SCRIPTURE: 1 Peter 2:13-17
13 For the Lord’s sake accept the authority of every human institution, whether of the emperor as supreme, 14 or of governors, as sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to praise those who do right. 15 For it is God’s will that by doing right you should silence the ignorance of the foolish. 16 As servants of God, live as free people, yet do not use your freedom as a pretext for evil. 17 Honor everyone. Love the family of believers. Fear God. Honor the emperor.
This passage can be problematic for some people depending on how you read it and understand it. This is a passage that had been historically used to try to keep slaves (and other oppressed people) “inline” and from disrupting the established systems of oppression in the world. Taken out of context, you could make the argument that this passage is saying that as Christians, we should submit ourselves to all authority in the world, and never question its actions or motivations. I do not believe that is what this passage is trying to tell us.
Rather, I believe this passage is more about being responsible members of the societies and communities that we belong to. And, if we do what we understand to be right in God’s eyes, we will help to set a good example for those societies and communities. We should “honor everyone” and acknowledge the value that every person brings. We should “love the family of believers” and show that love through our support and caring for one another. We should “fear God” in healthy ways like acknowledging God’s ultimate power and loving mercy. And we should “honor the emperor” by being responsible and upstanding members of the communities we live in, and not cause chaos or anarchy for no purpose. Yes, we should speak truth to power and stand up against injustice and oppression. But we do not need to be “troublemakers” just for the sake of causing trouble.
In what other ways can we “honor the emperor” without letting go of our call to love our neighbors, free the oppressed, care for the widow and orphan, etc.?
God of all power, authority, and love, we give you thanks for the living example of the life of Jesus that we might follow as faithfully in practice as we are able. We thank you for the two greatest commandments – to love you and love our neighbors. Help us to be responsible members of the communities in which we find ourselves, but to also never lose sight of justice, grace, mercy, and love. Amen.