Third Sunday after Easter Morning Prayer (25 April 2021) 1 Peter 2:17
Today’s meditation is based on Peter’s first epistle, chapter 2, verse 17: “Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king”. Peter was one of the twelve disciples of Jesus. He denied Jesus thrice before Jesus was crucified. But after he received the Holy Spirit anointing, he stood firm in his faith and spread the Gospel. Romans ruled many parts of the world during Jesus’ time. They troubled the early church and Christians were persecuted in the first century. Peter was also crucified upside down. Peter wrote his first epistle around 64 AD to all the Christians and the early church. The main intention of this epistle was to tell them about the troubles they would face in this world and the heavenly rewards that await them for enduring the troubles. Peter encouraged the early Christians to obey the law and authorities. During this hard time when the church faced persecution, Peter commanded them to 1) honour all men and the king; 2) love the brotherhood and 3) fear God. I would like to meditate on these commandments today.
1. Honour all men and the king
When we hear this commandment, a question comes to mind: why should I honour all men? When God the Father created humans, He created them in His own image. In Genesis we read that God created Adam in His own image and gave him His breath to live. When God gave ten commandments to the Israelites, the first four commandments were about their vertical relationship with God and the other six were about their horizontal relationships with their fellow humans. The first horizontal commandment, that is the fifth commandment, is about Honouring. Honour thy father and thy mother, as the Lord thy God hath commanded thee; that thy days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with thee, in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee. The God of Trinity gave these commandments, and we are to follow Jesus’ example in our lives. So it would be helpful to meditate if Jesus obeyed this commandment. So let us briefly look at His interactions with other people and the rulers at that time.
· The Triune God became flesh as Jesus Christ to save us from eternal death. When living in flesh, He honoured and respected His parents. We read in Luke 2:51 that Jesus was subject unto His parents.
· When Jesus and His disciples were in the wedding ceremony in Cana, His mother told Him about the wine shortage. He waited for His heavenly Father’s time to perform the miracle. He honoured His mother and performed His first miracle in Cana. He honoured both His mother and His heavenly Father.
· When Jesus was ministering in this world, He treated everyone equally. He resurrected the widow’s son, Jairus’ daughter and Lazarus. People came to Him from different backgrounds He performed many miracles. He put forth His hand and healed the leper. He preached to the Samaritan woman. He fed more than five thousand people in the wilderness. When Jesus was arrested, He healed the servant’s ear. Even when He was crucified with thieves, He ministered to the thief in his last minutes.
· When He stood before Pilate, the governor and the high priest, He did not open His mouth. He respected and honoured their authority.
· When the Herodians asking Jesus about paying tax, He said, “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's”.
Jesus obeyed the Old Testament commandments and practiced what He preached. When Jesus was ministering in this world and even when He was on the cross, His vertical and horizontal relationships were perfect. Jesus is our role model and we are to follow His footprints. Following Jesus’ example, it is our prime responsibility to honour everyone.
2. Love the Brotherhood
The Bible contains numerous verses about love. The fifth to tenth commandments are about our horizontal relationship with our fellow humans. Jesus consolidated these six commandments into one saying, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”. When Jesus consolidated the ten commandments to two New Testament laws, He based them on ‘Love’. We have heard about Peter’s discussion with Jesus about forgiveness. Jesus told Peter to forgive his brother “Until seventy times seven.” Jesus also said in Matthew 5, “whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire”. Jesus also emphasised the importance of reconciling when He said “Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift”.
Paul concludes Romans 13: 9 saying, “if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself”. In Galatians 5:14 also Paul says “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself”. In his epistle James said in 2:8, “If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well”. James 2:10 says, “He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him”. James 3:14 says, “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death”. 1 Corinthians 13 is a well-known passage that talks about love. Paul concludes the chapter saying love is superior to everything.
Is there a reason for so much emphasis on love? A common misunderstanding is that love alone is sufficient. But we should understand what this really means. If we really love someone, we will not do anything to hurt them. These verses tell us that if we love our neighbours and fellow humans, we will not commit any sin against them. We will not curse, be angry or have hatred. When we love God, we will obey and keep His commandments. We will be long suffering and kind, bear all things. We will be without envy, will not be puffed up, will not behave unseemly, will not seek our own, will not be provoked, will not think of evil. Having these two kinds of love will mean we will walk in light in God’s ways that lead us to eternal life.
3. Fear God
The Bible encourages us many times saying “Fear not”. Similarly, we are commanded to fear God. Fearing God means to respect, obey and honour Him. In Leviticus 25:17, the Almighty Father said, “Ye shall not therefore oppress one another; but thou shalt fear thy God: for I am the Lord your God”. In Psalms we read, “What man is he that feareth the Lord? him shall he teach in the way that he shall choose”. “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant”. The wisest man in the world said in Proverbs 1:7 that “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge”. Proverbs 9:10 reads, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding”. In Proverbs 23:17 he says we should be in the fear of the LORD all day long. In his epistle to the early church in Rome Paul said, people have all gone out of the way because there is no fear of God before their eyes.
Jesus always obeyed His Father and completed His will. Even on the night before His crucifixion, Jesus prayed submitting to the Almighty Father’s will. We will be able to honour and love God and submit to His will only if we fear Him. We should fear God because He will punish us when needed. When we fear God, we will learn to walk in His ways. We will receive wisdom to live a holy life that leads us to eternal life.
Before I conclude, let us self-reflect on our lives. We may not like or agree with what others are doing or their principles. But we must honour all men because they are made in God’s image. Matthew 7:12 says “all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.” We do not want others to hate us. We want others to be tolerant of us and be more understanding and forgiving of us. When we expect this from others, are we the same to them?
We do not agree with what the leaders and rulers are doing. Romans 13:1 says “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.” We must subject to our rulers and those above us because God has kept them in that position. It is our duty to pray for them to have wisdom to take the right decisions. We must follow Jesus’s example and honour our neighbours and those in authority like He did.
Jesus consolidated the ten commandments to two prime commandments: loving God and loving our neighbours. 1 John 4:20 challenges us “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” We can love God only if we love those around us. Loving our neighbours and God helps us to escape death.
King David said, “O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness: fear before him, all the earth”. Do we have the fear of the Lord that leads us to love, honour and obey Him and His commandments? Jesus came into this world so that we should not perish, but have everlasting life. Are we honouring all men and rulers, love our neighbours and fear God to inherit everlasting life?
We are living in this world among those who do not believe or worship our Triune God. How different is our lives in their eyes? I remember this quotation that says ‘Be careful how you live; you will be the only Bible some people ever read’. Does the world see a difference in our thoughts, words, actions? Can they identify us as God’s chosen people? We call ourselves Christians and the world is looking for Christ in us – do they find Christ?
I pray we have the fear of the LORD God that gives us the wisdom to represent our Lord in all that we do. I pray the love we have for the Lord guides us in all walks of life. I pray we honour Him as our King to become heirs of eternal life through Jesus Christ. Amen!