Fear God, Honor the Emperor

David Bast

READ : John 19:1-11

Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both body and soul in hell. (Matt. 10:28)

The Roman governor was incredulous. As he interrogated the prisoner brought before him on a charge of treasonous activity, he could get no response to his questions. Finally, an exasperated Pilate said to Jesus of Nazareth, “Don’t you realize I can have you crucified?” Jesus calmly responded, “You have no authority over me except what has been given to you.” Jesus could stand fearless in the face of a terrible death because he had complete trust that his heavenly Father was in actual control of the whole situation.

The apostle Peter expressed our Christian duties succinctly: “Fear God. Honor the Emperor” (1 Peter 2:17). That is to say, offer appropriate respect to the powers that be, but save your fear for the One who is truly sovereign. Many times we reverse those commands. We honor God, at least to some extent. But what we truly fear is the Emperor: the government, or the boss, or the trendsetters and opinion-shapers.

The fear of God liberates us from the fear of man. Jesus stands before Pilate, but who is the prisoner, and who is the free man? He bids his followers to act the same way when our time of trial comes. Don’t fear whatever person or power can do no more than kill your body. Fear God!

“Let us fear therefore, that we may not fear” (St. Augustine).


Father, deliver me from all lesser fears.