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Devotional: September 2, 2020

Make the Master proud of you by being good citizens. Respect the authorities, whatever their level; 

14 they are God's emissaries for keeping order.

15 It is God's will that by doing good, you might cure the ignorance of the fools who think you're a danger to society.

16 Exercise your freedom by serving God, not by breaking the rules. 

17 Treat everyone you meet with dignity. Love your spiritual family. Revere God. Respect the government.

    First Peter 2: 13-17    The Message

The pop singer Aretha Franklin had a string of hit songs.  Yet perhaps her biggest hit of all was a song released in 1967 called, “Respect.” At the time, it was an anthem reminding everyone about how women want and deserve respect. Even today, the song resonates with people. Many of us can probably sing a few lines from it, including the chorus where the word is spelled out: “R. E. S. P. E. C. T. Tell you what it means to me!”

In this passage, Peter is talking about a different kind of respect. Peter is making a plea for Christians to respect the government, and rules set down by authorities. He does not encourage rule-breaking.

This is a timely passage for our country at this moment. The civil unrest, disrespect towards those put in authority, and the damage done, both to physical locations as well as people, seems hurling out of control. 

Although Peter’s words were spoken centuries ago, they are still a road map for our lives today. We as Christians are reminded what our civil duty is through this passage. By listening to and acting upon the guidance of these passages, we are called to lead by imitating Christ’s example. 

I believe we have also been given the gift is discernment. In many government agencies around the world, there is corruption. Even on our own, we know that there are some laws and ordinances which are more for the benefit of some and not others. I don’t believe that this passage is referring to every single law in every instance.  (For example: Daniel continued to pray to his God, when such prayer was outlawed). What I believe is that we are being told how we should and should not behave. At some time in your life, you’ve probably observed those who disagree with the government, but who express their views in ways which are contrary to what this scripture tells us to do. 

God wants us to use wisdom in our actions. By listening to Him, and setting an example for others, we are witnessing to the life Christ wants us to lead. Thankfully, Peter in this scripture, has given us some guidelines:

Respect: Disagreeing is not the same as disrespect. God calls us to be good citizens, by respecting authorities. When we do so, we are making the Lord proud of us. 

Emissaries:  An emissary is a representative for a government or agency. Thus, they follow the laws of that particular realm. They are to follow the law they are given, and not just the laws they like. We as Christians are also emissaries for Christ. He has given us His laws and directions. In the same way, we cannot pick and choose to follow only those laws which we like, or the ones which make us feel comfortable. 

Set: God has set legal authorities over us to keep order. God is the authority over our spiritual and earthly walk. We follow His laws because they are given for our own safety and well-being. When others do not follow those peaceful laws, the chain is broken. Direct disobedience of those laws sometimes results in pain and suffering and much strife. 

Please: Our greatest desire should be to please our Lord. By following this scripture, we are pleasing to our Heavenly Father. We can show by example that we are following God’s direction.

Exercise:  We have been given freedom. What we do with that freedom is up to us.When exercising that freedom properly, we serve God. If we are truly serving the Lord, we will follow the law, and not break the rules.

Cure: When we are following God's laws, we have the opportunity to cure the ignorance of the fools who think we are a danger to society. There is a lot to unpack in this verse (15). I think right now, we are all wishing for a cure. A cure to the virus, a cure to our struggling economy, a cure to inequality, and a cure to the civil unrest. By following the law of both our government and the Lord, we work towards a cure. Together hand in hand, we march towards the cure for all our ills: The peace we are promised in Christ. 

Treat: Treat everyone you encounter with dignity. We are to love our spiritual family, treasure and revere God, and respect our government. Hopefully, these adjectives will be used to describe your behavior.

These are not my words, these words are found in the scripture. I realize that our governmental authorities are not perfect. No earthly government is ever perfect. Jesus can certainly vouch for this, given the way He was treated by the government in His time. I realize that there are some in leadership that have taken advantage of their position. Yet what this scripture is teaching us is how we should behave, regardless of the law. By showing respect towards authorities, even if they are wrong, we are leading with Christ’s example. Others will bend the law to their advantage. While we are free to disagree with them, how we disagree is the key to following the guidance in this passage. 

I like many of you, miss singing together. The song “Let There Be Peace on Earth” is a familiar one to most of us. Today, sing or say these words, and let them resonate in your heart as our Prayer:

Let there be peace on earth

And let it begin with me;

Let there be peace on earth,

The peace that was meant to be.

With God our Creator

His children all are we,

Let me walk with each other

In perfect harmony.

Let peace begin with me,

Let this be the moment now;

With every step I take,

Let this be my solemn vow:

To take each moment and live each moment

In peace eternally.

Let there be peace on earth

And let it begin with me.

Amen.


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