These are difficult times we are living in. Not just from an economic standpoint, but from a spiritual standpoint. There seems to be challenges on every hand. Whether moral issues, civic issues, or personal issues, as believers, it becomes more and more challenging to live ones faith clearly and responsibly.
It is true that the Bible is our guide for right living. However, there are many issues that cause some element of confusion when it comes to “living as servants of God (1Peter 2:16).” Perhaps confusion is not the right word. Being less than clear might be a better way to put it.
This past Sunday, our Pastor continued his series through 1 Peter. It was certainly a true message to the wording of the text. However, what I found lacking was clarity on some of the specifics. The passage he was speaking on was 1Peter 2:13-17.
Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.
On the surface, these verses seem fairly straight forward. However, when it comes to practical application, it seems there would need to be some fleshing out of it’s application for today. There is little doubt that our governing bodies today are somewhat different than those in the first century. So is our obligation to “submit” or be “subject to” governing authorities on the same plane now as it was then? I am not certain it is.
When it comes to our President, we may not agree with him on all points, but we can pray for him and respect his decisions. But does that mean when it comes to moral issues that we sit silent and not make our voice heard or our beliefs evident? When President-elect Obama signs the “Freedom of Choice” act allowing for virtually all forms of abortion, do we submit and say, “Whatever you believe is right, after all you are the new President.” When our state signs into law same sex marriage. Do we sit by and say nothing? When local governing authorities decide to zone for a liquor store next door to your church, do you simply acquiesce? When governing authorities decide that “hate speech” is no longer tolerated, which would mean pastors may no longer preach the full counsel of God, does that mean, we say, “whatever you think is fair” and let biblical mandates slide?
Yes, it is appropriate to respect, even submit to our governing authorities for according to Paul, they have been “instituted by God” (Romans 13:2). But is that a wholesale subjugation? Perhaps Peter and Paul had in mind something different than moral principles. Perhaps their intent was simply that Christians did not flaunt their beliefs in conflict with government guidelines, assemble in such a way that it could be construed as a “riot” or “unlawful assembly.” It may be hard to discern exactly. Nevertheless, there comes a time when knowing how to be a bondservants of Christ is helpful. Not just how, but what it means to live in tension with a society that is becoming more and more opposed to those who claim the name of Christ.