1 Peter 2:17
Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.
This was one of the rules which St. Peter gave to the Christians of his day. They were placed in the midst of Jews and heathens, On every side there were enemies, slanderers, persecutors; they were surrounded by foolish men living in fleshly lusts, froward and hard tempered — and yet with all this they were to honour all men. These were not excluded. It is a common thing for men to say that the rich and the clever despise the poor, ignorant, hard-working classes below them. Often that way of speaking is false. There are many exceptions to it. But often, we must confess with pain, it is true. Younger men among those classes have their favourite words of contempt by which they try to set themselves up above others, and to mark off those who are as much heirs of God's kingdom as they are themselves, as people to be laughed at or insulted. And so they do not honour all men. And this want of the will to honour affects all relations of life. It disturbs the peace and happiness of families. No position of life affords greater opportunities for exercising kindness than that of the master or mistress of servants — the employer of workmen. And yet everywhere we find the duties of that position neglected. Men do not "honour" those who are thus placed, by the providence of God, in dependence on them. Do not think that this commandment is easier for one class of men to perform than for others. Those who look up to most other men as being above them in rank and riches, are just as faulty in this matter as the haughtiest and highest. Many of you must feel in your heart of hearts that all the time when you have seemed outwardly most respectful, there has been no reality, no truthfulness in it. You have honoured not the man, but his money, or his station, or his opinions, or you have hoped to gain some thing from him, or you have been afraid of his displeasure. And that want of true honour which we note in these instances is seen yet more in the acts and the speech of poor men, too often even towards each other. Go into the streets and courts of any of our great cities; listen to the disputes which are to be met with at every corner, and what strikes one most is the abuse and scorn which men of the same class, who are fellow workers often, and have a common interest, pour out upon each other. They show no respect, no consideration, no "honour." One step further we must go to reach the worst form of the evil. In all ranks of society you will find men who ought to know better, who pride themselves on reading their Bibles, and keeping out of the sins of their neighbours, and caring for their own souls. They, we might think, will surely "honour all men," and that not with a false show of honour, but in earnest. A man's knowledge of the Bible may serve not to make him truer, better, severer in judging himself, but to give him greater cleverness in picking out texts against his neighbours. He loves to think of himself as chosen, saved from hell, and sometimes seems almost as if he liked to think also of other men as going the wrong way, so that he sees them led captive by the devil without any effort to save them, without doing anything to gain their affection and respect. I do not say that this evil is universal. Can you not imagine what a man would be in whose soul the words, "honour all men — all without exception — the youngest, the poorest, the most sinning," had been traced as with the finger of God, never to be blotted out? Would there not be in such a man an unequalled courtesy, a gentleness and yet openness of speech which would win all men's confidence? I can think of such an one in any station of life, as a man himself to be loved, trusted, honoured, Read St. Paul's Epistles, take that single letter even, which he wrote to Philemon, and tell me if you do not find there precisely such a character as that which I have tried to describe. See how he behaves to governors and kings and centurions, and captains of ships and gaolers and peasants, and everywhere you find the same freedom from all violence and selfishness and rudeness. And this, doubtless, was the secret of the wonderful power which he had over the hearts of other men, winning their respect even in spite of them, gaining affection and love from the roughest hearts which seemed at first dead to all such feelings. But there is a higher example in this matter, even than St. Paul's. Was there not in Jesus of Nazareth one Who was meek and lowly in heart, taking upon Himself the form of a servant that He might save all who were willing to come to Him? Here then, once for all, is an example of the width and depth of this commandment of God. And this which supplies the example furnishes also the motive. Do not think that St. Peter would have enforced the rule of honouring all men on those grounds on which we sometimes try to persuade our children or our dependents to be respectful. It was not because that was the way to lead a quiet life, to get on in the world: to gain the favour of the great, to avoid persecution and ill-will; but much rather because Christ had taught him to think of a Father in heaven, who was inviting all men to become His children; because he believed that Christ had come to redeem all men, to manifest Himself as their brother and their friend. How could he despise those whom the Lord had not despised? How could he refuse to honour one for whom Christ had not refused to suffer and to die?
Parallel VersesKJV: Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.