“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 free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.,” [1 Peter 2:13-17]
It is interesting to think that Peter was talking about the Roman Empire (and all government) when he wrote his first letter to the Church. The Roman Empire was one of the most tyrannical, corrupt and evil empires to ever inhabit the earth. And yet, Peter says to submit for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men. Peter is calling our attention to the fact that God is in control of our situation. Even though human government is far from perfect, God blesses the earth with order through the agencies of authority that exist on this earth. God has vested authority in family, in society and in government. He puts people in authority and He takes them out of those positions. He guides history despite the sinfulness of people. His Way always succeeds, even when men resist. God is the ultimate Authority above all authority and His ways are perfect. And our fear of God is directly related to our respect for all authority. We are told to submit to every authority and remember, Peter is talking about authority created by people. How much more so the authority specifically established by God! We are to respect the various positions of authority around us, and by so doing we silence the foolishness of men when they mock God or authority.
For nearly 2000 years the Church of Jesus Christ has existed in the world. The Church always shined the brightest when she obeyed the Lord’s teaching despite the difficult and deadly circumstances going on in the world. Christians are always free in Christ. It does not matter how wicked this world becomes, in fact, the more wicked the world becomes, the more opportunity the Church has to shine the light of Jesus. But our obedience and our ability to respect and submit to authority are directly related to our fear of God.
We are commanded to “love the brotherhood of believers.” Unfortunately, even Christians seem to see more that is wrong with the Church than what is right these days –because Christians are losing their ability to fear God. The world certainly won’t fear God if Christians don’t. So now, more than ever, it is crucial that we focus on God and our holy fear for Him rather than ourselves.
Sociology has often used the phrase “hyper-individualism” when describing our contemporary American culture. This individualism tends to see self before it sees the greater needs of all in society around us. In short, my needs are more important than your needs. There is nothing wrong with independence –to a point. But freedom does not mean selfishness. It’s no wonder that Jesus commanded us to “love our neighbors as ourselves.” What a wise and profound thought. Jesus knows that we are so good and demanding what we want for ourselves that He tells us to loves others with that kind of passion. Imagine what life would be like if we really loved others like we love ourselves. Paul says in Philippians 2:3-4: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Paul summed up the same command that Jesus gave us, but he goes on to explain how we can achieve this sort of love for others: We have to consider others better than ourselves. In other words, you are better than me. You are worthy of more respect than I give to myself, because I fear and love God. But have we lost our fear of God? If we have, we’re in big trouble. Our identity is found in Christ, not hyper-individualism. I shouldn’t pursue having everything I possibly can for myself (which will never bring happiness anyway), but I must pursue serving you if I call myself Christian. But what if the Church has forgotten the fear and respect for God, positions in society, government and Church? What must God do to get our attention so that we fear Him again? And how will we be able to save the world unless we fear God and respect what He has said? Maybe we have been deceived by an enemy who tells us we can have whatever we want whenever we want it. Maybe we have bought into a lie that we are God and we can do whatever we want.
The Church must be right even when the world is wrong. God help us if our pride, materialism and consumerism has lead us to believe that we do not need to be concerned for our neighbors’ needs anymore. God help us if we have lost all respect for authority. And God help us if the world cannot be silenced when it mocks God because the Church has lost her fear of God. The “fool says in His heart that there is no God,” and the “fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.” I have often heard that Christians need not fear God, we only need to respect Him. But I believe that fear and respect are not nearly as far apart from one another as we have tried to make them. If the people of God lose their ability to be salt and light in this world, then how will the world know that God should be feared and respond to His invitation to eternal life? How can they escape eternal death if we become so wrapped up in ourselves that the enemy succeeds in distracting us from our mission? Maybe we should all repent and ask God to forgive us. Maybe we need to learn all over again what it means to have holy and reverent fear for the Lord God Almighty… before He decides to shake the whole earth to get our attention. We still need a Savior, and He is able to heal us, but we need to really believe that to the very core of our being while we still have time. Let us be found faithful.
Love in Jesus,