Wednesday, June 03, 2009
Current Study: First Peter
Today’s Topic: Good Citizens
Scripture Reading: 1 Peter 2:13-15 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.
This is a call to humility. It is a call to trust in the sovereign rule of God. It is an opportunity to let the world see the heart of Jesus in us. It will require sacrifice. It demands balance. Extremism has no place here. It can only be accomplished if we first understand our true citizenship.
As members of the family of God and devoted followers of Jesus Christ, we are first and foremost citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven. That grace-bestowed citizenship must captivate us and dictate all responses to all other kingdoms. This causes great tension, because the Kingdom standard of love and grace so often conflicts with the application of righteousness and justice in a sinful world. But one thought helps me resolve this tension – our hope is in the return of the King, not in the return we get on our investments in other kingdoms. Our primary purpose as citizens of heaven is to recruit more citizens, not change the culture through political action. Jesus modeled that in His life on earth. We must live as He did.
Granted, I am concerned about the political condition of our country and other countries around the world. My heart breaks for the people who suffer under tyrannical and terroristic rule. My soul cries for the millions of people who are starving because government leaders are greedy. My soul weeps violently for the millions of babies who are murdered every year because of the selfishness, sexual immorality, and pride of people. Yet my heart also mourns over the death of the doctor who provided those abortion services. All human life is precious – even those who have no regard for it.
Do we not understand that God’s heart is more deeply affected by these things than our own? Do we think He does not care? Do we think He will not act? Do we think He is not in control any longer? O Lord, give us peace based on our faith in your sovereignty. Give us patience based on our confidence in your righteousness. Give us hope based on your Word and its promises. Give us love for others – especially those who reject you and rebel against you – that will model to them the love that Jesus has for them.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer understood the balance between Christ-centered living and social action that must exist in the Christian’s life. He was a German Lutheran pastor and theologian. He was also a participant in the German Resistance movement against Nazism. His involvement in plans by members of the Abwehr (the German Military Intelligence Office) to assassinate Adolf Hitler resulted in his arrest in April 1943 and his subsequent execution by hanging in April 1945, shortly before the war’s end.
Bonhoeffer states that there are three possible ways in which the church, or individual Christians, can act toward the state:
- It can ask the state whether its actions are legitimate and in accordance with its character as state, i.e. it can throw the state back on its responsibilities.
- It can aid the victims of state action. The church has an unconditional obligation to the victims of any ordering of society, even if they do not belong to the Christian community, “Do good to all people.”
- It can choose to not just bandage the victims under the wheel of government, but to jam a spoke in the wheel itself. Such action would be direct political action, and is only possible and desirable when the church sees the state fail in its function of creating law and order and bringing about the good of God.
Unfortunately, many Christians jump to step #3 and do not model a humble, submissive, and servant heart towards their government. This is wrong. It is contrary to the commands of Scripture given to us by Jesus (“Give to Caesar the things that belong to Caesar, and give to God the things that belong to God”); by Paul (Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.); and by Peter (Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men.).
Good citizens of heaven make good citizens on earth. Why? Because they understand submission and sacrifice. They know what love is and how to live it out in everyday life. They live the life of Christ by loving others more than self. They win the culture war by influencing culture with Christ. No matter how bad it gets out there in the world, love will always conquer a multitude of sins. Let your citizenship be identified by the love of God others see in you.