Scripture: Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. 1 Peter 2:16-17 ESV
Observation: In this second chapter of Peter’s first letter to the church, he reminds the congregants that they are a chosen people, set apart for God to become living stones, assembled on the foundation of Christ into a spiritual house (verses 4-6). And for what purpose? That we might “proclaim the excellencies of him who called [us] out of darkness into his marvelous light” (verse 9). He then urges the church to keep their conduct honorable among unbelievers so that when they speak ill against Christians, they will glorify God on the day of Christ’s return (verse 12). As such, Peter commands the church to submit to every human institution for the Lord’s sake (verse 13). Why? “That by doing good [we] should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people” (verse 15). Peter next encourages the people of God to live as free people, not free to sin, but free to serve God (verse 16 above).
Takeaway: So, how are we to exercise our freedom as servants of God? Verse 17 provides a summation: honor everyone (even our national leaders), love our brothers and sisters in Christ, and fear (revere) our Lord—all of which aligns with Christ’s teachings and actions. Loving one another amid the fellowship and revering God makes sense, but honoring everyone—even the ungodly in our political arenas—does not sit well for most of us. What is Peter thinking?! Is he focused on keeping the peace between the church and government? Perhaps to some measure, but if we read his appeal in light of verse 12, Peter has in mind that when we honor everyone, we are honoring God.
So how do we honor those who are not worthy of honor? The rest of the passage addresses that question. Citing Christ as our example, Peter recounts that our sinless Lord, when reviled by the religious leadership and tortured by the Romans, suffered without returning their revile—entrusting himself to the Father who judges justly (verse 21-23). And as a helpful reminder, Peter points out that Christ honored us, who were once his enemies, by bearing our sins in his body to heal our sin-marred souls (verses 24-25). Thus, we honor everyone because Christ has honored us.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for your Son, who brought honor to us by suffering the consequences of our sins to present us as righteous before you. Would you please help us follow his godly example and honor everyone—even our enemies—by bearing revile and suffering without retaliation? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling