Thursday, March 11, 2010

Being Subject to Government

1 Peter 2:13-17 (ESV)
Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, [14] or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. [15] For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. [16] Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. [17] Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to the emperor supreme….
Here Peter is speaking of governments. They are human institutions, even if God uses them for the good of everyone. But they are human, not divine. But even though they are merely human institutions they are to be honored, obeyed. In an American context this sometimes poses a problem as the situation that of the Roman Empire, the context in which this was written. In America we fancy ourselves the government, and we do have a duty as citizens to hold our leaders accountable to the constitution, the paper is more or less our government to which we are ultimately responsible not the president.
But then we get caught up in partisanship to the point where we vilify the other side beyond what is really responsible. This happens on both sides. Sometimes I don’t know how far being subject and showing respect should go myself. Sorry, but when the president sticks his foot in his mouth, it is hard not to laugh at him. I suppose jokes go with the office. Government isn’t easy. But we have a good government despite a multitude of problems that need to be addressed.
For sure we need to pray for our president. That goes without saying no matter who he is. Here Peter tells the Christians of Asia Minor to be subject to a government that is actively persecuting them. We don’t have that. Oh there is maybe some here and there. But it pales in comparison to what these Christians experienced and would experience. Think about being a Christian in a country where the government is Islamic in nature. There are things we can respect and honor in any government. But when the government wants us to choose between them and God, well, no, there we listen to God rather than men.
Live as people who are free. Freedom is central to the Christian life. We are free. We the world has no hold on us, because we have life eternal in Christ. We have no fear, for death holds nothing over us. So we live as servants of God, slaves of God. Realizing that He ultimately has the last say, and gives to us eternal life. But living as servants of God, we serve our neighbor by honoring the government, even being part of it.
Honor, that is perhaps central to Christian ethics in general. Loving our neighbor, honoring them, that they too may know the love of Christ who died for them, to free them. Right and wrong? What honors our neighbor as one for whom Christ died?

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