Love, Fear and Honor

Based on the title, what would you expect this post to cover?

Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the…king. (?)

1 Peter 2:17

As I was studying 1 Peter 2 in a Bible study last week, I wondered how human history would have played out differently if believers had more consistently followed Peter’s teaching. I wonder how human history will play out if believers begin to faithfully follow this advice. And if Christian leaders took this seriously, how would our world be different?

Peter wrote this letter to believers in the second half of the first century, likely in the early AD 60s. The Roman empire was marching on, Jews had been expelled from Rome in AD 49, and Nero was emperor from AD 54 to AD 68. Those reading Peter’s letter lived under a Roman emperor, probably Nero, and it was a period of (literally?) insane leadership, corruption, and serious persecution of Christians.

And Peter wanted believers to honor the maniacal emperor?

The Kingdom of God advances in ways exactly opposite of the ways of worldly kingdoms like the Roman Empire, which will all end up in decline, corruption, and eventual disaster. Jesus said pray for your enemies; the world says to ignore them or to seek revenge. Jesus said to lead a quiet and effective life; the world says to lead a powerful and important life. Jesus said to love your neighbor; the world divides us and plants seeds of distrust between neighbors. The Kingdom of God asks us to fear God above worldly kingdoms but to honor the kings, crazy or not. Somehow – it’s a mystery – the Kingdom of God advances when we follow Jesus’s advice.

The Kingdom of God is everlasting; kingdoms of this world will all pass away. It is a challenge to follow in Jesus’s steps, to resist the ways of the world, and to show proper respect to everyone.

What is the first thought that comes to mind when you think of how Christians are perceived in American culture today? Peaceful people serving the vulnerable, honest folks living a quiet life, working and paying taxes, or culture warriors fighting to get back to Christian roots? There are millions of honorable Christians serving and living godly lives in our country. God sees them, and I am extremely thankful for every one of them. The noise, however, is all about winning the culture war.

It’s not a good look for Christianity.

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.

I Peter 2:13-15

I admit, when I read these verses I think, many leaders punish their political adversaries and commend their friends and supporters. It has nothing to do with what’s right and wrong. Even if that’s true, according to Peter, we should still submit ourselves to leadership, honor them, pay our taxes. It’s no worse in the USA today than it was in ancient Rome.

The best way to do this is to sincerely pray for our leaders, even those with whom you disagree. In our democracy, we are free to share and state our opinions, but Christians should do it with respect. I believe we have an opportunity in this polarized culture to set an example of honest communication, genuine cooperation, and godly living and by doing so we might “silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.” If we continue to fight, abuse others on social media, we ourselves are behaving as ignorant men and women.

I don’t participate in the culture war, and hopefully my words and opinions are respectful, but it is easy to forget teachings such as this one, and I’m thankful for the reminder last week.

Imagine how the world and relationships would be different if Christians all around the world took Peter seriously. I think it would be a little more like the Kingdom of God and a little less like the kingdoms of the world.

Photo by Yoal Desurmont on Unsplash

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