17 Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor. 1 Peter 2:17
This verse sums up how we are to treat others. First, proper respect. If someone is mistreating you, yes, you are to love him but you probably won’t respect him. This is especially important in cases where there is abuse. We are not to respect those who abuse us. A modern day example is what I’ve been seeing in protest videos. The “other” side is violent, profane, and arrogant. There’s no reason to respect someone like that. Similarly, there’s no reason to respond in kind.
Next, loving the family of believers. This is certainly a lot more difficult than it looks at face value. As we’ve discussed elsewhere, believers don’t make themselves easy to love. But over and over again, we see in Scripture that people outside the church will know there’s love when they see us loving one another. Of course, entire books have been written about this very topic, but suffice to say, if it’s in your court to be loving, be loving.
Thirdly, fearing God. All throughout the Book of Proverbs we discussed fearing God and what it means. Having a healthy reverence for God will go far in life. A number of years ago I was talking with a life long resident of Florida. She mentioned that in every lake lived at least one alligator. I asked if that caused her to be fearful. “No, I’m not fearful, but I respect them and what they can do.” She had a healthy fear of alligators. In the same way, our respect for God will be healthy and reverent.
Lastly, honor the emperor. Over the last few days we’ve been discussing this. We don’t have an emperor; we have elected officials. We don’t always agree with what they say or do, but we can vote them out of office. It’s not perfect, but it’s a relatively just system. It’s usually more just if you have more money, that is, as long as people can be bought. We even like to joke that we have the best politicians money can buy.
So this verse is a 15-word seminar on personal relations. We would do well to study them.