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1 Peter 2:11-25 (Part 2)



Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, 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 people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honour the emperor. (verses 13-17)

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For those of us living in the West – in free, democratic societies – these words take some extra time to process. We understand that we have the right to disagree – sometimes vehemently! – with our government leaders, rallying others to protest actions we consider objectionable (or outright wrong), and casting our votes to oust one group of leaders in preference for another. Democracy gives us the opportunity – indeed obligation – to enter into the process, express our opinions, and work for needed change.


What does it mean, then, to “submit … to every human authority”? “Submit” tends to raise our hackles at the best of times. Are we really supposed to submit to a government with whom we disagree?


The short answer is: “Yes.”


Submission requires us to live humbly, patiently, setting aside self-focused self-interest, extending forgiveness, not harbouring grudges, and dispensing with slander. All of this sounds very much like attitudes and behaviours commended by Jesus himself.


On the other hand, it doesn’t take much to spot non-submission in our world today. Violent demonstrations (including physical fights, vandalism, arson, looting), disrespecting and ignoring court orders, denying the results of fair elections, slandering duly appointed leaders, cheating on taxes – the list goes on and on.


So, what is the rationale for submitting?


· Put simply, the scripture commands it. “Submit,” Peter says. So, too, does Paul (Romans 13:1). So, too, Jesus (Mark 12:17).


· Do it “for the Lord’s sake.” It’s his will. We honour him when we honour our appointed leaders – even when we don’t agree with them; even when we didn’t vote for them.


· Government authorities maintain order. They “punish those who do wrong and … commend those who do right.” Anarchy would result otherwise. So, be thankful and submit to the law.


· It’s another opportunity to trust God. “For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people.” I can’t say I understand the full scope of Peter’s meaning, but there is something here about simply “doing good” and allowing the Lord to work through it, rather than refusing to submit and forcibly taking matters into our own hands.


· Freedom is seemingly the opposite of submission. But it is all too easy to lay claim to freedom in such a way that is simply prideful and self-centred, baulking at any perceived loss of personal control. Submission is a powerful antidote. It’s an exercise of personal freedom that keeps humility alive, while promoting obedience to the Lord.


So, “submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority.” It won’t always be easy. Sometimes it will call for much wisdom and discernment. We will confront issues of injustice that need to be addressed, and there will be moments when it is necessary to “serve God rather than men.” But if we start with an attitude of willing submission, in honour of the Lord, we’ll be heading in the right direction.

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Dear Lord, I submit to you. Help me to submit to the authorities you have put in place, both in my actions and in my attitudes. Strengthen me for the good works you have prepared for me to do. To your glory. Amen.

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Reflect: When you hear the phrase, “submit to every human authority,” how do you respond? At what points (in actions, words, attitudes) do you find this most difficult?

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