Five Minute Devotions: 1 Peter 2
In 1 Peter 1, the brashest and boldest of the Apostles made a pretty brash and bold claim: as citizens of the Kingdom, you are foreigners to the Empire. To Peter’s audience, it was a warning to not get too entangled with or entrapped by the snares of this world but to focus this life on the Kingdom of the next.
To us in the 21st century West, especially the United States, it’s a message that’s even brasher and bolder…and some would even say heretical. Christianity and the United States have had a long and comfortable marriage. The nation was founded on Judeo-Christian principles, mostly by individuals who considered themselves Christians. The Christian culture of the United States speedily became part of the fabric of our society, remaining unchallenged until the values of society and the values of Christ began to split. For the first time in a while, the values of the Empire and the values of the Kingdom were different.
So on one hand, the Christian is primarily to be subject to the laws and the culture of the Kingdom, but in 1 Peter 2, Peter reminds his readers that, as sojourners in a foreign land, we are still subject to its laws.
“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 commend those who do right.” – 1 Peter 2:13-14
Peter is saying this: When the laws of man do not force us to violate the laws of God, we must obey the laws of man. When the laws of man do force us to violate the laws of God, we must accept the consequences of man. Later in the chapter, he speaks to slaves. You would think that Peter would decry the horrors of slavery and preach that slaves should revolt against their masters. Instead, while never mentioning the moral position on slavery, Peter acknowledges it as the law of the land.
For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God…To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. – 1 Peter 2:19-21
Laying Down Rights
Modern Christians seem very up in arms about their rights: The right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The right to bear arms. Our right to Social Security. The right for churches to not be taxed. The right for the state to enact laws that reflect my religion. But those rights stem from the Empire, not the Kingdom. Jesus never said you had a right to life, in fact he said those wanting to save their lives had to lose it. He called people to pursue joy, not just happiness. He called for Peter himself to lay down his weapon—even against a legitimate threat—not pick it up. Jesus said that people should pay the unfair taxes of the Empire. And he advocated that we accept the consequences of the Empire’s laws.
American Christians must remember that we are citizens of the Kingdom and foreigners to the Empire. We should expect that the Empire not express our values or beliefs. And, rather than revolt, Peter the brashest and boldest, says we ought to submit. Because the way of the Cross is victory through submission.
Father, create in us a new heart—one that motivates us to lay down our rights in the name of love and to sacrifice ourselves in the name of non-violence. Teach us the new way of the kingdom as we live in this empire.
What do you find most challenging about this chapter?
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