Remember audience and setting: many cases second-class citizens living in brutal pagan culture that glorified immoral behavior. Unwanted babies routinely abandoned and left to die. Sexual relationships of all kinds welcomed and affirmed privately and publicly throughout all levels of society. Entertainment was live and often barbaric, nearly anything could be bought for a price. Human life had little intrinsic value, among upper classes suicide often considered the honorable solution. Was well-developed system of laws, many of its basic principles still in practice today around the world.
Were substantial differences between then and now; at same time many parallels. Peter’s instructions just as important for us to understand and follow as initial readers among the Dispersion. Peter has laid foundation for the Pilgrim Life, here he begins to give more detail in particular spheres of life – civic arena and citizenship issues (2:13); the workplace and relationships with employees/employers (2:18); family life and husband/wife relations (3:1,5); finally, social relationships in general (5:5).
For each of these spheres/topics Peter uses same word, one we like when applied to someone else way more than when is expected of us: submit/submission. What Peter has in mind is voluntary, not compulsory submission. Involves both way of thinking and way of behaving. A primary reason for living in this way: silence those who would find fault with us for being followers of Christ.
Starts right out with how we should relate to that institution often seen as necessary evil… government. Doesn’t stop there, even in this short paragraph. Wraps up with summary that addresses relationships with everyone, fellow believers, God himself and government leaders.
A. good citizens v.13-14
matters not where citizenship is, are expected to follow laws of place where you are – true when traveling around world, equally true for us as pilgrims in this world
Peter expects voluntary willing law-keeping, to greatest extent possible – only when civil authority forbids obedience to God or requires disobedience of God is civil disobedience justified
for the Lord’s sake
he gets to practical motivators… but they are not first – is more important reason, loyalty to and love for Christ coupled with desire to please Him in all things
lawlessness of any kind is destructive… of relationships, property, societies, nations, even life itself – all that the opposite of God’s design for man and the world
at all levels
expectation of submission to authority not limited to the one at the top – all of civil government ordained by God for purpose
when it pays strict attention to God’s intent – punish evildoers, encourage righteous – civil authority good for a society… when they are generally law-abiding citizens
with loving accountability
true for all but especially so when have civil freedoms/responsibilities like ours – can have a part in electoral and legislative process
can submit to civil authority and at same time do all we can to encourage that authority to act according to God’s plan for it
submission does not equal silence, it does shape how we speak and act – when gov’t gets off track, work to get it back on track
B. good deeds v.15-16
doing the right thing – doing good
too often Christians known for what they are against – drinking, dancing, movies, gays, drugs, abortion, Communists, endless list
Peter tells us is God’s will that we be known for “doing good” – Paul agrees… does not say overcome evil with tougher laws, fewer guns, different President, says “overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:21)
in the right way – as free
submission to authority / expectation to do good not intended by God to be burdensome – designed to be a guide to freedom
Christ-followers freed from bondage to sin and death are freest people of all… regardless of any other details of circumstances
with the right motive – to serve God
no one has absolute freedom, in fact everyone is a slave – Rom. 6:16 “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?”
we should do what is right and pleasing to God because he is our Master and he has freed us from slavery in sin to serve him, iow, b/c we love him
expecting right results – and silence critics
this kind of behavior – submitting to authority and doing good – foolish, wrong-headed, doomed to failure, laughable, many other ridiculous things… according to world and culture
yet God guarantees it will successfully carry out plan he has designed and intends – no such assurance for all the other ways
C. good relationships v.17
neighbors – all
not a case of honor the king, tolerate everyone else; love the brotherhood, put up with the rest of the world… not how Jesus did it, not how he expects us to live either
honor everyone, treat everyone as having value – they do, we all do; no matter how terribly defaced it is, all people bear image of God and have value
whether we like their lifestyle, approve choices, agree with what they support or not, are to be honored as people of value to God
believers – the brotherhood
higher standard for fellow-Christians – are to put their interests and well-being ahead of our own in way that can be observed
remember what Jesus said: John 13:35 “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
“Fear of God is a combination of affectionate love and deep respect, joined to an awareness of majesty.” Maoz
put it all together – love, respect, awe – is what should motivate / encourage service to God, obedience to his commands
government – the king
no escape clauses – honor the office, honor if this or if not that – also means we should look for those things about the “king” that are worthy of honor and make sure we honor him
btw, we show love/honor/respect for the King we cannot see by properly honoring the king we can see
Sending mixed messages – God’s word commands to submit and yet often most visible/vocal action is resistance of some kind. Encouraged to call Chris/Senator Collins, tell her to vote against…; march in parade against…; stand on sidewalk and protest against… Might ask “what else can we do, issues and problems too big for a few to make much difference”.
One example: Maine statistics: churchangel.com – 1499 churches; abort73.com/abortion_facts/states/ – 2017: 1,959 abortions
What if, instead of trying to make it harder to take life of unborn, we worked to make it easier to rescue unwanted children? …and then worked to do just that (with or without gov’t help), rescuing babies from death and their mothers from condemnation and misery? If one family from each church in Maine adopted one unwanted child, maybe others encouraged and helped the other 460 mothers to keep their babies, would that not do good?
Easy or hard, popular or not, God’s will for us is that we use the strength he provides us in submission to his will in order to do good and silence our critics. iow, regardless of circumstances, Living for Jesus.