We’re doing it wrong.
Christians are fond of quoting 1 Peter 2:17, “Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.” We have no emperor (or king, as in some translations) so we correctly apply the verse to mean that we are to respect and honor the President.
But we’re doing it wrong. What I’m seeing is that our partisanship has overridden our belief in the Bible. Republican Christians are fond of insisting that we apply that verse to the current President. Democratic Christians were fond of insisting that we apply it to the previous President.
It’s wrong to limit the verse only to presidents that we approve of. Remember that the Christians of the first century didn’t approve of their Emperor—but they were commanded to honor and respect him anyway. The same is true today. Our faith and obedience to the Bible must be far more important to us than our political affiliation. So the command is to honor and respect all presidents.
But honor and respect don’t stop with the President.
In order to make my point, a little lesson in American Constitutional Government is in order. We don’t have an emperor. In our system, the responsibilities of an emperor are divided into executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government. If that verse applies to believers today—and it does—then we are to respect the leaders of all three branches of government. It’s not just presidents. It includes senators, representatives and judges as well.
So let me be clear.
If you only apply the command to those in your party, you are disobeying the Bible. If you show respect to this President but not to the last one, you are disobeying the Bible. If you show respect to the President but you feel free to disrespect the Speaker of the House, you are disobeying the Bible. If you show respect to the President but you feel free to disrespect the Supreme Court Justices, you are disobeying the Bible. If you show respect to the senators and representatives of your own party but feel free to put down the senators and representatives of the other party, you are disobeying the Bible.
Believers need to obey the Bible when it is easy and when it is not.
So respect this President and the last one. Respect senators, representatives, and judges. And do so whether you agree with them or not.
Honor the Emperor.
And if I can make a literary allusion, honor him even when he’s wearing no clothes.