Fear God. Honor the emperor. 1 Peter 2:17
A couple weeks ago I wrote in a post that we should never badmouth the President, but honor him. We are to honor him because God commands us to, not because we deem him worthy of honor. Peter told his readers to honor the emperor, who was Nero, a wicked murderer. But what exactly does it mean to “honor” our President? Here are a few thoughts:
First, to honor the President means we recognize that God has placed him there.
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. Romans 13:1–2
No matter how much we disagree with or disapprove of our president, we must realize that God has placed him there to accomplish his own sovereign purpose, as God did with Pharaoh in Moses’ day:
Since God has placed our president in office, we should speak of him respectfully, not in a dishonoring, mocking way. We should also pray for him and bless him. God commands believers to pray for our leaders and all who are in authority (1 Timothy 2:2). We should bless our president. Hey, if Jesus commands us to bless those who curse us (Luke 6:28) (and I’m not saying our President curses us), then we can certainly bless our president.
Remembering that God is sovereign should lead us to pray that God would move upon our president’s heart, as it says in Proverbs 21:1:
The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.
Pray that God will direct and move the hearts of President Obama and all our leaders to promote righteousness, life, the kingdom, and glory of God. Ask Jesus to give our leaders wisdom. Ask God to turn their hearts like streams of water.
Finally to honor the President means we should be subject to him and our government.
Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. (1 Peter 2:13–14).
To “be subject” or “submit” to our government means to obey the government. We may not be happy about taxes or regulations we must follow, but God calls us to do obey our government unless it commands us to sin.
What honoring our President DOES NOT mean
To honor our president does not mean we must agree with everything he says or does or that we must commend it or condone it. Or that we cannot speak out for truth and righteousness. To honor our president does not mean that we cannot work within legal means to oppose him and change policies we don’t believe are righteous or helpful. To honor our president does not mean we can’t express where we feel he is wrong.
To honor our president does not mean that we must obey laws if they require us to disobey God. If the President were to forbid us to proclaim the Gospel, we would have to disobey him. But we should obey and submit to all laws that do not cause us to sin, even if we don’t agree with them.
Fear God. Honor the emperor.
We seek to honor the President because we fear God. God is the only one we must seek to obey every time, without question. And this wonderful God we fear commands us to honor the President, who is in our God’s sovereign hands and subject to our God’s sovereign will.
Photo credit: Thomas Kelley/Unsplash
Mark Altrogge has been senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of Indiana, Pennsylvania, since 1982. He has written hundreds of songs for worship, including “I Stand in Awe” and “I’m Forever Grateful.” Mark and his wife, Kristi, have four sons and one daughter. Find out more on his blog, The Blazing Center.