Love, Fear and Honor

“Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.”–1 Pet. 2:17

I’ve always been amazed at this passage. These few short sentences contain quite a punch. Because I’m a logical person, I’m going to start by examining the second and third sentences, and come back to the first and last, since they create such an interesting application when examined together.

“Love the brotherhood.” Those who know the love of the Father must show it to their brothers and sisters. Peter is reminding the church to love one another. What does “love” look like in the church?

In Acts 2:44-45, we read about the church having all things in common, and giving as each had need. Some have tried to use that verse to argue for a biblical affirmation of “socialism.” Far from a political statement, God speaks through Luke, the author of Acts, to tell us those who have come to experience the love of Jesus and find ultimate satisfaction in Him should have no problem loving others and sharing material needs, which ultimately come from God anyway. That’s not socialism–it’s a godly reflection of His love.

“Fear God.” If you drive down Interstate 65 southbound in Alabama, you’ll notice, on the left, a sign that says, “Go to church or the devil will get you!” Or at least, you used to be able to notice it…apparently the sign is now gone (one of my Alabama readers needs to clarify that for me). I’ve always laughed/cringed at the sign. There’s humor in it for sure, but I cringe at the thought someone put it there seriously, as if going to church makes the devil leave you alone. That’s a fear-mongering tactic to get “heathens” into pews. That’s not the kind of fear Peter is calling the church to hear.

The kind of fear Peter is calling the church to here is the kind of fear we exhibit toward our parents. We hopefully don’t run away scared from our parents, but, unfortunately, terrible parents are a reality in this sin-stricken world. But for good parents, we have a right respect that listens, trusts and seeks to honor. Even at 25, and 4.5 hours away from my mom, if she calls me, I listen, because she’s earned that. I trust her, because 99.9 percent of the time, she’s right about whatever she’s talking about. And I seek to honor her, because I wouldn’t be where I am without her, and everything I do rightly shows that I had a great upbringing that prepared me to be successful.

God calls us to “fear” Him as our perfect Father, who is never failing, and worthy of all honor and glory. So when I write a great story, I praise God by using my gifts in a godly way. When I have to ask someone some rather tough and possibly intimidating questions, I do it in a professional way that both affirms them as a person worthy of respect (more on that in a second), regardless of what they’ve done, and also gets my job done, the job I received from God and seek to do in a way that honors Him.

And when we fail, we “fear” God when we run to Him, not away from Him. We show we fear God when, instead of running away from Him in sinful fear, we run to Him in repentance and godly fear.

Now, for the first and last sentences: “Honor everyone.” “Honor the emperor.”

The last one makes sense, right? Regardless of your political beliefs, if you are an American, I hope you have enough decency to shake President Obama’s hand if you meet him. I would hope you would offer him a glass of water and call him “Sir,” because, again, like him or not, he’s an individual who is in a position of authority, which is what Peter has been talking about in this passage, and we are called to respect those people.

But it’s what Peter says in that first statement that we so often overlook. We jump to the last one, because again, Peter’s been discussing what it means to submit to God-given authority. But look what Peter does: He tells the church to honor everyone, and then says, “honor the emperor,” using the same.

Peter has commanded the church to treat everyone with the respect you would the emperor. This does away with all thoughts of “this person is beneath me,” or “this person serves me.” As a Christian, you are a servant to all, and master of none. If you are a Christian CEO of a Forbes 500 company, you serve your employees, not the other way around.

This is crucial. This impacts how we live on a day to day basis. Every now and then, I work at night, and I observe our night crew at the office, cleaning. I love seeing them, because it’s a chance to say hello, smile and say, “Thank you” for getting my trash, and cleaning up the newsroom. It puts a smile on both my face and theirs. They’re in casual clothes, while I’m usually in a dress shirt and pants, and many would say, “They’re beneath me; they’re minimum wage, etc.” But as a Christian, I must understand my “position” in life comes as a result of God’s grace, and before God, me and the janitor both stand in need of Christ, and thus, I have no reason to brag, and no reason to think more highly of myself than I do of this person.

So as you go about your day, remember that everyone you come in contact with, no matter how bad, no matter how “menial” their job may seem, is made in the image of God. I was reminded of that after writing a story about some lawmakers response to presidential candidate Donald Trump’s comments about women. I am absolutely appalled at his comments, and don’t believe he is fit to be president. I believe his actions betray his childishness and immaturity. And yet, despite that righteous anger, I remembered that he, and Hillary Clinton, are both people made in the image of God, and they both stand in need of Jesus. How refreshing it was to step away from bashing them, however right I may be in doing so, and praying for their soul!

So, Christian, what should you do today? Love the brotherhood. Seek to meet needs in your church. Fear God. Trust and respect your heavenly Father. Honor everyone. Treat everyone as you would the emperor. And honor the emperor. Love and respect those God has placed in authority over you.

Lord, may we honor everyone. May we remember to meet needs in our churches. May we treat the world with kindness and grace that you may be glorified. May we not run away from the problems we see, but having fear and respect for you, be impactful Christians in the places you have placed us.

God bless,

Neal E.


The Grace of God Keeps Us Going

We’ve come to the end of Ephesians 3. Paul’s words in this chapter are all part of a sidebar for the apostle.

Ephesians 3 begins: “For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ on behalf of you Gentiles–”

Verses 2-13 are a sidebar, where Paul explains that the “reason” he mentioned, that being the inclusion of Gentiles in God’s plan of salvation, came as a result of God’s grace on him, an undeserving sinner, and that the church is called and equipped to take that message to the ends of the earth.

Now, Paul revisits that original statement in verse 14:

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named…”

Paul understands the Ephesians’ need to remember the “bigness” of the gospel. The gospel robs us of our self-righteousness, forces us to run to Christ for salvation and new life, and then says our enemies may also be saved in this way. Our enemies become our friends so we can go share the gospel with our enemies, all to the glory of the God who is now our Father. Woah.

So we see why Paul would pray to this great God that the Ephesians would remember all that He has done for them.

We are prone to forgetfulness. We forget who we are in Christ. We forget to treat others with the grace and mercy God shows us because we forget they are made in the image of God and are either our brothers/sisters in Christ, or they are in need of grace so they may become our brother or sister in Christ. We forget that we are forgiven and free, so we continue to sin. We forget that in Christ, God sees Him, not us, so we wallow in despair instead of worshiping our Redeemer.

Paul does not intend for this to happen at Ephesus. And we would be wise to not let it happen in our lives and in our churches. Remember the gospel. It will keep you going when times get tough.

“that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith…”

This passage highlights the work of the Trinity. God the Father strengthens us through God the Spirit so that God the Son may “dwell in our hearts through faith.”

The Spirit of God helps us and enables us to persevere in obedience. The goal of this strengthening is so Jesus may dwell in us. Now, Jesus dwells in us through His Spirit when we are saved. But as He bears fruit in our lives as we submit to Him, by the Spirit’s power, we grow in fellowship with God. We have more joy in God. We grow in holiness. And Jesus is glorified.

Seeing God’s work allows us to remember that our lives are not over when we stumble in sin or struggle through suffering. Seeing God’s work reminds us to keep moving.

So Paul prays that the people would persevere by seeing the work of God in their lives, by the power of the Spirit through the indwelling of the Son.

Paul also prays that they would be reminded of God’s love, as there is no maturity in the Christian life without the assurance of God’s love.

“that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with the fullness of God.”

Knowing the love of God leads to the fullness of God. As the Spirit strengthens us by God’s grace to live for God’s glory, and as Jesus dwells more richly, God consistently reminds us of His love for us and all that He has done for us. The gospel fuels good works, precisely because the gospel destroys our reliance on good works.

When you trust Jesus to save you and lead you, turning away from your self and sin, you are already forgiven and righteous, before any good works. But the Spirit of God reminds us of the love of God to call us to serve God by good works, out of love, not legalism.

Finally, Paul prays in remembrance of the truth that God is bigger than we are, and able to do amazing things.

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

God is not bound by our small prayers, so let’s pray big prayers. He’s not bound by those either. The God who overcame sin and the grave, and who plans to usher in a new kingdom that is free from sin and suffering is able to do what He wants to do in our lives, in ways we can’t even imagine.

Pray for the salvation of lost friends. Pray for victory over besetting, big sins. Pray for victory in memorizing large chunks of Scripture. Pray for deeper faith. And rest, knowing that God is able to do all this and more.

God’s grace not only saves us and unites us with those we normally wouldn’t associate with, but strengthens us to obey Him, to honor Him, and to remember His love that we may love Him all the more. Praise God!

Lord, may we remember your love. May we not forget the power of the gospel. May Christ dwell in our hearts richly through faith, that you may be honored, that we may be reminded to move forward in our walk with you, that people may be saved. May you do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think.

God bless,

Neal E.