“Honor all men.”
“Even the drunk who totaled my car?”
“Not the senator who voted for that bill!”
“It’s time to cancel you, Vaughn.”
“That’s fine, but you are really cancelling God. It is God who said, ‘Honor all men'” (1 Peter 2:17).
The Basis for Honor
“Honor all men” is indeed a radical decree. To get a handle on this, we need to begin where honor begins. “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, the Holy One, to receive the glory, the honor, and the power, for you created all things” (Rev. 4:11). God is worthy of honor because He is our Maker.
But humans? If human beings are simply highly developed primates doing what our genes cause us to do, then not one of us is worthy of any more honor than the monkey in the zoo. If we arrived in this world via blind evolution, then all that we are and do is simply a result of our chemistry, in which case we are worthy of no more honor than a peach tree.
Contrary to materialistic evolution, “God created man in his own image… likeness” (Gen. 1:27, 26). Since God is Spirit, the image or likeness of God is our spiritual self, not our physical body.
That sets us apart from all other creatures. We are not animals. The likeness of God is what makes all people worthy of honor.
Connecting “Honor” to “Price”
The words “honor” and “price” are one and the same word in the Greek! This tells me that “honor” has to do with the value of a person – the person’s worth. We “were bought with a price” (1 Cor. 6:20). Jesus felt we were worth dying for. During His ministry He rhetorically asked, “What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life/soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his life/soul?” (Matt. 16:26). Whether translated “soul” or “life,” Jesus’ point is that we humans are priceless. We are priceless because we are made in God’s image. Jesus paid the ultimate price for us because we are worth it. That price, that worth, is the basis and heart of honor.
Who to Honor
“Honor your father and mother” (Eph 6:2). “Husbands… live with your wives according to knowledge, giving honor to the woman” (1 Peter 3:7). Honor begins at home.
“In love of the brothers be tenderly affectionate to one another; in honor preferring one another” (Rom. 12:10). Christians are to treat each other with tender love, seeking to honor one another.
“As many as are bondservants under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honor” (1 Tim. 6:1). In today’s society, this principle would apply to one’s attitude toward their supervisor, boss, anybody with authority over another. And a bad boss? “Servants, be in subjection to your masters with all respect: not only to the good and gentle, but also to the wicked” (1 Peter 2:18).
“Honor the king” (1 Pet. 2:17). In context, the king would be Caesar, even that wicked Nero. In short, honor civil authorities, even if evil, even if you disagree with their policies/politics.
“Honor all men” (1 Pet. 2:17). The world says, “Honor those who are honorable, respect those who are respectable.” The gospel is radical. It says to honor all men, period. And “all” includes the opposites of the above, such as parents honor your children, wives your husbands, bosses your workers. “All” means “all.”
How to Honor
By our attitude: It begins in the heart: “in honor preferring one another… in humility, each counting others better than himself” (Rom. 12:10; Phil. 2:3). That’s easy to copy and paste. But if you have ever seriously sought that attitude, you know how difficult it is to consider certain people as better than yourself. But who said following God’s way is a piece of cake! James 2 speaks at length of those who have “dishonored the poor” by their “partiality” (prejudice) – paying “special attention” to rich visitors and disrespectfully treating poor visitors. We are called to be civil, gracious, and respectful of all, and even loving to our enemies.
By our words: Words, of course, can be hypocritical. God spoke of those who “honor me with their lips; but their heart is far from me” (Matt. 15:8). So, let’s not go for insincere flattery. Sincere words are a form of honor. Simple words like, “please” and “thank you,” not to mention “I love you,” “good job,” “I’ve been praying for you.” Bless those who curse you. Words of encouragement and healing.
By our deeds: “Honor widows who are widows indeed” (1 Tim. 5:3). The context is the church helping widows who had no family.
Today, government programs may do that, but this does not absolve the church from helping families in difficult circumstances. Whatever the situation, we honor people when we lovingly meet their physical needs.
All People Are Valuable
We cannot put a price tag on the value of humans. We are all priceless. That includes me, you, our families and friends, our enemies – everybody. Not only are we all made in God’s image, but having departed from God, Jesus considered us so valuable that He paid for us with His blood. When we honor others, we are showing their value as the Father and the Son see their value.