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

Peter hasn’t told us to do very much so far, but that changes here. And what he commands isn’t easy. You can see the difficulty right from the start. The first two words of verse 13, “Be subject.” Isn’t that an awful word? Who wants to submit? Peter knows this is a hard pill for us to swallow. That’s why he says in verse 11, “Beloved, I urge you…” He’s urging us, on the basis of God’s mercy, to live as fully formed Christians, to make a positive difference in the world for the glory of God. That includes voluntary submission and obedience.

Simply put, Peter commands God’s people to civil obedience. That’s an unpopular theme in our day. Civil disobedience is popular. Civil obedience is not. Rebellion is cool. Adapting, making it work, submitting, contributing to the solution alongside those we disagree with isn’t cool. Especially in this country, where we do as we please and are accountable to no one except ourselves, submission is the sign that we’ve given up. We’ve handed over our freedom. Our liberties are gone, and all that remains now is to be ruled by others. Submission is a deeply anti-American quality. But it is a distinctly Christian one. Knowing who he was and what he came to do, Jesus submitted himself to others (Edmund Clowney). He’s our example.

Peter is expanding on his call-in verse 12 to keep our conduct honorable. The same word used for honorable is used in other parts of the Bible to mean beautiful, noble, praiseworthy, pleasing, excellent. As we engage with our world in matters of government, it is this call to honorable-ness that should mark us. The more our world spirals down into political division and partisanship and rage and cancellation, the more we Christians have an opportunity to publicly display the kind of peace Jesus brings into bitter fights and disagreements. As the world looks at Christians in the public square, what should they find? Should they find unreasonableness, unwillingness to cooperate, hostility, and fear? If so, we have lost our way. The proper path leads to more and more people thinking to themselves (and maybe even saying out loud) “These Christians are really making this world better.” When that starts happening, we’ll know we’re living out what Peter is calling us to. We are sojourners and exiles here, but we’re still here—and because we’re here, God wants us to live as well as we can for his sake.

Table Rock Fellowship

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Medford, Oregon 97501

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