A few years ago I was preaching through 1 Peter. Many of you realize that 1 Peter is a book that has a lot to do with suffering and I was experiencing the spanking machine. The pain may well have been because I was attempting by God’s grace to live out 1 Peter 2:17 more than I ever had before. Here’s the verse:
 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.
(1 Peter 2:17 ESV)
There’s level of commitments here that I want you to see. Honour is tier 3. We want to show respect for everyone. The person who walks around with a roll of bills in his pocket big enough to choke a horse. We are to honour the person who doesn’t have two nickels to rub together..the blue collar person and the white collar person and the no collar person. The executive and the farmer. It says honour everyone. The town tramp, the village idiot, and the one in sin up to her eyeballs. The snooty upper class person that you rub shoulders with from time to time. Honour everyone.
Love is tier 2. Love the brotherhood. This is a reference to the family of God. In 1 John 5:1 the Apostle wrote Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. We’re to love each other. We show grace and mercy and patience with each other. We confront one another in love, encourage one another, pray for one another, and do all the one anothers of the New Testament.
And fear is tier one. Fear God. Fearing God means trusting Him in all circumstances. Trusting in the words He’s written, even when it doesn’t make sense to our puny and feeble minds. Trusting Him when we don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel and the tunnel is no where in sight. Having an awe in our hearts about His greatness and His beauty and His majesty and His justice. We need to have a healthy, reverent fear on God.
In your life, you will have different levels of commitments to different people. You will have different relationships with different people. You have people that you see regularly that you wave to, that you nod to. You have people that you can talk about the weather with and maybe talk about your kids or grandkids. And that’s a large circle of people. And then you have a smaller group that are closer friends. People that you can talk about your faith more freely…that you can talk about your struggles with more and your pains and hurts and heartaches and victories. Some have a few more of those kinds of friends than others. And then there are those really close friends. Jesus had Peter, James, and John and John was his closest friend. People that you can share anything or almost anything with. If you’re married, hopefully that is true of your spouse. So we all have relationships on differing levels. Some far away, some really close and intimate.
Let’s think about that to :17. God is to be the One closest to us that we have a healthy reverent fear for. We are to be God-pleasers first and foremost. He is to be our Light, our Strength, our Song and the One we bow down to.
We are to then love our brothers and sisters in Christ. They should be close to us. They should be the ones that we have the close intimate friendship with. Not everyone but all Christians should have people at different levels of intimacy in the their lives and all of the Christians in your life are to be loved.
And then everyone else, we need to honour them. We are to treat them as human beings. They were made in the image of God.
Now what happens if we change God’s order when we are taking our cues from how to live from our non-Christians friends, in order to please them instead of taking our cues from God? Or what happens when our Christians friends give us advice contrary to the Word of God? What happens when we simply honour God but don’t have a biblical fear of Him? What happens when we are more influenced by unbelievers instead of believers? This is when our lives can miss true north and get all jammed up.
Who sits in tier 1, tier 2, and tier 3 in your life? That’s a tough question. This is something worth praying about and evaluating. I would suggest that most of us don’t consider this much or consider it at all. I would suggest that we don’t think through if we are looking for the applause of unbelievers, the praise of our believing friends, or ‘well done, good and faithful servant’ from the One who reigns and rules.
Does the fear of unbelievers or even Christian friends manipulate your decisions?
The reality is that there is only One that we’re to have a healthy reverence for.