Drilling Deep in the Word

Human Dignity

I Peter 2:17

Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.”Posted 1/17/14

By Reverend ray

“The Christian faith declares the spiritual nature and dignity of man, that his creation is in the Divine image and his destination is to bear the likeness of God in a perfected relation of sonship—“… to be conformed to the image of His Son”

When we consider, at least on the surface, the injunction put forth in the passage above to honor all people, it would seem certain to strain our human nature as a tall order to fill.

Indeed, we find it hard to muster any sense of honor for the likes of historical despots as Hitler or Pol Pot. Yet one might suggest that such men are not worthy of honor on the grounds that the inhuman atrocities at their hands might negate them even receiving the respect of dignity of life from even God.

When we consider such unfathomable evil springing from a creature that was originally made in the image of God, we tend to determine honor on the basis of the action or actions committed rather than the divine purpose for mankind.

This is not to say that human actions should be overlooked or even ignored. Even the just trial, conviction, and punishment of such men is an expression of recognizing human dignity and the fulfillment of the Noahic covenant. God has honored the wicked with the recompense of judgment at the last day as a reward for their rejection of Him.

But let me back track for a minute and explain Peter’s meaning for the honoring of all people. The word translated “honor” is an imperative (command) that must be obeyed if we are to live a life that is representative of Jesus Christ.

Peter refines the scope of this honor by placing the command here in the Aorist, simple past tense, which renders the injunction; “honor each man according to his case. Thus the command is equivalent to Paul’s in Romans 13:7; “Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.”

In understanding how we are to honor all people, we may apply two guiding principles that come forth from the passage.

We are bound to respect the offices and positions of governments and authorities by granting them the dignity that is associated with the given office. For, in so doing, we acknowledge that God has sovereignly and providentially established them for His purposes in the world to restrain evil.

(Rom. 13:1) “ Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.”

This thought is refined in the passage by the clause; “honor the king.” Furthermore, we are compelled by the Divine prerogative to make man unique from all other creatures by setting him over the rest of creation not only in terms of oversight and authority, but also in value and dignity by making him in the image of God and therefore to recognize and honor this likeness of God in every human being.

Again, I reiterate that such honor is not excusing a man of his wickedness or malice, but that on the basis of this same recognition of human dignity we exercise judgment on such actions through the dignitaries that are established for this purpose.

If we begin to apply the injunction to honor all people as we deal with our fellow man it is inevitable that this perspective will alter our relationship and responses to them.

In essence, Peter is directing us to approach every relationship and interaction with fellow man from this starting point, mainly that we see each man worthy of the honor that is bestowed upon him as one created in the image of God.

The quote and book by the American humorist, Will Rogers; “I never met a man I didn’t like,” spoke more about the man’s perspective on human dignity than that of the men he met.

There is nothing that will so temper one’s adverse attitude toward his fellow man as does Peter’s command here to honor all people. There are few adjectives that are more universal than the word, “all.’

And every man is due the respect that he was created in the likeness of God, even the unborn!

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