I suspect most Christians do not fully understand the principle and practice of “honor the emperor.” We see this by the way Christians speak about those with authority. A proper understanding of this command will flow into every aspect of life when it is properly understood. It is this: the ultimate authority for the Christian is God. The Christian views every relationship and every aspect of life’s circumstances from that changed perspective. God knows what we need. This can include evil leaders we did not choose. Our problem is that we question or second guess his choices our rulers or circumstances. If we really believe God is in control, and that he is always working for his glory and our good, then we will do good even during suffering or slander.
A repeated word in 1 Peter is the word “good.” The word is connected to God’s will, his oversight in our lives and the glory he receives when we trust him. In 2:12 Peter says, “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” In verse 20 he says, “For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.” He continues the theme in 3:15-17, “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.” 4:19 says “Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.”
Doing good is wise and silences the foolish. Doing good brings God glory. I like what John Piper has to say about this passage in 1 Peter. “No unbeliever is impressed by minimalist Christian ethics that simply avoid bad things. What impresses the world is when good deeds are overflowing.” A Christian resembles their Savior when they do good regardless of what others say or do to them. That is wise living.