Honor all people, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the king. ~1 Peter 2:17
I came across this verse the other morning during my reading and I was pierced to the heart with conviction. As I read it over and over, I came to two realizations:
- This verse is a summation of what God expects of us at the most basic level in our relationships with each other and ultimately, with Him. Sort of a ‘rule of thumb’ to live by, if you will.
- I’m not fully doing any of these things. And if I’m not fully doing these things, is what little I do acceptable in the eyes of God?
I definitely don’t have this all figured out. In fact, this post is a learning experience for me. Even so I’d like to share some of my thoughts as I’ve taken the time to meditate on and study this scripture.
In our world today it has become commonplace for people to publicly and shamelessly criticize, dishonor, slander, and even threaten and kill one another if they believe their cause is worthy enough. I suppose the nature and caliber of that cause is defined by those speaking out the loudest, nevertheless society as a whole is rapidly becoming defined by its lack of love and respect toward one another and even –or especially– God.
But as Christians we are not permitted to take part in this type of behavior. We are told to pray for and honor all people; without prejudice as to whether or not they are believers, whether or not we agree with them or their life choices, whether or not we like them as a person, even regardless of how they treat us personally.
In fact, Philippians 2:3 takes it a step further and tells us, “Instead of being motivated by selfish ambition or vanity, each of you should, in humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself.”
Now on the topic of brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another. ~1 Thessalonians 4:9
I am constantly dismayed by the public display of bickering, judgment, accusations, condemnation, and outright hatred between professing Christians today. Perhaps we’ve even taken part in some of these things ourselves.
What’s worse, many persist in this way even when confronted with their actions. They seem unaffected, even offended by the scriptures that challenge their attitude and verbally attack those who would oppose them. Instead, they justify their behavior and continue on in ‘God’s name’ as they tear down their brothers and sisters, all the while dishonoring the name of Christ. And they do this in front of unbelievers. These things should not be taking place in the body of Christ.
I don’t judge these people. The Word of God has already judged them:
If anyone says “I love God” and yet hates his fellow Christian, he is a liar, because the one who does not love his fellow Christian whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And the commandment we have from him is this: that the one who loves God should love his fellow Christian too. ~1 John 4:20-21
On the contrary, we are told to love the family of believers. And we know that:
Love is patient, love is kind, it is not envious. Love does not brag, it is not puffed up. It is not rude, it is not self-serving, it is not easily angered or resentful. It is not glad about injustice, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. ~1 Corinthians 13:4-7
As the family of believers, let’s strive to be of those who love, honor, pray for, encourage, protect, gently instruct and correct one another. And all the more as the days grow darker and we see the day of His return approaching!
A lot can be said on this subject alone. Many people try to define or explain what kind of fear this is we are supposed to experience. I don’t feel qualified to fully go into that at this point, but I will give you my thoughts.
If you’re anything at all like me, 1 John 4:18 popped into your mind as you considered this concept of fearing God: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears punishment has not been perfected in love”. So, what does this mean. Are we supposed to fear God.. or not? Let’s back up and read what comes directly before and including 1 John 4:18, so we can better understand what John is saying.
If anyone confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God resides in him and he in God. And we have come to know and to believe the love that God has in us. God is love, and the one who resides in love resides in God, and God resides in him. By this love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment, because just as Jesus is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears punishment has not been perfected in love. We love because he loved us first. ~1 John 4:16-18
Read in its context, we can see a couple of things right away. First, these verses are not just speaking of God’s love toward us, but also our love toward Him and consequently, our residing in God and He in us. Secondly, this verse is speaking of the day of judgment and the fear of punishment. Christians are spared God’s punishment in the day of judgment (and altogether), because Jesus took that punishment for us. As we reside in and are perfected in God’s love, we will come to be confident that we will not experience His punishment in the day of judgment.
Still, there remains a cause for fear. Because Christ provided salvation and protection from God’s wrath, we are in a safe place as we continue to abide in Him. When we step outside of this, we not only open ourselves up to the deadly consequences of sin, but also to God’s discipline. And depending on how great a step we take, His discipline can be more or less severe. This should not be confused with punishment, however. Punishment is eternal, but discipline is for a season. Because of God’s great love for us, He will not stand idly by while we immerse ourselves in destructive and unrepentant conduct. He must and will step in at this point in order to bring us back to a place of repentance and safety.
There is also a positive fear of the Lord. In His Word, we see that God…
- is Absolute Holiness
- is Absolute Purity
- is High and lifted up in Majesty
- is The Alpha and Omega
- is The Source of Life
- is Creator of all things in heaven and on earth
- is Supreme Ruler over all creation
- is Lawgiver and Judge over all creation
- is A Consuming Fire in regard to sin and evil
- is Both Awesome and Terrible
- Lives in Unapproachable Light
- His voice is like the sound of many waters
- In His presence everything in creation shall bow
- He sees all things, knows all things, and exists in all places at once
[He] so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. ~John 3:16 (NASB)
And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory. ~Ephesians 1:13-14 (NIV)
This, brothers and sisters, should cause us to tremble!
Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, and the Lord gave attention and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the Lord and who esteem His name. “They will be Mine,” says the Lord of hosts, “on the day that I prepare My own possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him. ~Malachi 3:16-17
As Christians, we are to honor the supreme ruler (and all those in authority) of each of our respective countries, states, territories, etc.
You must not blaspheme God or curse the ruler of your people. ~Exodus 22:28
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except by God’s appointment, and the authorities that exist have been instituted by God. So the person who resists such authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will incur judgment. ~Romans 13:1
I urge that requests, prayers, intercessions, and thanks be offered on behalf of all people, even for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. ~1 Timothy 2:1-2
Regardless of any personal opinion we may have toward our respective rulers, we are told to honor them. Not for who they are, but because they are appointed by God; bearing in mind that rulers are not appointed necessarily for our happiness, but for God’s purpose. Does this mean a ruler should be able to do anything and everything with no accountability? No, of course not. If there are means by which a ruler can be held accountable, they should be. But as Christians we are called to honor and pray for our rulers even as we hold them accountable, if need be.
We may love and respect the ruling body of our country. Or we may live under terrible conditions with a tyrant at the helm. Perhaps we simply don’t like someone and feel they should not be where they are. Whatever the case, we must honor them and continue to do good as we commit ourselves to our faithful Creator, 1 Peter 4:19.
“The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.” ~Romans 16:20 NASB
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