Respect One Another: 1 Peter 2:17

Benedict of Nursia was born around 480, at a time when the Roman empire, and western civilization in general, was in turmoil.  Attacked by successive waves of barbarian invasions, Rome was on the brink of total collapse.  In response, Romans moved further and further into fatalistic moral decay.  Instead of following his society into such decline Benedict withdrew from Roman society, eventually founding the Benedictine monastic order, which focused on Christian formation and hospitality to those in need.  Benedict’s rules for Christian formation have been passed down through the ages, and they will be our guide as we journey down this ancient path of Christian formation over the coming year.  We will begin our journey by examining Rule 4.8: Respect One Another.

Respect seems to be a dying virtue in our society.  I believe it is because we have a skewed understanding of how and why we are to respect one another.  How many times have we heard the axiom, “respect is earned?”  We hear it in politics.  We hear it in sports.  We hear it in popular music.  But according to 1 Peter 2:17, this could not be farther from the truth. 

Peter admonishes us to honor (read respect) everyone.  Peter uses no qualifications or caveats.  It is important to remember the audience to whom Peter is writing.  Christians are under severe persecution.  They are literally being set on fire for their faith.  They are being beaten, tortured, and unjustly imprisoned.  They are ostracized by a society that views them with disgust based on unfair lies spread by their enemies.  Some are even slaves serving under cruel masters.  Yet God tells them to honor everyone—not because everyone deserves such respect, but because it brings glory to God.  Peter is telling us that we are called to respect those who are kind to us and those who persecute us.  Respect those whom we love and those who despise us with every fiber of their beings.  Respect those who are a blessing to us and those who are doing everything they can to destroy our lives.  As you can see, this is a much different standard than “respect is earned.”  But how are we to rise to such a lofty standard?

I think the key to respecting everyone is found in verse 16.  Peter tells us that we are to live as people who are free.  So much of the conflict in our relationships with others is rooted in expectation.  We expect others to love and respect us, and when others do not live up to that expectation, in our hurt we respond in kind.  Peter tells us that we are free from such quid pro quo relationships.  As believers, we have the love of God poured into our hearts—a love that is more than sufficient to fulfill the deepest longings of our hearts—if we will just open ourselves to receive it.  Once we grasp the depths of God’s love and acceptance, the love and acceptance of others is superfluous.  We are literally freed to love and respect others unconditionally because we have all the love and acceptance we need in Jesus Christ.  That’s how Peter was able to admonish the Church to respect everyone, even those who crucified him for his faith.  And that’s how we can love and respect everyone as well.       


  1. Do you struggle to respect those who have wronged you in the past? Why or why not?
  2. Do you disagree with the call to respect everyone? If so, why?  Do you have biblical support for your position?  How would your life differ if you pursued the call to respect everyone?
  3. To be sure, there is a difference between respecting everyone and subjecting yourself to abuse by others. How do you strike a balance between respecting everyone and protecting yourself from abuse?  Is it possible to do both?
  4. Contemplate God’s deep, abiding love for you. Have you fully embraced that love?  How might looking to God alone for your love and acceptance positively impact your relationships?