1 Peter 2:17 “Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.”
Peter is writing to Christ followers sometime during or right before the reign of Nero who became the emperor of Rome as a teenager. It is said that Nero, in his desire to make Rome great again, started the great fire in Rome that engulfed the city in flames, well at least poorest neighborhoods of the city so he could rebuild the great city and make it more presentable.
When asked who were the ones who set the fires to the city, Nero quickly scapegoated the Christians, claiming it was their wrong doing. Though Christians were called to find peace and to follow Jesus, the leadership of Rome disliked Christians because they refused to recognize Caesar as the supreme leader of their lives and instead, placed Jesus there.
In light of that Nero would make a spectacle of this group, dragging them behind chariots, feeding them to lions, drenching them in hot oil and if still not dead, put them on crosses and light the oil on fire. Nero would go on to be one of the most feared persons by Christians. So, its really interesting that Peter here would write verse 17 to his fellow Christian brothers and sisters; “Honor the emperor.”
Whether this was written prior to the persecution or after the persecution had started, its an amazing testament to first century Christians that they held onto this letter by the Apostle Peter. One might have, in the moment of losing friends and family to a murderous leader, declare that Peter had gotten it wrong, or had lost his marbles. Why should we submit to such a leader let alone honor this type of person? It’s inconceivable!
But Peter, and subsequently his followers, understood something profound. Through this letter, they understood that this wasn’t their home, that they were indeed exiles, living in a hostile land that was not their own. They understood they served a different king in a different kingdom and for a short time, they would have to live under a government that was against them.
Yet, in a sense, even in their terrible circumstances, through the inheritance they received by Jesus, they were incredibly better off. They didn’t have to fear being doused in oil, burned on crosses, or thrown to the lions. Though none would have desired that, they knew they had much more than could ever be taken from them. In light of that great, good news, Peter says, respond to the gospel by submitting, for Jesus’ sake, to every human institution. Even the Emperor.
By doing so you’ll prove you are law followers, and you’ll do good deeds and, as we read in a previous passage, “when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” 1 Peter 2:12.
Peter encourages to honor the emperor so that even when everything is against you, and people speak falsely against you, others might see your good deeds, your honorable conduct and in doing so, turn their lives over to God.
Friends, we have a wonderful opportunity to honor the government, submit to it and do good deeds in order that we might prove by our actions, by our lives that we serve a God who loves them, who cares for them, and who served them by sending His son to die on the cross for their sake so they may be saved from death. Honor the emperor. Fear God.
Parkland Community Church:
We Exist to Develop People Who Love Jesus and Serve Others.