How is a Christian to respond when the government encourages, or even mandates social isolation? Fear and anger, possibly because we are not getting all the details we desire and we don’t believe the ones we are hearing? Outright rejection in favor of my own “wisdom?” Or, might Scripture be pointing us to a different response? In a time of persecution, often at the hands of the Roman government and likely while himself imprisoned, Peter wrote to the church about the hope that was theirs in Christ and encouraged them to live lives of peaceful submission. Like it or not, let’s go there today.
Wednesday, April 1st
Larger Portion of Scripture - 1 Peter 2
Focused Passage for Reflection - 1 Peter 2:13-17
Reflecting on the Text:
“Be subject.” Do these words cause you to bristle? They do me. These opening words in verse 17 tell us “to submit to the orders or directives of someone.” And these words aren’t a suggestion. They are a command, given to us through the apostle under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, telling us to be subject to the governing authorities.
So why the bristle? It is actually an ancient response. Look back to Genesis 3 and you will find Satan’s temptation strategy. When he wanted to get to Eve, Satan made her think God was holding out on her…that she could, in fact, be the master of her own destiny. Eve didn’t want an authority over her, and neither do we. So the words, “Be subject” make the hair on the back of our necks stand up.
Maybe that is why Peter wrote them in his epistle. Or more accurately, maybe that is why God included them in His Word. We need to hear them. We need them always, and we need them now.
So how have you responded to the various instructions coming out from our governing authorities? How have you responded to the authorities themselves? Do you only listen to the ones you deem worthy? Do you ignore the things you either don’t understand or don’t agree with?
The Word doesn’t give us these options. It simply tells us to “be subject.” I read that and everything in me wants to offer appropriate qualifiers or exceptions to the rule. The truth is, there are appropriate qualifiers if the governing authorities are attempting to require us to go against the law of God, but none of that is mentioned here.
Instead, the text simply tells us to submit and then goes on to tell us, “For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.” Then, in the broader context of 1 Peter 2, we are reminded of Jesus’ submission and His suffering. Not only are we reminded, but we are also called to do likewise. In other words, God is glorified and others are pointed to Him when we abide by this, His counsel.
But how does this passage fit into our current cultural moment as we wrestle with submission and obedience in light of the Coronavirus? Whether we understand or agree, the authorities have been instituted by God for our good. Whether they are affiliated with our chosen political party or not, they are appointed by God for our good.
So while the call to submit may make us bristle (a heart issue which bears further exploration), our submission is one way in which we can “honor everyone,” “love the brotherhood,” and actually “honor the emperor.” (v. 17) Notably, though, the only person listed in verse 17 whom we are to fear, or worship, is God. But according to the Word of God, our submission is one way in which we tangibly express our “fear of God.” So in this cultural moment, let us be thoughtful Christians who love well, who worship fervently, and who submit respectfully…all to the Glory of God Alone!
Questions for personal reflection:
Where are you tempted to reject the call to “be subject?”
What does this temptation say about your understanding of authority?
How does your practical understanding and embrace of authority connect to God’s Word?
What might repentance look like in your life today?