So what do we do when we don’t agree with the government on a particular issue? Do we respect authority? Do we rebel? Well according to everything I read online, we speak out. We slander politicians, make fun of them, and create a division with everyone who doesn’t agree with our view points. We don’t simply discuss politics, we argue about them.
With the upcoming election, I’m seeing far more slanderous posts and articles than usual, and I’m beginning to wonder if we’re causing more harm than good by speaking out.
As a Christian, I completely understand the need to discuss particular politicians and their stances on issues that mean the most to us. But I worry that in our attempt to spread to the world everything that’s wrong with those who are running, we are becoming disrespectful – not only towards the politicians but towards each other as well. We are representing Christ to the world, and it’s important that we do so even when we’re discussing politics.
There are numerous scriptures that tell us to respect authority. Romans 13 goes as far as to say that all those in authority are put in place by God. One of the most prominent passages, however, is found in 1 Peter:
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. – 1 Peter 2:13-15 (NIV)
1 Peter was most likely written by the apostle Peter sometime between A.D. 60-65. And if you know your history, this means that the emperor Peter was talking about in this passage was none other than Nero. (This makes sense considering the letter’s emphasis on persecution.) Peter was telling his readers to submit to Nero because he was in a place of authority – the same Nero who is known to be one of the most evil leaders in history. He was known for his heavy persecution of the Christians including Peter and Paul who were both martyred under his rule.
Notice what Peter says next in verse 16:
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, honor the emperor. – 1 Peter 2:16-17 (NIV)
In his commentary of this passage, Adam Clarke wrote the following:
“The Jews pretended that they were a free people, and owed allegiance to God alone; hence they were continually rebelling against the Roman government, to which God had subjected them because of their rebellion against him: thus they used their liberty for a cloak of maliciousness – for a pretext of rebellion, and by it endeavored to vindicate their seditious and rebellious conduct.”
The Jews saw themselves as under God’s rule alone, and they used this fact to justify their rebellion against the Romans. This would ultimately end badly for them in A.D. 70 when the Romans conquered Jerusalem and destroyed their temple. Peter was telling Christians to not be like the Jewish people in this regard.
We are called to live as free people under the authority of God first and foremost, but we are also called to respect authority rather than rebel against it.
We may not agree with all of the politics and beliefs of those who are running for office. But if Peter felt that the first century Christians should find a way to honor Nero, can’t we find a way to honor those in leadership in our own country?
What if every time we spoke of our government, we stopped ourselves and asked the question, “Is what I’m about to say honoring or divisive?” We can choose to show honor and respect even when we disagree.
When we respect authority, we “silence the ignorant talk of foolish people” rather than stir the pot and cause division. Besides… we know who really sits on the throne, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords; and in the end, that’s all that really matters.
Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world. – 1 Peter 2:12 (NLT)