16 As servants of God, live as free people, yet do not use your freedom as a pretext for evil.17 Honor everyone. Love the family of believers. Fear God. Honor the emperor. 1 Peter 2:16-17
I have to be honest, this time of election cycles I tend to put my head down. I don’t want to watch the news. I don’t want to hear the dirt or the slams or apocalyptic fears put out by the various media outlets.
I tend to be a pretty poor citizen in that I always seem to vote grudgingly… as a duty. On my social media accounts, I do not identify by any of the political parties. In fact, many years ago in the slot for political affiliation I wrote: “Independent… desiring to navigate political structures with graceful Kingdom critique.” That sounds lovely if not a bit pretentious. In practice, it simply means I tend to be critical of everything and put my head down.
But I have noticed that politics this year are reverberating into the ways people are treating each other. Perhaps this has always been the case. But this year, I have noticed how malicious people have been. In some ways, this grieves my heart as much as the behavior of any politicians or their stances on issues.
In Jesus, we have been given freedom. We are free from many of the worries of people who do not recognize that there is a good, sovereign, and loving God. In that freedom, we are invited to live in ways that speak to those around us about the love and grace we have found in Jesus Christ. In the text above, the apostle Peter tells us who deserves honor. The answer: Everyone.
Now, the truth is that not everyone deserves honor if we live in a world without Jesus. Some people’s words and actions cause reactions of less than honor. But, the funny thing about Jesus is that when we add him to our lives, we are righteous because of what Jesus has done. When we add Jesus to the world around us, every single person is potentially a new creation in God’s grace. With that potential in mind and as a response to the love of Jesus we have discovered, everyone deserves honor.
Peter tells the people of his time that this is true even for the emperor. Now the guy who was emperor of that time would make any U.S. politician seem like a saint in comparison. There are accounts that he would take captured Christians, dip them in oil, and then light them on fire to provide light for his garden parties. Even so, in Christ, Peter says to the churches: “Honor the emperor.”
Now, luckily we do not have an emperor. We are given more political voice than the churches in Peter’s day. But the freedom of that political voice should not lead us to any actions other than: “Honor everyone. Love the family of believers. Fear God. Honor the emperor” or, perhaps, honor the politicians you would despise were it not for Christ.
Jesus, we are grateful that we are not without you. We are grateful that the lens of your grace and love informs how we look at the world. Help us to know you in the midst of this political season. Give us grace and patience so that we can honor everyone. When we do so, we testify to the reality that ultimately our hope is in You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.