Our Duty to Men

Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king. 1 Peter 2:17, NKJV

Eleven words. Eleven really simple words, no less. Yet in them we find Christian relationships summarized. I don’t claim that the summary is comprehensive, but I do find it to be beautiful in its simplicity.

What do these four commands ask demand of us?

Honor all people.

That word “honor” is translated from the Greek timaoÌ„. According to Strong’s Concordance, the primary meaning of that word is “to prize, that is, fix a valuation upon.”

Think of things that you may prize or hold in a place of value. Perhaps it is something large and public — a sports car, perhaps — or maybe it’s something smaller which is kept under lock & key — a rare sports card, a family locket. Often, great lengths are taken to protect these investments and to ensure their value does not diminish.

Peter here admonishes us to hold all men in a place of value. The word “people” (or “all,” in some translations) is an added-for-clarity word, and so the message becomes even more concise: Honor all.

No exceptions are listed. We are not free to rob any man of valuation. This is a tough nugget to chew on, when we consider the implications of that. Are homosexuals people? Honor them. Are murderers people? Honor them. Are blasphemers people? Honor them. I’m uncertain if I’m overstepping the bounds of that command or not, but those thoughts do serve to illustrate this point: Our value is not intrinsic. Intrinsically, man is dirt — depraved dirt, even.

Extrinsically, on the other hand, we find that we have value because God has value, for “God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” Genesis 1:27, NKJV.

This worth is so great that to kill a man warrants a capital punishment (Genesis 9:6). It is because we are made in the image of God that we deserve to be treated with respect and honor. This applies to all men everywhere. If we live in a manner which dishonors others, what reason will they have to believe our report when we preach to them Jesus Christ crucified and risen again?

I want to take a moment and touch on Genesis 9 a bit more. A covenant was established between God and Noah. This may seem far removed from us, but pay close attention to verse 9: the covenant was not only with Noah, but with his descendants as well. We are all Noah’s descendants. Some aspects of the covenant are well known, others not so much. Verse 16 calls this covenant an “everlasting covenant,” and since God does not renege on His promises, let’s see what this covenant entails.

  • Man is given the responsibility to protect the sanctity of human life. Capital punishment is instituted for the first time within the government of man. 9:5,6
  • The ground will not be further cursed because of man’s wickedness, nor will there ever be another global flood. 8:21; 9:11-16
  • The natural order as well as the dominion of man is confirmed. 8:22; 9:2
  • God ordains animals as part of man’s diet. 9:3-5

As descendants of Noah, we have rights to the promises of this covenant: the death penalty, the expectation of never facing a global flood, dominion over animals, the eating of meats. Several thousand years ago God established an everlasting covenant which stands in direct opposition to common unbiblical principles, such as Veganism. I cannot help but find things like this interesting.

Okay, the rabbit has been chased. Moving right along…

Love the brotherhood.

“Love” is a very easy word to understand. It is translated from the Greek word agapaoÌ„ which means, you guessed it, “to love.”

Thayer’s Greek Definitions gives the definition of “love” in regards to people as, “to welcome, to entertain, to be fond of, to love dearly.”

When it comes to our brothers and sisters in Christ, our behavior toward them must be one of love — freely given to them just as Christ freely gave His love to us.

I have often heard it said that Christians are commanded to love their brothers, but that doesn’t mean we must like them. This is often used as an excuse to be annoyed with our brethren, to avoid them for whatever silly reasons we have allowed to wreck fellowship. Or perhaps we entertain the idea of “tolerating” our brethren, turning our love for them into a most laborious task indeed.

I cannot disagree more. As Thayer’s definition states, to love someone is to be fond of them. I like that, for Noah Webster defined “fond” in such a way as to include “much pleased” and “delighted with.” Contrariwise, Webster defines “like” as to be merely “pleased with in a moderate manner.” Do you see that?

On the one hand, what I’ve heard often is correct: God does not command Christians to like one another. Liking someone is not enough at all! God’s command to love our brothers far surpasses toleration and mere liking. Anything less than a love for a brother is a sin.

We would do well to be reminded of what Scripture says regarding love:

Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails… 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a, NASB

How much more effective would the churches be if those who made it up would simple ‘not take into account a wrong suffered”? How many churches are split because members simply failed to love each other? Friends, this is sin. You cannot love Christ who you have not seen if you are unwilling to love your brother who you have seen. When you are wronged by a brother who sins against you, overcome evil with good by continuing to love that person. Nothing will be benefited if you fail to let love cover the wrong.

Fear God.

I know I titled this post “Our Duty to Men,” so please humor this exception. Indeed, God is not a man. Allow me to delve briefly into our duty toward Deity.

“Fear God.” When I think of fear, images come to mind of various things. Most of them are of anxiety or apprehension — a fearful anticipation of something, or simply dread. Suspense & horror movies have made an art out of manipulating fears, evoking such a response from audiences at carefully planned moments.

This fear of God is mentioned by Jesus when He is instructing the twelve disciples for service. He very plainly states, “And do not fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” Matthew 10:28, NASB. While it may be said that the fear of God is not one of actual fear but is rather of reverence, I think that this verse tells us differently. God’s unfathomable power — power over even man — should leave us in complete awe at Him. Indeed, our God is an awesome God, worthy to be feared.

More than terror, however, there is indeed the idea of reverence. Consider appearing in court. The judge holds your fate in his hands; naturally, there will be a slight sense of dread concerning such a circumstance. However, will there not also be great reverence for that judge? Will you not address him as “Your honor” and “Sir,” treating him with respect in all things? Or consider a captain in the army addressing a general. “Sir, yes, sir!” is only the beginning of the reverence in that relationship.

How much more so should God be revered? There are many today who believe God is “our heavenly buddy” and that “he’s cool,” that “he loves rocking out” just as much as we do. Rather than keep the Lord elevated in our hearts as He should be — He is, after all, the one and only Sovereign Potentate over all of us — the Lord is lowered to the status of a buddy, with whom we’d rather share a high-five than to bow the knee in trembling submission.

In Mark 5, the woman who was healed when she touched the hem of Jesus’ garment surely believed that God was merciful and loving, yet when she confronted Jesus — the Eternal God — she did so with “fear and trembling.” Likewise in Philippians 2, we are admonished by Paul to work out our salvations with “fear and trembling.”

Friends, fear God. Remember the magnitude of the gift He has given you. Remember the tremendous weight of the burden He has lifted off of you. He is able to destroy the soul in Hell. What a difference it would make if the church trembled in His presence a little more. Let the fear of the Lord be a motivator to serve Him.

The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil. Ecclesiastes 12:13,14, NASB

Honor the king.

Here we find more opinions that have been expressed than the other three portions of the verse combined, I think. What is it about the Christian’s relationship with his governmental superiors that is so difficult to grasp? I have heard some say that we are not under their authority at all; others I have heard state that we should be in complete submission to them. At other times, I hear submission taught but leniency given toward “minor” violations of the law — speeding, for example. (In practice, I’m probably squarely within that mindset.)

However, I believe that the most biblical view is that we should be submissive to those who govern us — reverencing them, honoring them, and all that — while remembering that they can do nothing to our souls. They are, after all, still men. Total fear & submission must be directed toward God, and so when a command comes down from the government that violates God’s commands, we must choose righteousness toward God always.

In fact, while the fear of the Lord is a nonnegotiable, Paul makes it clear that we need only fear the authorities of this world when we violate their laws. “Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good” Romans 13:3b,4a, NASB.

Friend, if you spend your time slandering nations’ leaders for their misdeeds while giving very little time to honoring them (just as you are to honor all other men), how much concern will you have for their soul? What desire will you have to see that the gospel is preached to them? What praise will you give God for ordaining such a leader?

Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.

If Christians everywhere at all times obeyed these four little commands, how different do you think this world would be? How much more effective would our mission of fulfilling the Great Commission become?

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