Peter, in three words, teaches a very difficult concept. He commands us to "Honor the king." The historical background of his words should give us a better perspective and teach us a powerful lesson.
Peter, having already written that we should honor all people, knew some brethren would resist honoring Nero, the heathen Roman emperor. Nero was a perverted madman, eventually hated by the Romans themselves. He had mercilessly tortured and killed hundreds of Christians in various cruel and demeaning ways. It is very difficult to expect Nero to be honored by someone whose mother had been crucified and used as a human candle for one of Nero's garden parties!
The pattern that we have seen all along surfaces again here. Nero was king. A king is to be honored, for he represents the office given him by God (Romans 13:1). Whether the king is honorable or not, he is king, and God says we should honor him as such. If we are resisting the power he has, we are resisting God's ordinance (verse 2). Paul even calls the civil authorities "ministers" or servants of God (verse 4).
At times in America's history, even the Office of the Presidency has been dishonored, the President's reputation sullied by political or even sexual scandal. If Peter were writing today, he might say “Honor the President.” No matter how besmirched his name may become through media exploitation, God's people should resist the pressure to dishonor him or his office.
That is a tough order! Many of the early Christians no doubt despised Nero's reckless, godless behavior. Some had personal reasons to hate him. The commands from our King, however, remain the same: Forgive those who trespass against you (Matthew 6:14). "Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you" (Matthew 5:44). Honor the king.
When we obey God's command to honor all people, we are following our heavenly King and honoring Him. Then what happens? Jesus answers in John 12:26: "If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor."
So first we humble ourselves, then give honor and respect even to those who might appear to be unworthy of honor and respect. The result? God the Highest, the Supreme Being in the entire universe, will personally bestow honor and glory on those who have obeyed this and other commands. This is God's way: The more we give, the more we receive. The more honor we give, the more honor we will also receive.
Tough as it may be, we should make it our aim to honor everyone—all the time.