The other night Paul & I went to hear one of his current favorite *modern/current/living* theologians, Miroslav Volf.Paul was really excited to hear Volf speak, as he had read one of his books in Seminary. In the beginning I was skeptical. “Oh great, we’re rescheduling date night for a boring lecture by some (brilliant, I’m sure) guy I’ve never heard of. At the least, if I get bored I can be entertained by looking at the beautiful church we’re in.” Well, I was set straight pretty quick.
Volf spoke on 1 Peter 2:17 – actually only two words of the verse. This intrigues me when theologians do this – and I’m not talking about “..in the Greek, this means…” I’m talking about when they look at the passage and really look at what the words mean – practically. And this is what he did. He spoke on two words. And held the attention of the whole audience – the whole time. You left knowing there was SO much more he could have said. On just two words. Below are my rough notes/interpretations from the night.
“Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.” – 1 Peter 2:17
- Honor. Honor on account of their humanity. Every human is created and loved by God. Do not transgress against who it is that God created. It’s who He created them to be. Respect them. Honor them.
- Loved by God: They’re loved by our God. No matter what (including what actions they take). So seek to enhance their capacities where you can. Encourage their strengths – give them opportunities to grow.
- Honor. Period. This does not mean to honor them if you want to be honored in return. Respect them. No matter what. Part of honoring them is to speak truth, even if/when its not personally beneficial to you (maybe sometimes: especially when it is not beneficial to you).
- The reach of God’s love should be the scope of our respect. Are there those God does not love? No. Therefore…we need to respect everyone, regardless of social status or deed.
- Who the person is does NOT equal their actions. Separate the person from their work/deed.
- Respect people, even when their deeds may not deserve respect. Did they wrong you? Did they lie, steal, murder? This should not keep us from respecting them on account of their humanity, because God has created them. This doesn’t mean we have to respect the action. It simply means we should respect the living, loving, emotional human being behind the action.
This all seems very simple and straight forward, but it’s quite difficult to actually put into practice. As Paul & I were talking about it (on our actual date-night), we came to the conclusion that it’s really not something you can expect from everyone. It has to be a heart-level transformation in every individual. We are people wired to provide for and benefit ourselves. It is natural to want to succeed, but unfortunately, this often comes at the sacrifice of others. We are taught at a young age that the CEO deserves more respect than the drug-addict. In all actuality, the two human beings at their core, deserve the exact same amount of respect. It’s what Jesus practiced when He walked this earth. (Now, respecting individuals for their actions is a whole other conversation.)
Can we shift the way we view people? From outward appearances/expectations to purely looking at the person as a loved, created child of God? Man, I have a long way to go.