“Honor all men” (1 Peter 2:17)

There is a word that all Christians ought to hold dear. It is a word that can change lives, revitalize churches, transform marriages, and remake the world. The word is honor. To show honor means to render to someone, or something, esteem and respect. We show honor to the Flag of the United States of America when we stand and salute it. We show honor to a person by greeting them warmly. “If you have ever been to a banquet and stood to applaud when a person of great significance came into the room, you have demonstrated honor. Any time you are in the presence of people you consider great, you treat them with honor. You defer to them. You tell them what a privilege it is to meet them. You might even bow slightly. What you are saying, by bowing, is that you highly esteem them. If you have ever been surprised to meet someone special, you might have dropped your jaw, or had a special light come into your eyes that said, “Wow!” I am honored to meet you. When you are with someone you honor, you take special notice. In some cultures, you are even expected to kneel” (Gary Smalley).

Do the people in our life feel honored?  In the Bible, honor is to be rendered to specific individuals. Men are to honor God by giving Him reverence and homage. We worship Him. We praise Him. We sing songs to His name, and esteem Him worthy of our time, our talents, and our attention. 1 Chronicles 16:27 “Glory and honor are in his presence; strength and gladness are in his place.” We want to worship God because we have seen what He has done in nature, and is doing in our individual lives. In marvelous grace He creates and cleanses. William L. Stidger recognized this and wrote with wonder,

“I saw God wash the world last night
With His sweet showers on high;
And then when morning came
I saw Him hang it out to dry.

He washed each slender blade of grass
And every trembling tree;
He flung His showers against the hills
And swept the rolling sea.

The white rose is a deeper white;
The red, a richer red
Since God washed every fragrant face
And put them all to bed.

There’s not a bird, there’s not a bee
That wings along the way,
But is a cleaner bird and bee
Than it was yesterday.

I saw God wash the world last night;
Ah, would He had washed me
As clean of all my dust and dirt
As that old white birch tree.”

As we honor God the Father so we are to honor God’s Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus made it plain that one cannot honor the Father unless he also honors the Son. In John 5:23 the declaration is made, “That all men should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him.” 

Because of this the Church loves to sing,

“All hail the pow’r of Jesus’ name!
Let angels prostrate fall,
Bring forth the royal diadem,
And crown Him Lord of all!”

The fifth of the Ten Commandments teaches children to honor, or esteem their parents (Exodus 20:12). “Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.” When young people honor their parents, not only will their days be longer but also happier, as one young person realized too late. She wrote the following to Ann Landers calling it A Teenagers Lament.

The new morality, and freedom.
From classes, what a drag. 
From Mom and Dad, always arguing.
From homework, senseless hours.

From discipline, useless.
From church, a bore.
From conformity, a hang-up.

I’m my own woman now.
Made so by one decision.
One hour of love and pleasure.

Free now to look at my cheerleading
sweater hanging in the closet.

My books and basketball schedule resting on the shelf.
My material for a prom formal – never made as it sits amid the remnants
of the fabrics left over from my maternity tops.

 My metals from band and choir,
forsaken in the clutter of a jewelry box.

My friends passing by my window,
Laughing over the gossip column in the school paper,

And giggling over who will be the next to experience
the new morality – and freedom.

For cleaning – what a drag!
For him – always arguing.

For ironing – senseless hours.
For dishes – useless.

For cooking – a bore.
For sex – a hang-up.

Oh God, if you are there,
Please let someone take this
crying baby off my hand.
And let my feet dance once more.

I am so old. And I was never young”.

As parents are to be honored, so respect is to be given to the spiritual leaders in the Church according to 1 Timothy 5:17 and Hebrews 13:7. “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.”  “Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.” The office of the ministry is to be held in high regard, for those who occupy this position represent the King of kings and the Lord of lords. Other leaders to be honored are political leaders according to 1 Peter 2:17. “Honor all men. Love the brotherhood.  Fear God. Honor the king.”

It is significant that Peter wrote his epistle when a mad man by the name of Nero ruled Rome. Nero was born in Antium on December 15, 27 AD He began his reign on October 13, AD 54 and died by suicide June 9, AD 68. Nero was cruel, arrogant, and licentious. In AD 64 when the city of Rome caught on fire and burned, Nero blamed the combustion on the Christians, and had many of them put to death. He was no friend of the Church, but Nero needed the prayers of the people of God.

As the early Christians learned to honor their spiritual and political leaders, so they learned to honor their children and their wives. The children were honored, in part by allowing them to live. In the Roman world, infanticide was an accepted practice for disposing of unwanted female babies–and less often, male babies. In a letter dated June 17 of the year 1 BC, a certain Hilarion wrote to his wife Alis: “I ask and beg you to take good care of our baby son. If you are delivered of child [before I get home], if it is a boy keep it; if a girl, discard it.”

The Christian community did not kill their children, but honored them. Family was considered important, and husbands learned to honor their wives according to apostolic instruction. 1 Peter 3:7. “Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honor unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.”

Here is a central ingredient to a successful marriage. Men are to honor their wives. Can you image what might happen if men were to go to their wives in the name of Jesus and ask them how they could honor them more? After the wives were picked up off the floor, to which they had fallen in shock, a revolution would be started if implemented. Couples would fall in love all over again. Divorces would decline. Home would be a delightful haven of rest, and children would have wonderful role models once more.

In certain epics of history, women have been honored more than they are today. There were periods and places when Knights rode forth to slay dragons for their ladies. There was a time when Southern gentlemen were chivalrous and cultured in manner and speech. Women were once esteemed in art, literature, and music for their virtues. Those days could return if men would seek ways to honor their wives in public and in private.

As we show honor to God, to Christ, to parents, to ministers, to political leaders, and to wives, the concept of showing honor to others can be expanded so that no one is excluded. 1 Peter 2:17 says plainly and simply, “Honor all.” But is such a commandment realistic? Does “all” really mean “all”? One Christian author considered the implications of this Divine directive and decided that all meant all. He wrote these helpful words. “I once believed you had to like people to honor them. I thought they had to be performing well before you could honor them. But honor has nothing to do with performance. It has everything to do with attitude. Honor is a gift of grace. It shows the other person you value him or her. Honor is something you give to a person without his having earned it. Did we earn the love of God? No. Did Christ come into the world to die because of something we did? No. And yet He honored us!”

Gary Smalley is right. We can show honor to others by imparting a gift of grace. In practical steps we can honor others by listening to them. Time is a precious commodity, and when given graciously, it is appreciated. Certainly, it is wanted. Alfred Jarry was a successful French writer. He lived from 1873 to 1907. He is regarded as the forerunner of the Theater of The Absurd, which means he was very eccentric. Jarry demonstrated his eccentricity one-day in a Paris restaurant. Wishing to communicate with a woman fellow dinner who was engaged in staring contemplatively at her reflection in a mirror on the wall, Jarry drew out a pistol and shot at the mirror. In the stunned silence that followed, Jarry re-pocketed the pistol and smiled engagingly. “Now that the mirror is gone,” he said to the lady, “can we talk to each other?” We honor others by listening to them. We honor others by spending time together.

In an interview with leading social thinkers, Peggy Noonan, a former speech writer of presidents Reagan and Bush, talked about some of the problems facing our society. One of the observations that was made is that economic prosperity can help disintegrate society, for with financial freedom there is the opportunity to move away from each other. In the movement, we forget one another.

Joseph Jefferson, a successful stage actor who lived from 1829 – 1905, was constantly on the move. He once told this story to a friend. “I was coming down the elevator of the Stock Exchange building, and at one of the intermediate floors a man whose face I knew as well as I know yours got in. He greeted me very warmly at once, said it was a number of years since we had met, and was very gracious and friendly, but I couldn’t place him for the life of me. I asked him as a sort of feeler how he happened to be in New York, and he answered, with a touch of surprise, that he had lived there for several years. Finally, I told him in an apologetic way that I couldn’t recall his name. He looked at me for a moment and then he said very quietly that his name was U.S. Grant.”

‘What did you do, Joe?’ his friend asked.

‘Why, I got out at the next floor for fear I’d ask him if he had ever been in the war!'”

By spending time together, we may not forget each other. There is another way we can honor others, and that is by speaking well of them. Sometimes something is said or done by someone that deserves a corrective comment, but these times are usually few, and should not overshadow all the other expressions of support, and praise, and honor. Whenever possible, we can speak well and promote the best interests of another.

Between AD 1227 – 1274 there lived an Italian Dominican theologian and scholastic philosopher named Thomas Aquinas. He aimed to reconcile human reason, and Christian faith. His arguments for the existence of God have helped many people, for many centuries. But not everyone appreciated his genius at first. “As the pupil of the scholastic teacher Albertus Magnus in Paris, Aquinas made a poor impression on his fellow students, who nicknamed him “the dumb ox.” Albertus summoned him to a private interview at which they discussed all the subjects in the university curriculum. At the next lecture the master announced, ‘You call your brother Thomas a dumb ox; let me tell you that one day the whole world will listen to his bellowings.'”

Finally, we can honor individuals by helping them regardless of any ability to return a favor. Leviticus 19:15 speaks to this point. The children of Israel were commanded, “Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty: but in righteousness shalt thou judge they neighbor.”

It was the counsel of John Wesley to Christians to,
do all the good you can,
by all the means you can,
in all the ways you can,
in all the places you can,
at all the times you can,
to all the people you can,
as long as you can.

Peter said, “Honor all men.” In considering this issue of honor, the biblical instruction is to give it as a gift of grace to others, and not demand it for oneself. When Solomon asked God for wisdom the Lord was pleased, and said to him, “Because this was in thine heart, and thou hast not asked riches, wealth, or honor, nor the life of thine enemies, neither yet hast asked long life; but hast asked wisdom and knowledge for thyself, that thou mayest judge my people, over whom I have made thee king: Wisdom and knowledge is granted unto thee; and I will give thee riches, and wealth, and honor….” (2 Chron. 1:11-12).

Imagine the impact that showing honor to others just within the Church would have as Christians considered each other children of the King. Because of the cause of Christ, let us plead with George Eliot and say, Lord,

“May every soul that touches mine—
Be it the slightest contact—
Get there from some good;
Some little grace; one kindly thought;
One aspiration yet unfelt;
One bit of courage
For the darkening sky;
One gleam of faith
To brave the thickening ills of life;
One glimpse of brighter skies
Beyond the gathering mists—
To make this life worthwhile.”
Let us honor all men.

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