Likewise you that are younger be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble." Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that in due time he may exalt you. (RSV)
Peter just addressed the elders in the church and how they should be leaders, willing and eager to server, not greedy or lording it over their charges and examples to their people. So Peter now turns his attention to the rest of the church body, those that are younger. The word likewise here refers back to the way the elders are to serve. If anyone thinks that he can slack off because he isn’t an elder or in a position of leadership, this one little word should stop him in his tracks.
There are several words in the Bible that require us to look back at the previous passage for context. The more common words are “therefore” and “since.” Likewise isn’t as common and is translated “in the same way” in other versions. It really doesn’t matter what the word is, as we should be looking for them in any form. They tell us that there is something very important in the previous passage that is worth rereading and if it is worth rereading it most likely has an application to our lives that we need to work on.
Assuming that we have reread the first four verses of the chapter we can see the behavior that we are to copy. We can also see how a rash youth or a lazy person may take advantage of an elder who is eager to serve. Instead this command is to be like the elders and also subject to them. That subjection should be in inward obedience with an outward visible show of respect.
In the Old Testament it was expressed in God’s Law. Lev 19:32 "Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the Lord.” (NIV) God connected respect for the elders with the same reverence that He expected from His people. Your culture may have different ways of showing respect such as bowing or removing your hat. Unfortunately, with the mix of many cultures in the US, it appears that we have lost most outward demonstration of respect for elders.
Specifically in the Church, we are to obey those who have spiritual authority over us. Heb 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you. (NIV) Remember, their job is to help you in your walk with Christ so that when we all arrive in heaven, we will all be able to hear Jesus say to us, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” Of course this doesn’t mean blind obedience. There are many warnings in Scripture that say some will turn from the faith and there will even be some elders. That is why it is important to know the Bible and what it says are the marks of a good elder. If we know the Word then we will be able to identify if the elders are following it and preaching it carefully. When they are, we have good reason to submit to them.
However, it doesn’t stop with showing respect only for elders. We are to have humility and respect at all levels. Not only have many lost respect for their elders but also people in their presence. With the onset of cell phones and texting, it appears that most people are showing no respect for the person they are with as they take unnecessary calls and chat or text another person. They ignore the physical person in front of them. You can read the advice columns in the newspaper and the complaints are all consistent. “My _____ (fill in the blank with son, daughter, husband, wife, mother, father, friend, sales clerk, buyer, etc.) doesn’t respect me enough to carry on a conversation with me. Instead he lets ever cell phone call or text message interrupt him.” The problems isn’t new, it just has a more annoying manifestation. It can also be TV, computer, radio, newspaper or even a book that you feel is more important than a person.
It takes a lot of grace to be humble when you are confronted by a person who isn’t showing the same reciprocal respect. Peter quoted Prov 3:34 He mocks proud mockers but gives grace to the humble. (NIV) There is an implication that when we are disrespectful it is because we are proud. We are so full of ourselves that whatever we want and whatever we do is more important that anyone around us. The cell phone thing must make the person feel important and therefore proud to be in such demand on the phone. But in doing this, he diminishes the worth of the person he is with. The proverb says that God mocks these people. What do you think it is like to have God mock you?
Prov 1:26 I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when panic strikes you. (RSV) It’s pretty clear. Proud people sooner or later end up paying for their pride. It may be in this life or the next. The last person you want laughing at you in your disaster is God. He is the one you want helping you and He is more than eager to do that. The second chapter of Proverbs is a list of all the things that God will do for those who listen to Him. However it ends with one verse that starts with a big “but.” (But is one of those words that should encourage you to reread the previous passage.) Prov 2:22 but the wicked will be cut off from the land, and the unfaithful will be torn from it. (NIV)
When others are disrespectful, remain humble. He will exalt you when the time is right. Continue to be the example and you will receive the rewards from God. Reread Proverbs 2 and you will see what it means to have God exalt you. He has much in store for us. It all hinges on verse 6. Prov 2:6 For the Lord gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. (NIV) Wisdom tells us to be humble towards one another and under God.