In verse 16 of chapter 2 Peter counsels his readers to live as free people, but not to assume that this freedom allows them to do anything they want to. The truth is that they are “God’s slaves” and what this implies is laid out in four concise statements.
His readers are to “respect everyone” (TEV). No one is to be denied proper esteem because every human being bears the image of God. True, it may be marred by a life lived apart from God, but the real worth of an individual is measured by the fact that Christ died for him. What a remarkable way to view every person we meet on the street – loved by God, purchased by Christ, respected by me.
Secondly, they are to “love the family of believers” (NET). No easy task, either then or now. God has created us as relational beings, not so we could have someone to annoy, but because that is the best possible environment for learning how to get along. Face it – what is eternity but the timeless setting for us to enjoy being together (with Him and with one another) forever. God’s plan for eternity is that we live together in genuine love. Time to get started.
Then we are to “fear God” (NJB). I tend to think that we have limited this kind of fear to what we often call “reverential awe.” Of course, that is true. As we get to know God more fully we stand amazed at his unlimited power and glory. But to “fear” God is also to share his intense hatred of sin. His abhorrence of all we call evil is as profound as is his love for us which is beyond comprehension. Fear God means FEAR God. Don’t diminish the intensity of his hatred for that which cost him the ultimate sacrifice – the life of his only Son.
Finally, we are to “honor the emperor” (NIV) – not an easy thing to do when the ruling power is cruel and despotic. Government was established by God for the benefit of all. The emperor was a part of that plan, and that doesn’t change when he is not all he should be. If Christian principle leads you to disobey, do it in an honorable fashion. But in the meantime, be a law-abiding participant here below as we await our heavenly home.
No easy thing to be one of God’s “slaves.” But aren’t you glad that he has provided not only the incentive but the empowering influence of his Spirit as well.