Saturday, July 23, 2016

Should Christians Obey the Government?

Reading for the Day
1 Peter 2

Verses for the Day
13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. 16 Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. 17 Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.

Thoughts for the Day
One of the challenges for the new believers, who were scattered throughout Asia Minor, was they started getting persecuted by the Roman government and other authorities. The Roman government did not want any uprising that would cause civil unrest. The more the Christian movement grew, the more intense persecution they encountered. So the challenge was how does a Christian relate to a government that is persecuting you for your faith?

Peter's response is an interesting one, and mimics Paul's instruction in Romans 1. Peter says to submit yourselves to every human authority, the Roman emperor, and otherwise. Here is the first incident of what we would now call today the separation of church and state. Luther called it the "two kingdoms" doctrine. Where the church has authority in the spiritual realm, and the state rules in civic matters. The concept in Romans 1 is that God has given the power of the sword to keep civil order and punish wrongdoing. It is a God given authority that they are to carry out fairly and justly. They will be accountable for how they used this power.

The church is given the keys of the kingdom. When Jesus said to Peter, "On this rock I will build my church. Whoever you forgive I forgive!" He was saying not that humans grant forgiveness, but we announce forgiveness through Jesus alone to those who confess their sins and trust in Jesus alone for salvation. While the earthly authorities rule with temporal, earthly power for a kingdom that is passing away. The church rules through Jesus with the power of the Holy Spirit who guides God's kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven.

So at the end of the day, Peter tells the believers to submit to the governing authorities out of reverence for Christ. In fact he says, our obedience to governing authorities give a witness to the world of what kind of people we are. We live in turbulent times. We have an election coming up for the President of the United States, the highest authority in our land. While I won't endorse a particular candidate, I do urge you to pay attention to the political process, what is going on in the world, and pray for our next leader whoever that is. And, of course, one of the great privileges in a democratic society is to vote with your conscience for the next leader of our country.

We cannot control everything that is going on in our world, but we can pray for our leaders and lead such godly lives that those in power will see who the true governing authority is. It is only through God's power that the evil we see every day permeating our world will ultimately be defeated. And Jesus even predicted that this was what things would begin to look like before his return. Of course we don't know when that is but we can pray and be ready for when that day comes.

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