Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. — 1 Peter 2:17
In our current cultural moment of vitriolic debate and amplified voices in ubiquity, this counter-cultural command from a long-gone apostle pierces through the noise, resounding in a collective pause and an instant response:
Honor everyone? Are you sure, Peter?
The back-and-forth in first century Asia-Minor wasn’t all that different than our wars with speech here and now. Sure, there was more of a class system in that culture, definite gender inequality, and no two-party system to go extreme rage on, but it was still a war of words. And Peter was saying to beat your swords into plowshares and offer a gift of blessing.
To honor in his culture, and in much of the biblical writings, was to do so with one’s words. It was what you said that would honor or shame someone.
Honoring someone means we pray for them, we consider how we speak to them and about them, in public or in private. It means we believe the best about them, and we don’t believe every word of gossip or slander.
Honor Doesn’t Mean Agree
For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. — 1 Peter 2:15
However, honor doesn’t mean agreement. Peter certainly has in mind that some of these “everyones” in verse 17 are also the foolish and ignorant people in verse 15. Honor can’t mean—and doesn’t mean—agreement.
Yes, the Bible just said some people are ignorant.
It isn’t politically correct, of course, and maybe in your understanding of love it doesn’t sound very loving, but it’s just true: some people are wrong.
Peter is saying two things: Some people are wrong. Honor everyone regardless.
Here’s the problem: in our post-Christian culture, where everyone is outraged and offended, Christians sometimes get caught up in playing too nice with ideas, out of a desire to play nice with people.
The world teaches us that to love or honor means to agree; it’s called tolerance. And tolerance is a cheap alternative to Christian love. It’s not actually loving, and it’s not actually honoring. Tolerance is just a wholesale acceptance that doesn’t consider the merits of your idea or belief, doesn’t engage them thoughtfully or graciously, instead, it just outright accepts them with no effort at all. That’s not honor, that’s indifference.
You can and should disagree with foolish and ignorant ideas, all the while honoring and loving the people who wrongly hold them.
But how? What does it mean to honor those whom we disagree with?
It means that we know, as sinners saved by grace, that everyone around us, no matter what they believe or how they treat us, is a sinner who needs grace.
It means we are to look for ways to do “good” (v15):
When everyone else is shaming each other, we are looking for ways to honor.
When everyone else is cursing each other, we are looking for ways to bless.
When everyone else is spewing vitriol, we are looking for ways to forgive.
Remember this is “doing good,” not to other Christians or people we like, but to people who are speaking against you.
“Oh, you voted for that guy?”
“You hold to that policy?”
“You’re a bigot, you hate minorities and women, you hate people with guns, you’re a terrible person.”
It’s when that happens, when you’re public and passionate about Jesus, when you’re up against ignorant fools speaking against you, that’s when you do good, that’s when you honor.