1 Peter 2
17 Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.
Respect is earned before its given is a common adage, that goes smack against what Peter is saying to the church. Respect is actually commanded therefore it must be given. That’s right commanded. We are commanded to respect and honor not just our leaders but everyone.
Respect and honor are interchangeable that’s why in Romans, Paul tells the church to give honor to everyone, particularly our leaders. To respect means to give honor, to give honor means to show a high amount of respect or due regard.
But how can we honor or respect people that don’t deserve it? What about ungodly leaders around us at work, in our community, at home, or those more distant like our politicians. Shouldn’t they have to earn our respect?
Romans 13:7 Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.
In issuing this radical counter cultural command, God calls us to two things.
Firstly, to be mindful that we are of a different kingdom. I think to be able to give honor to people who don’t necessarily deserve it, we need to realize that we are not of this world. We need to recognize that we are called to be salt and light to the world. While many of the people in authority over us may not deserve it, we are called to be people who live by faith, and not by sight. See, it’s ok for the world to withhold respect, but not for us believers. That’s because we take our orders from a different kingdom. And the kingdom of heaven dictates that we are to follow the example of the King, who was humble, and held his peace, like a lamb to the slaughter he went to the cross, submitting to the kings of the earth when he clearly didn’t have to. Peter felt so strongly about the difference that Christians must be, that he thought if we followed God’s command it would be impactful to the point that people would come to know Christ. He said to them
1 Peter 2: 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
If the world sees how “good” we live, (for example by respecting our leaders) then surely we can be witnesses unto Christ for them, and cause glory or honor to be accorded to Christ. That’s right, when we withhold respect we dishonor God, and cause glory to be taken from him, that is, we don’t allow the world to see his beauty and give him praise.
A second call issued indirectly by this verse is a call to prayer. That’s because to give honor to worldly or underserving leaders, we need God’s continued help and for this to happen, we must prayerful. Not just prayerful that God will give us a heart to obey his con-man, but actually pray for these same leaders who we don’t respect, and who may be directly or indirectly causing us problems. (Again, I include employers as well as political leaders as examples of who we are to respect). Think about how many times we pray for our leaders, compared to the amount of time we spend praying for our own personal issues. Prayer never fails to show our priorities. The fact is, we pray about what matters to us. I once heard it said that the difference between a mature and a novel Christian is the amount of prayers spent on themselves. That is, the more you become like Christ, the less your prayers are about your needs, and more about his needs. Christ needs us to pray for our leaders, that’s why we are commanded to do just that
I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. (1 Tim 2:1-2)
When I truly start to pray for someone, my heart starts to turn towards them, and I begin to think of them not as they are but as God sees them. And when I see them as God sees them, I am more willing to be obedient to God’s commands towards them.
Our leaders need us to honor them, by praying for them. Prayer will change things, not all things, but will change some of the things we have issues with, but not before it changes our hearts, and allows us to be more focused on him, and less on the earthly leader that he has set it in place over us.
As we see ourselves as the change agents on the earth, and as we in turn pray for that change to happen, not just in our hearts, but in our leaders, we will be able to be truly fulfill the words of Peter, and of Paul (in Romans 13) to respect our governing authorities as Christ would.
- Pastor Olu Jegede