Focal Passage: I Peter 2:13-23
Respect … What has happened to that word in our society. For example, I was raised that when you saw a funeral procession on the road, you pulled off the road and stopped as a sign of respect. Now, as I often find myself leading these processions, I see cars passing the procession going the same direction, never slowing down, even with a police escort leading the way. I hear the way children speak to their parents and the way church members talk about politics, and I wonder … what has happened to respect?
In the selected text, Peter specifically addresses the concept of submission, or respect, to government. The word “ordinance” used here has the meaning of “foundation” or “creation.” As Christians, there should be a sense of respect for the institutions of government that have been established to govern the people. Paul also addresses this in Romans 13, taking it to a deeper level, saying that the reason for respect is because they are “appointed by God.” That is hard to hear sometimes, because we do not always like everything our government officials do. As Christians we feel as though our Christian freedoms are being taken away by those God’s Word calls us to honor.
As a child my parents would tell me to do a certain chore. I would not always immediately agree and would argue about the reason why I was to do this job. They would answer, then, after a short while, they would finally come back with, “because I said so.” I promised not to do that to my children, but guess what? I have! Individuals do not have to like, or agree with every law of an institution. Respect does not necessarily mean agreement, but in the text Peter tells us that respect is a sign of enduring faith.
Enduring faith knows that it must endure suffering and persecution. Jesus reminds us that as He was hated, so will His followers be hated. Even when those who are in position of authority present persecution and religious intolerance, Christians must remember who they represent (vv. 21-23)! The call of Christians is to shine the light of Jesus Christ in all circumstances and situations. That may mean enduring persecution. It may mean being misunderstood and mistreated by others. In this passage, Peter speaks of doing well, acting commendably, and showing honor all for the sake of glorifying God in stressful times. Edmund Clowney writes, “As Jesus suffered meekly, so must His followers … . His servants cannot use the sword to bring in kingdom justice. Kingdom justice must be absolute; only Christ can bring it.”
It must be remembered that Jesus did not come primarily to correct the government system. He did not come to reprimand Caesar or other man-made institutions. Jesus came, first and foremost, to seek and to save that which was lost! His followers must do the same. That does not mean Christians sit by idly while laws are passed which completely undermine biblical authority. It does not mean Christians do not speak up with boldness when they are being unfairly targeted. It means believers must consider their response to suffering and continue to reflect and glorify Jesus.
For those who endure patiently, faithfully, and gently, God will recognize their faith! Paul said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day … .” Yes there are struggles and suffering in this world, often unfair and undeserved. However, the calling of Christ is to follow the example of Christ, and to live in exceptional enduring faith!
— Nelson is pastor of Russellville Baptist Church, Russellville.