Peter commands his readers to submit to the authorities placed over them. This call is to ALL and encompasses ALL authorities over us.
So many people today are pushing back against authority figures. The police are a prime example of an authoritative organization that is being disrespected. Yes! There are some legitimate claims of abuse of power but on the whole, this is not the case. Our police are losing the people’s respect and honor on an unprecedented rate. Even the average citizen is likely to hesitate in following an officer’s instructions. Not because of anything that this officer has done or the authority he commands has changed, but because our attitudes to all authority have changed.
Peter is very clear in his instructions to the believers. “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” (verses 13-14).
Peter is not calling us to be subject to authority for our own good but as a witness to the Lord. “For the Lord’s sake.” Peter is also not promising that all authority exercised over us will be just. “Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrow while suffering unjustly” (verses 18-19). There are going to be those who abuse their authority. There are also going to be times when we are punished unjustly. We are still to submit to that authority.
This doesn’t mean that we blindly take whatever is dished out like a doormat but that we use the channels of authority to address our unjust treatment. Even Paul insisted that those who beat him and threw him in prison publicly also bring him out publicly. He also appealed to Caesar when being treated unjustly by the Jews. He submitted to their authority at the time though by not resisting arrest and giving them cause to keep him.
Jesus did the same when Judas and company came for Him in the garden. He willingly went with them. I wonder if Peter is thinking about his attempt to resist them with the sword while he is writing this.
In both these examples God used unjust authority to accomplish His purpose. Who knows what He has in mind for our situations. Just as Joseph had no way of knowing what his imprisonment would eventually lead to, we have no idea the things God can bring about from where we walk. Did God MAKE Joseph’s brothers sell him into slavery? NO. But He used what He KNEW they were going to do, out of jealous hearts, to save His people.
I was just wondering about the changes that are good that have happened in our society and how God views them. Harriet Tubman is one example of a person who resisted unjust authority and changed the world through it. Does God ever call us to resist authority? Does He embolden non-believers to take those stands instead? Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was not a believer in Christ but his beliefs in respect for our fellow man, regardless of color or creed, changed history and brought about more justice than anyone thought possible.
God placed Pharaoh in authority so I see no problem with Him placing others into our history line to accomplish His will. And I believe His will is for us to love one another at all times. I KNOW that is what He called us, His children, to do. “Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor” (verse 17). As Jesus commanded; “Love your brother as yourself.” This is the beginning of honoring each other.
Father God, this is not an easy command to follow at all times. Sometimes I want to do it MY way instead. We are working on the lead foot issue still. Thank You that I have made some progress in that area, with Your assistance. Still more work is to come. But there are also times when I don’t feel my government is honoring You with their decisions and I would like to refuse to follow those laws. But that is not what You told me to do. I am allowed to ask for remediation or correction of those decisions WITHIN the bounds of submission but submit I must.
This is my witness for You! How can I say God is love if I am beating up my brother for not agreeing with me? How can I claim I have a just God if I refuse to follow the rules put in place for justice? I can’t. And my witness for You is more important than my comfort. My biggest “weapon” in these situations is the same one Paul and Silas used that night; praise and prayer. YOU have all ultimate authority and can bring victory out of any tragedy. Please let me be Your instrument in these areas. Forgive me for the times I tried to assert “my rights” instead of demonstrating my witness.
Thank You Father that You also don’t call me to simply be a doormat. You give me wisdom in what to say and how to say it to influence people around me for Your good. Let me shine Your love everywhere I go, even when I’m tired and stressed. THAT is a TALL order there but I have faith in the work You have begun in me. You are faithful to complete that work.