jesus and it is a pure gift from God. So our good behavior is something that God Himself engineers in us: “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, created in advance, that we should walk in them” (Eph 2: 8-10).
When Eric Liddell at the 1924 Paris Olympics learned he had to run a heat for the 100-meter dash on a Sunday, his conscience as a Christian would not allow him to do so. He felt it would be dishonoring to God. So in spite of tremendous pressure from the British Olympic committee, including the Prince of Wales, he couldn’t bring himself to run on the “Christian Sabbath.” Whether we agree or not with his interpretation of Sabbath observance,* he put God first. However, God honored Eric in the end and he did get his gold medal –on a Thursday– for the 400-meter. So yes our attempts at honoring God aren’t perfect, but in the end, Eric, because he honored Christ in his heart and put him first, not only won a magnificent race, but received honor from everyone on the British delegation and beyond. Jackson Scholz, his American rival, was right when he wrote Eric a note citing the “Old Book:” “he that honors me I will honor” (from 1 Samuel 2:30).
*See Romans 14
For further reflection:
What particular person, authority etc. do you find hard to honor at this moment?
What are some of the practical ways you can honor someone this week?
Have you come to a place of honoring Christ first in your heart? The good news (and we need good news in our broken world!) is that Jesus heals our hearts and gives us the free gift of forgiveness, including our hypocrisy and lack of self-restraint.