“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, honour the emperor.”NIV
In recent days we have seen that declaring ‘’the praises of him’’ who called us ‘’out of darkness into his wonderful light’’ (9) involves living a good life in the world, before men. The idea is reinforced in today’s reading in terms of citizenship (15). How we conduct ourselves as citizens of a nation is governed by this over-riding belief: it is ‘’for the Lord’s sake’’ (13) that we live as we do. God has created the world for government. He has established authorities.
It is interesting to note that Peter was not writing from within a liberal democracy. He, and his readers, lived under the pagan Roman Empire. It was often harsh, cruel and persecuting. It’s not easy to live under a dictatorship. But Peter saw it as important that believers should be good citizens. This is a key part of our witness. People may throw mud at us, but let the lives we lead speak for themselves.
The message of the whole paragraph, it seems to me, is encapsulated in verse 17. It’s a neat summary.
Of course, there may come a time when followers of Jesus have to say, ‘We must obey God rather than men.’ If the state demands what God forbids then we must follow our consciences. But for the most part we don’t face such choices.
Our government is asking difficult things of all of us in these days of restriction and confinement, but it is clearly for the common good. I believe Christians should be at the forefront of honouring what is being asked of us by the authorities. In so doing we can reflect the ‘’wonderful light’’ we have been brought into. This light is God Himself.
If we ‘Submit’ then, it is ‘’for the Lord’s sake.’’
PRAYER: Lord, you never tell us to do anything without also giving us the strength to do it. Help us please to shine for you in our citizenship. We pray for wisdom and strength today for all in authority, that they may receive your help in the heavy burdens of responsibility they carry.