It is God’s will that your good lives should silence those who foolishly condemn the Gospel without knowing what it can do for them, having never experienced its power. You are free from the law, but that doesn’t mean you are free to do wrong. Live as those who are free to do only God’s will at all times. Show respect for everyone. Love Christians everywhere. Fear God and honor the government. 1 Peter 2:15-17 (TLB)
Many Christians love this passage . . . right up until you get to the last three words.
Honor the government? But what do we do if the government is not honorable? Do we still have to submit to a president or a congress that does not have our best interests at heart?
The answer, though we may admit it reluctantly, is yes. Let’s break down this passage.
Verse 15 says that God wants us to shut up the ignorant folk who think we are deluded or even dangerous. But He wants us to do this not with our words, but with our lives.
Verse 16 says that being free from the penalty of God’s law does not give us license to do whatever we want, but to do God’s will. And what is that will?
To show respect to everyone.
The remainder of verse 17 gives examples of this. Love Christians everywhere. Fear God. Honor the government.
This isn’t multiple choice. ALL of these examples fall under the heading of showing respect to everyone.
“Everyone” also includes the people in verse 15, whom one might describe as enemies of the faith. But remember in Part 2 when we talked about loving our enemies?
There’s just no getting around this, so what do we do with it?
First, as painful as it may be, we simply have to accept the fact that the world is full of stupid people.
Second, and equally painful, we must realize that no matter what good people we may think we are, not everyone is going to like us.
The third thing we must do, and this is where the freedom enters in, is to stop caring about the first two things.
Live quietly & mind your own business so that you may win the respect of others and have need of nothing. 1 Thess 4:11-12
We don’t solve the problem of finger-pointing by employing the method of sign-waving. We don’t stifle the ignorance of idiots by yelling louder. And we don’t solve problems in our government by advocating revolution or anarchy.
A Christian should never be concerned about other people’s issues when our primary function is to meet other people’s needs. Whoever they are, their chief need is Jesus, whether they realize it or not.
It all comes down to respect. Honor. The Greek word Peter uses in the passage above is “timao.” It means to add value. A synonymous word in English would be “to appreciate,” but not in the sense we casually use it today, for example, “I would appreciate it if you would put away your laundry.”
No, this is in a much larger sense. It means to esteem, by giving someone his or her due. By showing a full understanding of their inherent value, especially how it relates to you. To consider another more important than yourself.
This is what respect is. You may not feel respect for Donald Trump’s character or for that of Barack Obama before him, but you are called to respect the office of the president, because:
Every person must submit to and support the authorities over him. For there can be no authority in the universe except by God’s appointment, which means that every authority that exists has been instituted by God. So to resist authority is to resist the divine order of God, which results in severe consequences. Romans 13:1-2 (TPT)
Bottom line: if you call yourself an American, then THE president is YOUR president, the same as if you call yourself a Christian, then God is your God.
And your pastor is your pastor. And your teacher is your teacher. And your boss is your boss.
You may disagree with them. You may cringe at the sound their voices. You may even find yourself making voodoo dolls of them in your spare time.
But they are all people, the same as you, and made in the image of the same God as you. And this same God has commanded the same respect for all.