1 PETER 2:11-17; 3:8-12
11Beloved, I urge you as aliens and exiles to abstain from the desires of the flesh that wage war against the soul. 12Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that, though they malign you as evildoers, they may see your honorable deeds and glorify God when he comes to judge.
13For the Lord's sake accept the authority of every human institution, whether of the emperor as supreme,14or of governors, as sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to praise those who do right. 15For it is God's will that by doing right you should silence the ignorance of the foolish. 16As servants of God, live as free people, yet do not use your freedom as a pretext for evil. 17Honor everyone. Love the family of believers. Fear God. Honor the emperor...
8Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind.9Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called - that you might inherit a blessing. 10For "Those who desire life and desire to see good days, let them keep their tongues from evil and their lips from speaking deceit; 11let them turn away from evil and do good; let them seek peace and pursue it. 12For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil."
Apostle Peter lived in a world fraught with kakos -- 'evil' in English. Evil in government, evil on the streets, evil in the marketplace, evil among different people groups. The first century Mediterranean world was far from an utopia. The old French motto of liberté, égalité, fraternité was neither known nor experienced. A dog-eat-dog world of brutality, persecution, immorality, and corruption pervaded many aspects of first century society.
Nevertheless, in such a world, Peter admonishes the believers to do good. "Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles," Peter writes.
In fact, in summation, Peter commands, "Honor everyone." Peter adds, "Love the family of believers. Fear God."
Christian behavior is not dependent on the moral context of other people's behavior. We don't trade evil for evil. We don't receive our behavioral cues from our neighbors or from people higher up. We think and act according to our identity in our relationship to God.
In this way, as Peter writes, we are "free people." But this freedom, as Peter also explains, is not to be used as a "pretext for evil." The freedom in Christ is always in the service of honor and love. We are thus freed to love others. Freed to be servants of all. And some will note this behavior of believers and some might glorify God!
So, May today be a day of freedom for all of us to honor everyone, loving especially fellow believers, and a day of fearing and honoring God. Amen.