Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the King.” 1 Peter 2:17 (NIV)

Do you find yourself increasingly aggrieved at the various displays of poor sportsmanship in our society? Whether viewing the conduct of professional ball players, observing parents in the stands, or listening to political rhetoric, our society has been coarsening in my lifetime with hardly a disapproving eye in the media.

There have always been spoil sports, poor sports, and those who love to “lord-it-over” the loser displaying a “kick him while he is down” mentality. But to my mind it appears that the Judeo-Christian value of displaying good sportsmanship to all, purely because it is right, is fast going the way of the dodo bird.

There are many sources of this desensitizing of our society. As government, education and society in general erode and dissolve all references to man’s accountability to the Sovereign Creator they are busily substituting humanistic doctrines of all kinds. Evolution teaches “survival of the fittest” and that life (instead of being sacred) is an accident. Romans 1:18–32 says that when man denies the true God His rightful place, man will always substitute a perverted way of seeing creation and man’s role in it—inevitably leading to disastrous results. A casual reading of the text sounds eerily like an eyewitness account of our day. We selfishly worship the creature rather than the Creator.

The biblical apostle Peter had to learn lessons directly from the Lord to help him deal with his inflated sense of his own importance, his own poor sportsmanship, when he said at the first communion, “even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble” (Matthew 26:33). Peter’s three denials quickly followed, and Peter began to learn humble teachability. We see a different demeanor in Peter when he walks into the empty tomb of Jesus on resurrection day (John 20:1–10), a humbled Peter by the sea (John 21:15–19), and an authentic servant Peter on the birthday of the church (Acts 2:14ff).

It is this same Peter who has learned the lesson that Paul describes in Romans 12:3, “to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.” 1 Peter 2:11–17 bears the lesson that believers are to live as servants. There is a high standard for all who would claim to serve the Most High God. We represent Him. The four short commands Peter gives in verse 17 were hard-learned lessons that he underscores for all generations of believers.

Honor all—both externally by demeanor and internally by respect. Love believers. Fear God. Honor the King. Humility of mind tempers all human behavior, remembering that all human life is sacred, equally created by God. Though society may be forced to punish crime in order to fulfill its God-given responsibility, it should proceed in such a fashion that life is honored as a stewardship from God. Though contests of strength and business must be waged, humble gratitude for God’s good grace is much more fitting than obnoxious flaunting and bravado. Honoring all men requires a diligent bridling of the tongue lest we lash the loser with a brickbat of disdain.

Peter’s words force all men who value teachability to shelter every person on this earth with the respect due them as created in the image of God. The words elevate our estimate of everyone who is redeemed in Christ. The words cause us to be mindful that our Creator weighs our actions against His holy standard. Peter’s words remind us of the honor due those in authority.

What is the temper of your spiritual sportsmanship? Are you according to others the same respect you anticipate from others? Do you behave biblically when you are the winner? Remember, all believers in the redemptive work of Christ are on the winning side. Trust and obey.