It’s election day! Part of me wants to go on a social media rant, while the other part of me wants to go live in a hobbit hole and hide for the next forever. (Full confession, I voted early and am spending the day in Yosemite.) But, thankfully I don’t have to give in to either of those extremes because our ultimate hope isn’t in our elected officials and we are citizens of a better and eternal kingdom. I’m also grateful that God’s word gives us specific instructions and hope for how to navigate times like these. Let’s take a look at 1 Peter 2.
1 Peter 2:11-12 Dear friends, I urge you as strangers and exiles to abstain from sinful desires that wage war against the soul. Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that when they slander you as evildoers, they will observe your good works and will glorify God on the day he visits.
As priests, our conduct is to point the lost world to Jesus. Because of this, we must resist the temptation to isolate ourselves from the world. God does not allow us to completely isolate ourselves from the world because our lives are meant to point people to Jesus. We can’t point people to Jesus if we refuse to be around people. I can only imagine as Peter wrote verses eleven and twelve that he had Jesus’ words from Matthew 5 on his mind.
Matthew 5:15-16 No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
Those apart from Christ need to see holy living so God can ultimately be glorified. Especially in frustrating and difficult times! Now just like we can’t isolate ourselves from the world, we can’t get too comfortable in the world either. One of Peter’s main points is the world is not our home. The more we act like the world is our home the less influence we actually will have.
When we begin to view this world as our home we put too much hope in what takes place in this world. When things are good we are good and when things are bad we are bad. We then have no real alternative to offer people because we are in the same boat as they are. So Peter tells us to live honorably among those who don’t know Christ. Verse twelve is interesting. Let’s read it again.
1 Peter 2:12 Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that when they slander you as evildoers, they will observe your good works and will glorify God on the day he visits.
You will be accused of wrongdoing. You will be accused of being an evildoer. Why? Because our world is constantly calling evil good and good evil. But when they get around you, your honorable conduct will be the thing that leads them to Jesus. It should be our goal to make people say “I don’t agree with you, but I can’t argue with the way you live. You honor everyone. You are so kind and loving.” Peter tells us this type of living paves the way for people to come to God.
Right now everyone is so divided. When we as believers get caught up in the fear and drama of the world we unwittingly demonstrate that Christianity has no real hope to offer people. While we don’t have to get wrapped up in all the drama we can lovingly engage the culture and demonstrate how our King, Jesus, has a better way of living. When we recognize we have an unshakeable inheritance waiting for us in eternity we will be filled with quiet confidence and enduring joy. This allows us to engage with others honorably, respectfully, and gently, even those we disagree with. And that is what draws people to God. We can seek the good of our city while keeping our hope and affection on a different city, the new Jerusalem, which we will one day inhabit. Consider what God told the nation of Israel while they were being held captive in Babylon.
Jeremiah 29:7 Pursue the well-being of the city I have deported you to. Pray to the Lord on its behalf, for when it thrives, you will thrive.
When we recognize we have an unshakeable inheritance waiting for us in eternity we will be filled with quiet confidence and enduring joy. This allows us to engage with others honorably, respectfully, and gently, even those we disagree with. And that is what draws people to God.Tweet
God told his people to seek the good of Babylon. Babylon was the antithesis of everything they believed. They were the enemies of the nation of Israel. Yet, God told them to seek its good. Because when Babylon thrived, they thrived. Part of honorably conducting ourselves can be being involved in local or state or federal government so we can seek to encourage godly policies and laws. It also means regularly reaching out to help people who live in our city. Because when our city thrives, we thrive. But our ultimate hope is not in what takes place in our community. Or our state. Or our country. We are not trying to set up heaven here. God will one day set up a new heaven and a new earth, so that is where our ultimate hope is.
So on the one hand, we cannot isolate ourselves from everything going on, no matter how dark things seem. While on the other hand, we must recognize that this world is not our final home. This specifically plays out in how we as believers engage with those who are in authority. Let’s look at five more verses.
1 Peter 2:13-17 Submit to every human authority because of the Lord, whether to the emperor as the supreme authority or to governors as those sent out by him to punish those who do what is evil and to praise those who do what is good. For it is God’s will that you silence the ignorance of foolish people by doing good. Submit as free people, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but as God’s slaves. Honor everyone. Love the brothers and sisters. Fear God. Honor the emperor.
Peter spends a few verses here laying the groundwork for how we are to interact with those in authority. What we learn is the government is a means of common grace. Common grace is a type of grace that God gives to believers and unbelievers alike. Things like creation, food, physical activity, all of these are common grace. The government is one of those common graces. God tells us to submit to them, not because the individuals are good, but because it is God’s will for us. Because we are free in Christ we are free to submit to and honor whomever God places in authority. Now, these instructions apply regardless of the type of government. They apply regardless of whether or not we agree with those in government. When we sinfully rebel, or are even verbally disrespectful against authorities we are unwittingly testifying that our hope is in earthly things.
Now, it’s important to understand that while we are to obey all governing authorities without exception, sometimes there are exceptions to our submission. Since we are God’s servants, earthly authorities don’t have complete authority over us. There may come a time when we will have to obey God rather than man.
Corrie Ten Boom and her family hid Jews and helped them escape the Nazi Holocaust during WW2. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr wrote his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” from a jail cell in Birmingham, Alabama, after he was arrested for participating in a non-violent protest against racism and segregation. Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den for praying. As Christians, we are to obey all governing authorities, but as God’s servants, if there is ever a conflict between human authority and heavenly authority, we must obey God over man. Even if our government isn’t good, we can still trust that God knows what he is doing and honor those who are in authority.
Living this way demonstrates that following Jesus really is the best way to live. It demonstrates to others that Jesus really does have something amazing to offer people. So here is our takeaway: living for eternity today gives others hope for tomorrow.
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