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First Peter 2:17 says: “Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.” Romans 12:10–11 says: “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.” Romans 13:1 says: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” First Timothy 2:1–2 says, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”
But we live in a day when these directions are ignored, even by those who profess to follow Christ. Four things in our current culture contribute to the tendency to dishonor authorities. First, unlike most states or kingdoms in the past, most modern countries at least pay lip service to free and open elections, in which the leaders are chosen by the vote of the people. That puts every voter in the position of judge regarding the candidates, and we are all too ready to dishonor those candidates with whom we disagree. Second, social media and its anonymity enable people to express dishonor for authorities with little fear of retribution. Third, the natural state of each person is to honor himself above all others. Even with Christians, that self-centeredness is one of the sins that must be mortified. Fourth, we seem to have lost the ability to distinguish between the person and the office. We do not know what Paul thought of Nero as a person. But Paul and Peter clearly teach us to honor the office.
The lesson for us is to honor the office regardless of what we may think of the person holding the office. In addition, we must labor within ourselves not to mock or belittle the person holding the office. All of us have probably been guilty of that. But we must reflect on how well we would fare if our own views, opinions, and plans were held up to the kind of intense public scrutiny that is imposed on our authorities. Such consideration might serve to make us more humble and more ready to honor those authorities.
David provides us with a good illustration of the principle. Though Saul, motivated by fear and envy, sought to kill David, David honored the Lord’s anointed. On two occasions when David had the opportunity to kill Saul, he refrained from doing so (1 Sam. 24; 26). Then on two other occasions, men boasted of slaying authorities, thinking that they were doing David a favor. In both cases, David had the men executed because they had acted in an unrighteous manner against authorities whom God had put in place (2 Sam. 1; 4).