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Thoughts on a Christian Response to Government

• Ben Garner

Posted in Sermons, Work

Ben Garner recently preached on 1 Peter 2:11–20. The middle section of this concerned a Christian's response to government. Because of Ben's work in state government and the numerous insights he made on his topic, we decided to take offer that part of his sermon as a blog entry. The historical context of this post underscores the need to think well on these issues. We hope you find it edifying and informative.

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I find Peter's words in 1 Peter 2:13–17 particularly relevant because of my work. I’m an attorney, and for the last several years I’ve worked for an elected official, the North Carolina State Treasurer. Most of my work activities relate to supporting the Treasurer’s objectives and helping the Department of State Treasurer carry out its responsibilities. That means thinking rightly about government matters every day!

Let’s look at Peter's words:

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. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. (1 Pet 2:13–17)

We’ll work through these verses by asking three questions: “Who are we?”; “What are we to do?”; and “What will be the effect?”. These questions will help us understand Peter’s chain of thought: Peter discusses the identity of his audience. He tells them how they should act, and then he tells them what impact their obedience will have. The key idea is that our identity affects our purpose.

"Who are we?"

Part of the answer to this question is implied by Peter’s first instruction. Peter sees his readers where they are. In an ultimate sense they are sojourners and exiles, but, like us, they also live within a specific political situation under an established government. They were subjects within the Roman Empire and, depending on their station, they either had great rights and privileges or none at all.

But the more important answer to the question “Who are we?” is found in verse 16: “Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.”

This Greek word for “free” refers to a freedom that’s much deeper and more profound than mere political freedom. In John 8, Jesus uses the same term (John 8:31–36):

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:31–36)

This freedom, the freedom from sin, means that, despite one’s station in life, even if you were a slave, there is something truer and deeper about your identity and destiny. That truer and deeper thing is the redemption from slavery to sin and self that was bought by the blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. And when He sets us free, we are free indeed! This isn’t just freedom from the guilt of sin; it is freedom from trying to earn God’s favor through your own perfect obedience. And, it is freedom from the power of sin over a Christian’s life, so that, by the Spirit working in us, we really can abstain from our passions.

This is profoundly uplifting, and, as the history of the West has played out, profoundly subversive to any notion that slavery of another human should be permitted. The slaves who would have been part of the congregations that received Peter’s letter would have been encouraged: their true identity, and all Christians’ identity, is that of free people who are bond-servants (slaves) of God. And a slave in His service will be more glorious than any earthly king.

The important thing to understand here is that Peter does not mean political freedom or the modern notion of freedom that seems to be everywhere today, a so-called freedom that’s unattached, uncommitted, unburdened by responsibilities, unsubmitted, and, truth be told, untethered from reality and deeply unsatisfying. No, the freedom Peter means is one that connects you to your rightful place as a servant of God, with all of its responsibilities but also its future glorious rewards. That is who we are as believers: a freed people.

“What are we to do?”

As we’ve seen already, the first command is to “Be subject” or “submit yourselves,” to every human institution, and then Peter mentions governmental authorities, the emperor and his governors.

But there’s a crucial phrase here, "for the Lord’s sake", that we shouldn’t miss. The word “Lord” that Peter uses is “kyrion,” which means “master” and is probably referring to Jesus Christ as the person exercising absolute ownership rights. This term “for the Lord’s sake” emphasizes Jesus’ supremacy.

Before we look more closely at Peter’s instructions for what we are to do, we need to see four truths about government to orient us.

Truth #1: God has all authority, rule, and dominion.

All authority is God’s and His alone. This truth is proclaimed over and over again in the Scriptures. For example, in Jeremiah 10, Jeremiah compares mere idols to the one true and living God, and he emphasizes God’s rulership of all people:

There is none like you, O LORD; you are great, and your name is great in might. Who would not fear you, O King of the nations? For this is your due; for among all the wise ones of the nations and in all their kingdoms there is none like you. (Jer 10:6–7)

God has all authority as the Creator and Sustainer of all things. And the Son exercises the rule and authority of God. In John 12:49–50, Jesus says, "For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me” (John 12:49–50).

Paul then tells us in Colossians 1:15–18 about the preeminence and authority of Jesus:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. (Colossians 1:15–18)

At the end of Matthew’s gospel, in the Great Commission, Jesus says that "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me" (Matthew 28:18).

God’s supreme authority is also important in Peter’s letter. Speaking of baptism and Jesus’ resurrection, Peter says in 3:22 that Jesus "has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.” And in 4:11 and in 5:11, Peter twice jumps into doxology: “To [God] belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (4:11)

Truth #2: God delegates authority to human governments.

So, God has all authority, yet one way we see that God has delegated authority in various contexts or spheres is simply by looking around. We see all around us structures and organizations, various businesses, associations, and governments. Then we look to God’s Word and see that God tells us specific ways He has granted different types, or spheres, of authority. For example:

  • In today’s 1 Peter passage, we see authority granted to the emperor and to masters;
  • In Eph. 6:1 and Col. 3:20, children are commanded to obey their parents in the Lord, which means that God has given a measure of authority to parents; and
  • In I Peter 3:1, we’ll see that wives are to be subject to their own husbands, and in 1 Peter 5:5 Christians are commanded to submit to the church’s elders.

The clear testimony of Scripture is that the authority exercised by human governments has been given by God.

Jeremiah, in a warning to the nations around Judah, says this in Jeremiah 27:

"‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: This is what you shall say to your masters: “It is I who by my great power and my outstretched arm have made the earth, with the men and animals that are on the earth, and I give it to whomever it seems right to me. Now I have given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, my servant, and I have given him also the beasts of the field to serve him. All the nations shall serve him and his son and his grandson, until the time of his own land comes. Then many nations and great kings shall make him their slave. (Jeremiah 27:4-7)

Jesus also made it clear whence authority comes when he stood before Pilate, the emperor’s governor of Judea:

He [Pilate] entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. 10 So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” 11 Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above….” (John 19:9-11)

Jesus knew that HE himself was, and IS(!), the King over all of creation. Yet He acknowledged that God had given authority to that government, and then He submitted Himself so that the will of God would be accomplished.

Finally, here’s what Paul says in Romans 13, beginning in verse 1:

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience. (Romans 13:1–5)

Paul makes it clear: the authority exercised by governments is delegated by God. And refusing to be in subjection doesn’t just provoke the human authority, but will provoke God’s wrath, God’s judgment.

Truth #3: God has done this for our good.

Peter says in verse 14 that governors are there “to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.” We saw in Romans 13 that Paul provides a similar description of government’s purpose.

From the beginning of the newly ordered world following the Flood, God has delegated authority to human governments to restrain and punish crimes. In the covenant that God made with Noah in Genesis 9, which extends to all people, God says:

And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man.

“Whoever sheds the blood of man,
by man shall his blood be shed,
for God made man in his own image.” (Genesis 9:5–6)

Scripture teaches (such as in James 4:1-3) that the deepest root of crime is actually our sin nature, our “passions of the flesh”. By holding the threat of punishment before a person, government can hold that person’s sin nature in check and can compel him or her to refrain from criminal acts. Imperfectly, of course, but this restraint on evil due to the threat of punishment is nonetheless real when government is fulfilling this God-given purpose.

A second purpose that God has given to human government is to preserve order. Driving on the left side or the right side is arbitrary, but that decision must be made and then enforced. In principle, this is a blessing to us all and promotes our good.

Truth #4: God accomplishes His will in part through the government.

Although God has delegated authority to government, He retains sovereign control over all things, and He uses human governments to accomplish His good purposes.

In our recent series on Daniel, Philip reminded us that God rules all of history, and He is accomplishing His will through all sorts of things. One of the things God uses is the actions of those in government.

Proverbs 21:1 says, “The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.”

Proverbs says elsewhere that “As the heavens for height, and the earth for depth, so the heart of kings is unsearchable” (Prov. 25:3). But not to God. He isn’t surprised by anything any human ruler may do, good or bad. Nor is the Creator of all things frustrated by the outcome of a particular election.

Remember the familiar words from Psalm 2. Speaking of rebellious kings of the earth, the psalmist says that "He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision."

And lastly, Peter and the Christians praying together in Acts 4:29 acknowledged before God that King Herod, Pontius Pilate, and the Jewish leaders who were gathered together against Jesus were there “to do whatever [God’s] hand and [God’s] plan had predestined to take place.” God used the government’s unjust actions to accomplish His plan of salvation.

So, there are four truths about government for us to remember as we consider the question "What are we to do?":

  • First, God alone has all authority.
  • Second, God delegates authority to the government.
  • Third, God does this for our good, to restrain evil and to preserve order.
  • Fourth, God works through the governing authorities to accomplish His will.

With this foundation, let’s look again at our text.

In verse 13, Peter instructs Christians to “[b]e 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 . . . .”

The word for “be subject” is the same word used by James when he says in chapter 4, verse 7, to “Submit therefore to God . . .” It means to place or rank yourself under. To “be subject” means, generally, to obey.

Next Peter says to "every human institution,” which in the Greek is “every human creation,” or “creature,” which tips us off that (1) the form of the government doesn’t matter much to Peter and (2) those in government are merely human.

Also, Peter recognizes both the emperor and governor "as sent by him", which emphasizes the reality of delegated authority. You cannot sidestep the immediate authority over you by claiming allegiance to a higher authority.

So what are we to do? Here’s the basic command: Peter is saying to believers, for the sake of Jesus Christ, your true Master who alone is Lord over all, place yourselves under and obey His servants—those who have been delegated authority in government.

But we feel tensions within this command, don’t we? Let’s consider several points of tension and then think about the right response. 

Four Tensions with the Command to "Be Subject"

First, “be subject” cannot mean “always obey everything the government says.”

We know that, instead of punishing evil and praising good, sometimes those in authority in government try to compel behavior that disobeys God. But, if we are to submit “for the Lord’s sake”, we must not obey commands from human authorities that cause us to sin. We’ll discuss this more in a moment.

A second place of tension for us is that governmental authority might not be compelling specific sinful behavior, but our laws sometimes allow or encourage disobedience to God.

For example, abortion isn’t forced by our government the way it has been in China, but our laws have allowed and encouraged it. And slavery and racial discrimination, through the segregation laws, weren’t necessarily commanded, but they were allowed and enabled by the law.

So as Christians we feel a tension with the command to “be subject” because sometimes government compels sinful actions or allows or encourages disobedience to God, even if it isn’t compelled.

A third point of tension is that sometimes, perhaps often, it isn’t clear what we are to obey.

These days we have an astounding multiplicity of laws, regulations, and authorities. So much so, it is hardly possible to know with any confidence that you aren’t violating something. In 2011, a Boston civil rights attorney wrote a book titled Three Felonies A Day, which is what he said any professional in America could be guilty of. That’s hyperbole, of course, but it makes a valid point. It can be difficult and sometimes impossible to know all the laws that might apply to a situation. Then there are things like CDC “guidance,” which isn’t law at all, and yet other government agencies’ “guidance” really is treated as law. It can be bewildering. Despite your honest intentions to be subject to the government, you could be breaking a law. How is submission even possible?

Finally, we can feel tension with the command to “be subject” when governmental leaders exercise authority unlawfully.

In my own experience, I sometimes come across someone in government with a measure of authority who is intent on fixing some problem while casually ignoring whether they have any responsibility or legal authority to do so. This effort to fix problems when lacking lawful authority can be pernicious and very difficult to counter, especially when it is coupled with power and hidden from view.

For example, there’s an ongoing court battle over how to adequately fund public schools in poorer areas of North Carolina. This is a real question of public policy that’s going to require patience and cooperation to address. But last fall, a judge ordered several government officials to transfer money under their own authority, outside of the process that the law vests in the legislature. Do you remember your middle school government class where you learned who has the “power of the purse”? Well, that basic idea is being fought over again in North Carolina, and I think that’s because there’s a good desire to fix a problem, but an unwillingness to do so within the boundaries of the law.

Resolving the Tensions

So the command in verse 13 is to “be subject” to the governing authorities, but how do we resolve the tensions we feel with this command?

Peter himself provides a helpful example for us. In Acts 4, Peter and John healed a man and then were brought before the Jewish Council, the same Council that had condemned Jesus. The Council commanded that they no longer teach in Jesus’ name. Here’s what we read in Acts 4:18–21:

18 So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.19 But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, 20 for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” 21 And when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way to punish them, because of the people, for all were praising God for what had happened. (Acts 4:18–21)

Later, in chapter 5, Peter and the apostles are more blunt, “'We must obey God rather than men’” (Acts 5:29).

This is the same Peter who instructs us, for the Lord’s sake, to be subject to every human institution. So one basic principle is that when there is a choice between obeying God or obeying a human authority, we must take courage and obey God. The Hebrew midwives in Exodus, chapter 1, chose to obey God rather than Pharoah’s command to kill the Hebrew babies, and they were commended and blessed by God for disobeying the Pharoah.

Obeying God instead of men, when a choice is presented, also establishes a biblical case for civil disobedience. By “civil disobedience” I mean a refusal to obey certain unjust laws, and willingly accept the consequences, as a peaceful form of political protest. I think Daniel’s willingness to openly pray to God by his window, after the command was issued that only King Darius was to be prayed to, is a biblical example of civil disobedience (Daniel 6). Perhaps Peter and John preaching in the temple in Acts 5, after being commanded not to, is another example.

One model we have for responding to the sinful actions of governmental leaders is that of the prophets in the Old Testament. Repeatedly, God sent prophets to speak out against the sins of the people and the leaders of Israel and Judah. But we must remember: they spoke God’s words, not their own ideas.

As sojourners and exiles, we also have a model for positive actions: the Judean exiles taken to Babylon. Here are God’s instructions to them in Jeremiah 29:

“Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. (Jeremiah 29:4–7)

If we, as sojourners and exiles, truly love our neighbors as God commands, we will seek their welfare. This means we cannot willingly go along with unjust laws. Instead, we work to undo man’s laws that violate God’s laws, that encourage harm to ourselves and our neighbors.

And love of our neighbors also compels us to participate and influence the government in a Godly way as much as we reasonably can, whether through voting, running for office, serving on a jury, or other ways.

Elections aren’t the end-all, but they do matter a great deal. Voting impacts what laws are passed or repealed and how they are executed. Voting for the President influences what federal judges are appointed, which affects whether justice, such as for the unborn, is encouraged or denied. Lawsuits, or the threat of lawsuits, sometimes make government leaders back down from unjust actions. And serving on a jury, which is your Christian duty, will directly impact whether justice is done. All of this requires humility and wisdom, courage and steadfastness.

Throughout history there has always been this tug-of-war for God’s people. Sometimes we experience hostility from governments and at other times God’s people are able to participate and influence that sphere for the good of all.

  • In Egypt, Joseph advised Pharoah and saved many lives; some generations later, however, the Hebrew midwives resisted Pharoah rightly.
  • In Elijah’s time, Obadiah served as steward for wicked King Ahab, but in his role he was able to save a hundred prophets’ lives.
  • In exile in Babylon, Daniel and his friends experienced both influence and hostility. Daniel served day-to-day in King Nebuchadnezzar’s administration, but at one point he was thrown to the lions. Daniel’s friends also served there, but then had to be saved by God from the king’s fiery wrath when they refused to worship the king’s idol.
  • Fast-forwarding quite a bit: William Tyndale was strangled and burned at the stake in 1536. One of his crimes was translating the Scriptures into English. About 250 years later another William, William Wilberforce, who was also a strong Christian and a member of Parliament, began a campaign that took 46 years, but it successfully outlawed the slave trade in 1807 and then abolished slavery entirely in the British Empire in 1833.

It has always been this way for God’s people. And as the Day of the Lord draws closer, the hostility of the governments of the world may increase.

As we seek the welfare of the place where we are in exile, we must not lose sight of God’s authority and sovereign activity. When our vision of this grows dim, we can start caring too much or too little about the government.

  • If we begin to care too deeply, we can see the government as all-powerful and full of conspiracies and cabals and crooks. Instead of fearing God, we can be afraid of the government. Or we can be angry and hate government leaders and be tempted to rebel. Or we can set our hope on government or think that salvation is in the next election or leader.
  • Not having eyes to see God’s sovereign activity can also lead us to care too little about the government sphere. We can be apathetic and unloving, failing to see that our participation matters. Or we can be disdainful, contemptuous, mocking. We can be destructive with our attitudes and speech.

We are not to be like the dwarfs in C.S. Lewis’ book, The Last Battle, who lost sight of rightful authority in their rejection of tyranny. Nor should we be like the tribes of Israel in the book of Judges, when “[e]veryone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 17:6, 21:25)

Knowing that we are a “free people” who are “bond-servants of God” and steadfastly holding a right view of God’s authority and activity will enable us to courageously humble ourselves, like our Savior standing before Pilate.

Four Commands from Verse 17

Now let’s move quickly through verse 17 and finish answering our question, “What are we to do?” As sojourners and exiles, bond-servants of God, living under a particular government, Peter gives us four more short commands.

First: “Honor everyone.”

This command is straightforward but impossible to do without God’s Spirit making us more like Christ. Here’s one practical help: ask God to help you see the other person as an eternal soul, bearing the image of their Creator. Imagine a person who hates God and you and everything you love and represent. And now imagine that person a believer, miraculously saved (like you). Will you have reason to be ashamed of your prior attitudes or your treatment of your now-brother or sister? Do you care more about being right or that this person be redeemed? Do you hide behind anonymity or the impersonal nature of online conversations? Jesus always spoke the truth, yes, but always redemptively. We honor everyone because each person was created by God to bear His image.

Second: “Love the brotherhood.”

“Love” is a greater command than “honor.” This word “brotherhood” is also used in I Peter 5:9, where Peter writes that “the same kinds of sufferings are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.” One way to think of this word is that of “a band of brothers.” Peter is the only one to use this word in the entire New Testament; maybe he was remembering the sets of brothers in the Twelve Disciples: James and John, sons of Zebedee, and Peter and his own brother, Andrew. Regardless, Peter instructs us to love this Christian band of brothers and sisters of which we have been made a part. In the context of our struggles and suffering, this command makes sense. We tend to do better when we have a close brother or sister walking alongside us; this is true when we’re trying to do something like run a race, and it’s also true when we’re suffering. “Love the brotherhood.”

Third: “Fear God.”

Several weeks ago, Phil taught us from I Peter 1:17: "And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile." Remember what Phil taught us: this fear isn’t craven or cowering; it means to humbly revere, obey, and honor God. Yes, Christians are instructed to call God our Heavenly Father. Yet He is also our holy, righteous Judge who has compassion for His forgiven people but by no means acquits the guilty. In Luke 20:25, Jesus said to “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” We should pay our taxes, but we are to fear only God. With this command, Peter places God at the top of the hierarchy; in ascending order of importance: honor everyone, love the brotherhood, fear God.

And the last command: “Honor the emperor.”

As Daniel pointed out when he preached on this text, with this instruction Peter places the emperor on the same level as…“everyone.” We are not to worship or fear those in authority in government. Here’s a question for us, though: do we struggle to honor those in government, whether they are elected officials or the police officer who just gave us a speeding ticket?

In Luke 6:45, Jesus said, “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” Our words reflect our attitudes. We should not speak or comment online or text or forward an email out of malice, unrighteous anger, fear, or bitterness. If we rightly fear God, who has all dominion and authority, we should also appropriately respect his human servants in government.

"What Will be the Effect?"

To finish this section, let’s answer our third question, “What will be the effect?” We’ve talked about our identity and what we are to do. So what will be the impact of our being subject to the governing authorities?

Verse 15 says, "For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people."

I think Thomas Schreiner’s commentary provides a good explanation of this verse:

By submitting to government, Christians demonstrate that they are good citizens, not anarchists. Hence, they extinguish the criticisms of those who are ignorant and revile them. Such ignorance is not innocent but culpable, rooted in the foolishness of unbelievers. . . . [Peter] did not envision society and governmental structures as always siding with believers or inevitably commending them for their good behavior. His point was that the good behavior of Christians will minimize slanderous attacks on believers, revealing that charges of moral debilitation have no basis. Opponents will be discovered to be animated by hatred, lacking any objective ground for their criticism of believers. (Thomas R. Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude, 117–141.)

Remember that Peter is writing in a context where this new sect, called Christians, was provoking great confusion. They proclaimed that the man Jesus of Nazareth was also the Son of God and the King over all, but that His Kingdom was not of this world. These Christians were strange: gracious and loving, even to their enemies. And, they were turning the established order upside down, upending the old prejudices and divisions that everyone accepted.

Peter’s point is that faithful living by Christians in proper submission to the government demonstrates what is true and what is false. Christians will be of the light, and sinful foolishness will eventually be silenced.

Our own context seems similar to Peter’s. We can find ourselves speaking the truth lovingly and graciously, filled with kindness and compassion, and still be called hateful and subversive, destructive and harmful. This is because what we say and how we live tears down the idols of our age. Have no fear, no matter the accusations. God will silence the wicked, and He will open the eyes of His chosen people, some of whom will be observing you and me.

Next Steps

Here are three ways to apply Peter's words:

  • First: ask God to show you what’s in your heart when you think about submitting to the government or at work. Do you have difficulty humbling yourself? You may need to repent of your pride. We should not be bitter or fearful when we think about our leaders in government or our employer. Remember Jesus, the King of kings, standing in front of Pilate, completely submitted to the Father’s will. Ask God to help you see Christ more clearly.
  • Second: Some of you may be suffering at the hands of someone in authority over you, and it is unjust, and you may not see an end in sight. Ask God for courage and reminders that you’re a servant of the King of kings. Remember that God sees and cares. He sends the Holy Spirit to strengthen and comfort us, and He promises to reward our faithfulness.
  • Finally: For all believers, we must cultivate a right-size view of God and an awareness of being His servant. There is nothing going on globally or locally that He isn’t aware of and using to accomplish His plan. He is a good Heavenly Father, and He has called us out of darkness to be His people and to taste His goodness so that we might proclaim His excellencies. Believe! And look for opportunities to proclaim His kindness and His excellencies.

I mentioned William Wilberforce above. He fought a long campaign to end slavery in the British Empire. His example is one of courageous faithfulness to his calling—a calling that included making real changes in and through the English Parliament. In addition to fighting to end slavery, Wilberforce also tried to encourage Christians in Great Britain to live faithfully. Here’s something he wrote in his book, Real Christianity:

Let true Christians then, with becoming earnestness, strive in all things to recommend their profession [of faith], and to put to silence the vain scoffs of ignorant objectors. Let them boldly assert the cause of Christ in an age when so many, who bear the name of Christians, are ashamed of Him: and let them consider as devolved on Them the important duty of suspending for a while the fall of their country, and, perhaps, of performing a still more extensive service to society at large; not by busy interference in politics, in which it cannot but be confessed there is much uncertainty; but rather by that sure and radical benefit of restoring the influence of Religion, and of raising the standard of morality....

[M]y only solid hopes for the well-being of my country depend not so much on her fleets and armies, not so much on the wisdom of her rulers, or the spirit of her people, as on the persuasion that she still contains many, who, in a degenerate age, love and obey the Gospel of Christ; on the humble trust that the intercession of these may still be prevalent, that for the sake of these, Heaven may still look upon us with an eye of favour.

William Wilberforce, Real Christianity

May we heed Wilberforce’s words and follow his example in our own age.

Ben Garner

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