In 1 Peter 2 believers in Christ are encouraged to live a good and godly life so that those who speak against God will, after seeing our conduct, turn to Him and give Him glory (2 Peter 2:12). Peter gives us four ways Christians are to relate to those around them.
“Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.” – 1 Peter 2:17
1) Honor All People – How Christians relate to the world
We are told to “honor all people”. This means to show proper respect towards our fellow man. We are not to honor a person’s wealth or standing. Instead we look past these superficial things and see individuals made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26). Individuals who have intrinsic value because the Father loves them, sent His Son to redeem them (Romans 5:8) and desires them to repent and be saved (Ezekiel 33:11).
Christians often struggle to properly relate to the world. We tend to either think too highly of ourselves and become like the Pharisees, looking down at those we don’t feel are as spiritual as us, or else we go to the other extreme and allow the world to influence our actions, hindering our relationship with Christ.
But we want to find a balance. Instead of looking down on people we remember that we are sinners saved by grace (Ephesians 2:8) and are to restore those who sin with a spirit of gentleness (Galatians 6:1). Instead of joining the world we remember that we are here to be a light for those who are lost (Matthew 5:16).
We honor people by being “kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, giving preference to one another” (Romans 12:10). We honor people by “letting nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind letting each esteem others better than himself, looking out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4). We honor people by being “clothed with humility” (1 Peter 5:5) using our God-given gifts to serve. And finally we honor people by telling them the reason for the hope within us which is Christ Jesus, our Lord.
2) Love The Brotherhood – How Christians relate to one another
To “love the brotherhood” means to love fellow believers in Christ. Those who believe in Christ, and trust Him as their Savior, make up the Church. The Church is made up of many members from varying backgrounds, yet is referred to in Scripture as being one body, with Christ being the head (Corinthians 12:12).
Here is another area where we often struggle to properly relate. Sometimes we reserved our love only for our little cliques made up of those who share our unique, nonessential doctrines or style of worship. Other times we accept poor and dangerous bible teaching in the name of unity.
We need to keep things in perspective. We are free to debate Christians who hold different views but when we do we need to remember the common ground we share in Christ and treat one other with the love and respect Christ has shown us.
On the other hand loving one another doesn’t mean that we lay aside discernment for the sake of getting along. We are told to “test all things and hold fast to the good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). There are issues that are essential to Christianity — who Jesus is, for example. If there is a difference in opinion here, then we correct those who err, and if they won’t heed correction then we need to part ways.
We love fellow believers by caring for them “fervently with a pure heart” (1 Peter 1:22), praying for them (James 5:16), correcting those who sin and bearing one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:1-2).
Jesus said that the world would know we follow Him because of the love we show to one another (John 13:35) and He prayed that the Church would be united just as He and the Father are united (John 17:21). To love fellow believers is to do nothing less than follow in the footsteps of Christ.
3) Fear God – How Christians relate to God
To “fear God” means to have a proper understanding of who He is, and where we stand in relation to Him.
God is the creator of all things (Genesis 1:1). Heaven is His throne and earth is His footstool (Matthew 5:34-35). He is holy and deserves to be worshiped (Psalms 99:9). He is “the Rock, His work is perfect; for all His ways are justice, a God of truth and without injustice. Righteous and upright is He” (Deuteronomy 32:4).
When Job stood in His presence he realized he was unworthy and held his tongue. “Behold, I am vile. What shall I answer You? I lay my hand over my mouth” (Job 40:4). Isaiah reacted the same way when he saw God crying out “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips, for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.” (Isaiah 6:5)
The Lord is holy and we are not. The Lord is perfect and we are not. To understand this is to fear the Lord. This fear becomes a “fountain of life” that turns us away from the “snares of death” (Proverbs 14:27) when we come to God, not as one who relies on his own works or merit, but as one who recognizes he is simply a sinner in need of a Savior (Ephesians 2:8).
In love the Father answered our cry by sending His Son to be that Savior (John 3:16). Christ took the penalty of our sins to the cross and has reconciled us with the Father (Romans 5:10). We now relate to God through Christ who “is our righteousness” (Romans 3:22) and whose sacrifice allows us to become “children of God” (Galatians 3:26).
4) Honor The King – How Christians relate to authorities
To “honor the king” means to respect authority. We are told to be “subject to the governing authorities” because leaders are “appointed by God” (Romans 13:1) to minister to people (Romans 13:3-4) by keeping order. Obeying authority is pleasing to God.
Of course there have been evil governments throughout history and when a government commands people to do something contrary to Scripture we are to do what is “right in the sight of God” and “obey God rather than men” (Acts 4:16-18; 5:29).
The king is to be honored (Given the proper level of respect) but God is to be feared (Given the highest level of respect and worship). Jesus Christ is not a Republican nor is He a Democrat. He is the head of the Church (Col 1:18). He is the Shepherd and we are His sheep (John 10:11).
When Christ returns He will reign as King forever. There will not be any political parties there will only be those who bow to the King of kings and Lord of Lords.
Until then our convictions in political (and all other) matters should come as the result of holding up every issue before Scripture when we make any decisions (Psalm 119:105).
Then with light of His Word to guide our path, we are able to act in a manner worthy of the gospel (Philippians 1:27), and bring a living hope to a dying world.