1 Peter: An Apologetic For Resident Aliens 2:13-17
1 Peter 2:13-25: Servants of God
“13Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme,14or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.15For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.16Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.17Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.18Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust.19For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly.20For 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.21For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.22He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.23When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.24He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.25For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”
This may be the most comprehensive outline available of a Christian’s ethical duty to government and authority (see also Romans 13). Many feel that verses like these were written by the state to keep dissenters down. A massive amount of ink has been used to address the ethical and civic duty of the believer. This has led some believers to condone heinous acts of oppression from evil governments like Hitler’s “Third Reich,” which many in the German church endorsed. There are so many ideas when it comes to politics and civic involvement, and many of these views claim to be based on an understanding of the bible. Yet they are completely different from one another. Can we use the bible to both support and oppose homosexuality, slavery, abortion and war? What are we to do? In this brief summary, I am not going to try to answer such a complex question, and I doubt we will completely answer it when we preach on it, but I hope you begin to think about your involvement or non-involvement in the political affairs of government. What I can say is, I believe the context of 1 Peter and the heart of the NT is that we represent another kingdom, and we aren’t to seek power or trust power bases to bring us salvation. It is God who brings salvation, but we are called to seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8). How do we do that, and fight against real oppression? Perhaps that’s a topic for you to address though prayer, with the Holy Spirit and in the word of God; asking God to help you form the convictions that ought to shape us as believers. What we know from this passage is that we are to respect the authorities that God places in our lives for our own good. Government is a necessity in the City of Man. It is certainly not perfect by any means, but all too often we disrespect our leaders instead of praying for them, and we blindly follow fear and accusation instead of trusting in God and living in humility. It is God in Christ who bore the sins of everyone in His body, and that needs to be the guiding truth that informs our lives as we live before a fallen world. His grace and mercy is our guide, and this must affect how we deal with politics in this fallen, pluralistic world. It is Christ’s “suffering” that is our example. He went to the cross for others without a word of defense. How does that affect your thinking in regards to your rights in this kingdom?
- What does it mean to “be subject to every human institution?
- How does that affect your view of political figures in our own country?
- How should we react to political men/women who do not hold our own political views?
- How does Christ’s suffering affect the way we should be Christians in this fallen world?
- How does Christ’s unjust trial and death affect your own understanding our engagement with our culture?