The apostle Peter summarizes the Bible’s teaching on respect in his first Epistle: “Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king” (1 Peter 2:17). This passage encompasses four major areas of our lives, teaching us that, as followers of Christ, we should respect all men, other Christians, God, and governmental authorities. The word respect is a translation of the Greek word timēsate, meaning “honor or value.” It literally means “to place a great value or high price on something.” Interestingly, today we tend to place our values on our personal rights and the equality of man. However, biblical respect is far different, more about a perceived inequality in that we recognize that some things and some people are more important than we (compare Philippians 2:3).
To respect everyone, believers must be conscious that God has created all people in His image, regardless of whether they believe in Christ. We should show them proper respect and honor because their souls are of more value than all the wealth in the world (Luke 10:33–34; 1 Corinthians 10:33).
Loving the brotherhood of believers means to love all believers, regardless of color, nationality, opinions, or affiliations. We are to demonstrate to the world that we love our brothers and sisters in Christ. The apostle John wrote of this principle a number of times. Quoting Jesus, he writes, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34–35; cf. 15:12; 1 John 3:23).
The word fear is a translation of the Greek word phobeisthe, meaning “fear, dread, and respect.” The word also implies that our fear of Him leads to us to total obedience (Leviticus 18:4; Psalm 119:67; John 14:15). Though we are to honor the king, we should “fear” God (compare Deuteronomy 10:12; Isaiah 8:13). The bottom line is that it is God alone whom we should “fear” in the sense of having an awed respect.
We honor and respect our governing authorities because they exist by the very will of God (Romans 13:1–7). Such respect must be given whether we agree with them or not. Those in authority are God’s instruments for carrying out the purpose of governing and worthy of the respect God mandates. When we obey the principles of this passage, we give genuine credibility to our faith. As believers, we are to honor our governing authorities and their rights as such. But we may not give to the government those rights that belong to God alone (Luke 20:25).
Christians are to be a people of order and discipline, of righteousness and justice. We are to be dynamic examples of love and peace so that others may be won to Christ and be saved for eternity (Matthew 5:14–16). Part of living as examples of Christ before the watching world is showing respect to others.