The next section of 1 Peter 2 begins a topic that is not at all popular in today’s political climate. Peter addresses the need to submit, and he begins with submitting to the government.
See it for yourself in 1 Peter 2:13-14.
In our own political climate, we have a hard time with this passage. Many, if not most conservatives in the church, viewed the current, and out-going, president with disdain and almost disgust. Those who are more politically liberal hold the same views and fears for the incoming president-elect. When we hear passages like this one, calling us to submit to the governing authorities, we squirm. Surely that can’t mean what it sounds like, right?
In this next section of Peter’s letter, he addresses what it looks like to live our lives as lights shining in a dark world. He writes of three different areas of our lives, the relationship we should have with the government, the relationship between slaves and masters, and the relationship between husbands and wives. He begins with the biggest institution, the government, and presents it in a very positive way.
Peter is not unaware of the persecutions his readers are facing, often with the intent of getting them to recant their faith in Christ. And he does not state here that we are to follow the evil nature of any human government, when it is contrary to the nature of God’s law. What Peter gives his readers, and us, is an overview perspective, a perspective that shows the whole idea of governing authorities is a good one, and that we should obey those authorities, and respect them.
Of course, there are exceptions to this general rule. An evil government must be opposed. But Peter does not deal with the exception here. He deals with the overarching principle. And he places it firmly in the realm of obedience to God with the phrase, “for the Lord’s sake.” We are to submit to the governing authorities for the sake of Christ. In verse 15, he will tell us that this is part of our integrity as believers, and that it will silence the talk of foolish men.
What Peter has done here is set up a hierarchy of submission. His use of the phrase “for the Lord’s sake,” shows that he views Christ as the ultimate authority. Any human government comes second to that, and we should submit to it completely out of our submission to Christ.
Peter’s view of the government is the same as Paul’s in Romans 13. According to Paul, all government is instituted by God, and we are called to submit to that authority because of love… our love for Christ. Because he saw fit to set such authorities in place, our job is to submit and obey, not necessarily because we like or love the current administration, but because we love Jesus.
Finally, even though Peter doesn’t express it here (he is dealing with generalities here), when a government requires that we live contrary to God’s laws, and God’s values, then we must resist. How that occurs is largely a matter of circumstance. It may come in the form of peaceful protest, or it may be more of a staunch resistance. Above all, God’s law is supreme. But his ultimate will is centered on the idea of love. As Paul reminds us, love is the fulfillment of the law.
So, regardless of what you may think of the governing authorities, you and I have one job. We are called to submit and obey. And it wouldn’t hurt to pray for them as they lead.
Question: How well do you follow this command to submit to the governing authorities? Do you find it easy or difficult to do? You can leave a comment by clicking here.