What do we do when we don’t agree with the government on a particular issue? Do we respect authority? Do we rebel? Sadly, according to everything I read online, we speak out. We slander politicians, make fun of them and create a division with everyone who doesn’t agree with our viewpoints. We don’t simply discuss politics, we argue about them.
In light of our current political state, I’m seeing far more slanderous posts and articles than usual; and I’m beginning to wonder if we’re causing more harm than good by speaking out.
As a Christian, I completely understand the need to discuss particular politicians and their stances on issues that mean something to us. But I worry that in our attempt to spread to the world (and all of our Facebook friends) everything that’s wrong with politics these days, we’ve become disrespectful – not only towards the politicians but towards each other. We are representing Christ to the world, and it’s important that we do so even when we’re discussing politics.
Never forget that we represent Christ... even when discussing politics.Click To Tweet
There are numerous scriptures that tell us to respect authority. Romans 13 goes as far as to say that all those in authority are put in place by God. One of the most prominent passages, however, is found in 1 Peter:
Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. – 1 Peter 2:13-15
1 Peter was most likely written by the apostle Peter sometime between A.D. 60-65. And if you know your history, this means that the emperor Peter was talking about in this passage was none other than Nero. (This makes sense considering the letter’s emphasis on persecution.)
Peter was telling his readers to submit to Nero because he was in a place of authority – the same Nero who is known to be one of the evilest leaders in history. He was known for his heavy persecution of the Christians including Peter and Paul who were both martyred under his rule.
Notice what Peter says next in verse 16:
Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. – 1 Peter 2:16-17
In his commentary on this passage, Adam Clarke wrote the following:
“The Jews pretended that they were a free people, and owed allegiance to God alone; hence they were continually rebelling against the Roman government, to which God had subjected them because of their rebellion against him: thus they used their liberty for a cloak of maliciousness – for a pretext of rebellion, and by it endeavored to vindicate their seditious and rebellious conduct.”
The Jews saw themselves as under God’s rule alone, and they used this fact to justify their rebellion against the Romans. This would ultimately end badly for them in A.D. 70 when the Romans conquered Jerusalem and destroyed their temple. Peter was telling Christians to not be like the Jewish people in this regard.
We are called to live as free people under the authority of God first and foremost, but we are also called to respect authority rather than rebel against it.
We may not agree with all of the politics and beliefs of those who run for office. But if Peter felt that the first century Christians should find a way to honor Nero, can’t we find a way to honor those in leadership in our own country?
What if every time we spoke of our government, we stopped ourselves and asked the question, “Is what I’m about to say honoring or divisive?” We can choose to show honor and respect even when we disagree.
When we respect authority, we “silence the ignorance of foolish people” rather than stir the pot and cause division. Besides… we know who really sits on the throne, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords; and in the end, that’s all that really matters.
*Unless otherwise indicated, scripture quotations taken from the NASB.