Last week, Michelle posted an entry entitled "Relationship Between Submission & Protection." You can read that entry HERE. In the entry, she focused on the need for those in authority to provide protection to those who are to submit. While this is a difficult topic for most, especially when talking about a wife submitting to her husband, I have often struggled with my duty to submit to the governmental authority over me. Just what exactly does this word "submit" mean? What is considered "submitting?" Do I have to give up my rights and beliefs to "submit" to the government? These are all questions that I have entertained in the numerous attempts to grasp this concept.
Thankfully, the Lord blessed me to be able to answer some of these questions and better understand what the scripture calls us to do in reference to the government. As Michelle identified in her blog, when under authority (whether it be government, church, parent, husband, etc.) we have to submit.
In I Peter 2:13-14, Peter instructs us to be submissive to the government: "Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well."
Throughout the last twelve verses of the I Peter chapter 2, Peter gives us 5 reasons to be submissive to the government.
1. (verse 13) "Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake"
- We are to submit to the government because it is pleasing and honoring to the Lord.
2. (verse 15) "For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men"
- By submitting to the government, we put to silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. In I Peter 2:11-12, Peter makes reference to this: "Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation."
3. (verse 20) "...but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God."
- In the world, we may act in a way that seems good to us, because we fear God, but to others it may not appear good. When we are faulted for this, we are commanded to take it patiently. When we do so, it is acceptable with God. If you are faulted for wearing a shirt or reading a book that proclaims the name of Christ, our responsibility is not to fight back with the thought that it is our right. Instead, our responsibility is to be patiently silent, for this is acceptable with God.
4. (verse 21) "For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps"
- Christ suffered for our sakes, and we are commanded to follow after the steps of Christ, which means that we too are going to have to suffer persecution in life. We are promised this numerous times in scripture. Romans 8:17 says, "And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together." Likewise, Philippians 1:29 promises, "For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake;"
5. (verse 23) "Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously."
- When we are put under the subjection of opposing authority, we can be comforted in knowing that we are committed to the ultimate Judge. Praise be to our God who judges righteously and eternally reigns on the throne!
When my eyes were opened to the depth and meaning of these passages, the Lord blessed me to better understand how God calls us to respond to the government. Our duty is not to actively stand against political injustice, propose laws that promote Christian behavior, or peacefully practice civil disobedience to laws that infringe our rights to practice our faith publicly. Our pursuit as Christians should NOT be to establish a Christian government.
For me, this was hard to completely understand and grasp. Honestly, I'm not even sure that I still do. I know I've read these verses several times before, but they never quite had the same impact on me. In society and in Christian circles today, we are often told to "stand up for what we believe in." (Thanks in part to the VeggieTales.) I would say that I now have to disagree with this catchy phrase.
I realize that some of you may be reading this thinking that I am a little behind in the times, considering that I am just coming to this realization. I suppose I might be a little behind. I also suppose that, had I understood this earlier, I might not have had so much trouble submitting to those in authority over me. I am just thankful to God for making this clear to me now. Just because I have a better understanding of my duties doesn't mean that it will be a breeze for me to fulfill this role. However, I will proceed in prayerful diligence as I strive to honor God and submit to every authority, "for the Lord's sake."
Romans 13:7 "Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour."