Saturday, May 2, 2020

Honor the Emperor

Submit to the governors

1 Peter 2:13-17 Common English Bible (CEB)
13 For the sake of the Lord submit to every human institution. Do this whether it means submitting to the emperor as supreme ruler, 14 or to governors as those sent by the emperor. They are sent to punish those doing evil and to praise those doing good. 15 Submit to them because it’s God’s will that by doing good you will silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. 16 Do this as God’s slaves, and yet also as free people, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil. 17 Honor everyone. Love the family of believers. Have respectful fear of God. Honor the emperor.

This was actually one of yesterday’s readings, but it seems so appropriate to the situation right now that I couldn’t overlook it.  While I understand that our system of government is quite a bit different than the Roman Empire’s system, it nevertheless has a lot to say to us today.  

Whether or not I like any particular elected leader, I still respect the office to which they were elected and the fact that some large percentage of the people who voted choose to put that person in office.  If I disagree with their policies, and I often do, there are many ways for me to make my opinion heard that are not abusive, and do not endanger anyone or put anyone at risk.  I can discuss elected officials and their policies without finding it necessary to call anyone names or cast doubt upon their intelligence and/or sanity.   When I read Facebook posts by people I consider friends I am frequently appalled at their willingness to commit verbal violence against others.  These are often the very same people who speak out loudly against bullying and domestic abuse, including verbal and emotional abuse.   In my opinion calling a person names because you disagree politically is every bit as abusive as calling a child or partner the same sort of name.  We seem as a nation to have forgotten all about Jesus’ instructions in Luke 6, 27. Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you . . .31 Do to others as you would have them do to you. 

Peter advises submission to the laws of the land and those who make the laws.  This is not to say people cannot make efforts to change laws, but to be obedient to the laws while they are in place.  We are to do this, he said, "as God’s slaves, and yet also as free people, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil.”  And Paul agreed, saying in Romans 13, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God. 
Likewise, in Matthew 22 Jesus told us to “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”  

Honor everyone. Love the family of believers.  Have respectful fear of God.  Honor the emperor.  And Treat others as you would be treated.   It seems to me that these are behaviors that should be foundational for Christians.   

Lord of hosts, ruler of heaven and earth, help us to remember that ultimately, you are in charge.  Help us to behave with respect, and speak with kindness, even especially when we disagree.  We pray this in the name of Jesus, the Prince of Peace.  Amen.

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