I don’t know how you’re feeling about the upcoming primary to be held here in New Jersey in June but I must tell you that I’m less than enthused about the choices that we have been given. It seems that whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat that either party could have come up with a better slate of candidates for our consideration. But I am reminded of Peter’s words when he tells us in his first epistle: “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. Live as freemen, but do not use your freedom as a cover up for evil; live as servants of God”, (1Peter 2:13-16 NIV). The interesting thing about Peter’s challenge is that Nero was reigning as Emperor of Rome when Peter writes these words. As Christians we must exercise discernment in our relationship to human government. For Peter that means accepting government as the divinely ordered Providence of God. Notice he says, “for the Lord’s sake”, we are to submit ourselves to the government in order to honor the Lord Jesus Christ. It is important that we respect men and women in office though at times we may struggle with that. Sometimes we have to respect the office even if we cannot respect the officer. Peter was not telling believers to compromise on their conscience. He certainly did not compromise his conscience when he was told to stop preaching the gospel and he responded by saying, “we must obey God rather than men”, (Acts5:29). But in most aspects of our daily life it is possible and even desirable for Christians to live according to the law of the land. We may persecuted for doing right and obeying God but let it not be for breaking the moral or civil laws of our land. Laws should be followed for the Lord’s sake even when it comes to such things as the tax laws. We should not follow laws that violate our conscience or betray our fellow Christians.
Many times human government commits errors and transcends the limits prescribed by its very nature. When this happens it is the fault of the system of government or the elected officials who lack the integrity and moral aptitude to govern properly. The natural tendency of human government is to move toward those things that God has forbidden and to forbid those things that God has commanded. Why is this true? We are in a worldly system that is influenced by the prince of the power of the air. The conflict in government today is just a reflection of a greater spiritual battle that is taking place in the heavenlies. According to Peter government has the authority to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. I’m afraid we are living in a day where government commends those who do wrong and punishes those who stand for righteousness and truth. What a sorry state of affairs that is. But regardless of those issues Peter says, “for it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men”, (v.15). We should be peaceable citizens and be doing what we can to help secure the general protection of our society from evildoers. We need to do right. Too many times in our world Christians have been known by the things that we don’t do, rather than by the things that we do. In the past God has used the church of Jesus Christ to make a huge difference in our world. We need to seek God’s wisdom and guidance so that He will once again use the church as a lighthouse of righteousness. The word “silence” in verse 15 is the concept of putting a muzzle upon the mouth of some wild beast. When we do the right things God is honored in and through our testimony. The best answer to the cultural wars that we are currently experiencing is for you and I to live blameless lives of witness for the Lord Jesus Christ. This was Peter’s answer to the Christians of the first century living under the reign of Nero. I do believe however that governments that consistently reward evil and punish good can’t survive for long, because evil is ultimately self-destructive. We need to understand the spiritual forces that are behind the cultural trends that we see happening in our world today. We need as Christians to stand against those who are bullying others who are not politically correct. We are to live in a peaceful manner while at the same time standing for the truth of God’s Word. Let us also be using every opportunity to pray to the Lord Jesus Christ for a spiritual revival in our land, knowing that it is only the Lord Jesus Christ who can redeem the ugly messy stuff that we see going on all around us. Also knowing and recognizing that revival always begins when individuals get right with the Lord Jesus Christ in our personal lives.
Shalom, Pastor Rich