This packed sentence summarises Peter's instructions to Christians who are living in an anti-Christian environment. And that is where most of us are called to live, work, socialise, study, raise our families and eventually die. We know that this life is not the sum of our existence, to be clung to and preserved at all costs; it is the preparation for eternity - the time to be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ, learning how to relate with Him and serve Him. 1 Peter 1:13 explains the Christian's personal motivation, “Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming." Today's verse tells us how to make that work in practice.
Respecting others, who are made in the image of God, honours our Creator - even if they do not love Him. We are to honour them for His sake. We are to work for them as though we are working for the Lord (Colossians 3:23). We are to honour the civic rulers as much as we honour fellow believers. And there is a special obligation to honour our Christian brothers and sisters more than we honour ourselves (Romans 12:10).
What is the 'proper' way to respect them? Well, that will partly depend on our culture - providing that we do not disobey the Lord in what we do. Loving other believers has to start with recognising that they are only our brothers because God has made them His children, by grace ... just as we too came into His family (www.crosscheck.org.uk). So, we do not love other believers because they are lovely, but because Christ has died for their un-loveliness ... just as He has for ours. That is a demonstration to the world that a greater love has bonded us together (John 13:35). That same respect, when applied to unbelievers is unnervingly fascinating, like Jesus who prayed for His tormenters (Luke 23:34).
To 'fear' God does not mean that we are too frightened to come to Him. It means that we honour Him because of His awesomeness, and as grateful people, we do not want to displease Him. That is why we should give full respect to business bosses, community leaders and national office-holders including the head of state - because God has commanded us to obey them (1 Peter 2:13-14) (Romans13:1-7): and that includes obeying the taxation rules too. All this is practical Christianity in the workplace. It will be noticed, and we should be ready to give an explanation of our unusual behaviour (1 Peter 3:15), praying for the conversion of those who will receive the gospel, and that the glory will go to our Lord Jesus Christ.
© Dr Paul Adams