For the first followers of Jesus, there were many people that they had to know how to get along with just to survive in Roman society. One of the most difficult groups to honor was the Roman government itself. The Colosseum in Rome, Italy stands today not only as a monument to the great gladiator battles of the past but also as a sobering reminder that Christians were literally fed to the lions in that arena. Within that historical context, God spoke through Simon Peter instructing all Christians to show honor — to everyone.
Honor the Lord by the way you live
As followers of Jesus, we are to live our lives in honorable ways. We abstain from the worldly desires that always seem to be battling against us, glorifying God with our holy living and sincere devotion to Christ. Our good works — the ways we serve others and help them — bring honor to the Lord, even causing those who are not yet believers in Christ to glorify God. We realize that we are only temporary residents on earth; heaven is our home!
11 Dear friends, I urge you as strangers and temporary residents to abstain from fleshly desires that war against you. 12 Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that in a case where they speak against you as those who do what is evil, they will, by observing your good works, glorify God on the day of visitation. (1 Peter 2:11-12)
Honor the authorities the Lord has placed in your life
The original readers of Peter’s letter living throughout the Roman Empire would have responded the same way that many do today when they hear these words: “honor the authorities.” They would have responded with, “Honor who?!” But the Bible is clear from the first book (Genesis) to the last book (Revelation) that God is sovereign over all of the governments of mankind. Therefore, no matter what government system we live under, our instruction is the same: “honor the authorities.” We are to show honor at all levels government — from the local level all the way to the national level. And this instruction of showing honor extends to all arenas of life: family, education, business, society.
The authorities have a God-given responsibility to protect those under their care. We as followers of Jesus have the responsibility of showing honor. By showing honor, we silence the lies of those who wish to speak evil against us. We are free in Christ, yet this does not mean we should use this freedom to conceal evil actions.
13 Submit to every human authority because of the Lord, whether to the Emperor as the supreme authority 14 or to governors as those sent out by him to punish those who do what is evil and to praise those who do what is good. 15 For it is God’s will that you silence the ignorance of foolish people by doing good. 16 As God’s slaves, live as free people, but don’t use your freedom as a way to conceal evil. (1 Peter 2:13-16)
Honor everyone. Show honor to everyone, even those with whom you disagree about all sorts of things: politics, religion, music style, favorite sports teams, whatever. Honor believers by showing unconditional agape love to all of your brothers and sisters in Christ. Find ways to serve them, sacrifice for them, and show them Christ-honoring love.
Honor the Lord by showing Him holy fear, reverence, and awe. Honor the Emperor. Notice the contrast between these two phrases: fear God, honor the Emperor. This is an important contrast. We are not to fear the Emperor. We are to only fear the Lord, with a healthy, holy, awe-inspiring fear. We honor our earthly leaders, but we eternally honor and worship the Lord.
17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the Emperor. (1 Peter 2:17)