Scripture Reference: 1Peter 2:13-17
What an interesting thing to read in the scriptures about how Christians are to submit to governing authorities, when those authorities were the very ones persecuting the Christians! If that were happening here in the US we would be calling our lawyers and demanding our rights, threatening to “take this all the way to the Supreme Court.” But Christians in the first century had no such democratic protections like those we are blessed to enjoy. Equal protection under the law only worked if you were (a) Roman, (b) an actual citizen (most were not), and (c) loyal to the Emperor. Peter is writing to people without those protections. Many, if not most in the churches to whom he was writing, were Jewish by ethnicity. And as far as the first century Romans were concerned, anyone who worshipped one God must be Jewish. Only later did they understand the distinction between Jews and Christians.
While it may be difficult for some today to pray for and submit to constituted legitimate authority, it certainly must have been harder in Peter’s day. In fact, I think it must have stuck in people’s craw to have to pray for an Emperor who called himself a god. Or to submit to a local magistrate who has just told you to pack up your family, forfeit your business, and hit the road. But what other choice did they have? They had no protection.
Not only could they not fight city hall; city hall was fighting them.
Peter’s message to us is clear: Live under authority showing grace and peace.
This prompts the disciple who lives in a democracy to ask some important questions, especially since we have the “right to seek redress” from the government.
- Since God calls us to submit to the authorities, is it ever right to break laws in order to make a social or political statement? (Yes, I mean like the Boston Tea Party.)
- Are Christians blocking the entrance to an abortion clinic disobeying God by doing so in violation of a no-trespassing law?
- How can we pray for a President, a member of Congress, or a more local official that we believe is wrong, corrupt, or bad for We The People? In other words, I may not be able to thank God for him or her, but what kind of prayers can I appropriately pray on their behalf?
Make me a captive, Lord, And then I shall be free;
Force me to render up my sword, And I shall conqueror be.
I sink in life's alarms when by myself I stand;
Imprison me within thine arms, And strong shall be my hand.